Call for abstracts ‘The Geography of Suburban Space’

November 19, 2007

Dr Laura Vaughan and Dr Muki Haklay of the Successful Suburban Town Centres project are planning to convene a session of the RGS-IBG ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE to be held in London on the 27-29 August 2008. The overall theme for the conference is ‘geographies that matter’.

The title for the proposed session is ‘The Geography of Suburban Space’ (see session abstract below or download the .pdf). You are invited to submit a 200 word abstract for this session for consideration by the convenors or, by Monday 7th January at the latest.

Session Abstract: The Geography of Suburban Space

The widespread perception of suburbia as synonymous with social and architectural homogeneity belies its spatial, social, ethnic and economic diversity. With pressure to build large numbers of new homes increasing there is a real danger that such a perception becomes self-fulfilling. Avoiding such an outcome is not simply a challenge for recently planned settlements. The critical question concerns the extent to which existing suburbs can adapt for future growth. There is an urgent need for scholars and planners to recognise how suburbia contains a great variety of distinctive places for living and working. Such an improved understanding of suburban settlements must be grounded in historically informed research into the process through which the suburbs became absorbed into urban networks and their emerging position within increasingly complex, multi-scaled urban regions. Until suburban settlement forms are approached as a distinctive genus in their own right the planning debate will continue to revolve around the pros and cons of brown-field intensification and the absence of adequate transport and public service infrastructures. Such debates, although important in their own right, tend, in the absence of an appropriate research framework, to recycle the politically charged questions of the ‘urbanisation of the suburbs’ and the perennial problem of under-investment in urban infrastructure.

This session intends to move the debate forward by proposing that historical suburban settlements raise fundamental socio-spatial issues that require sustained collaboration between a range of disciplinary fields, including geography, history, architecture, urban design and planning, before they can be properly understood and addressed. The session will create a forum for discussing these issues as part of the emerging field of suburban studies.

The session organisers invite proposals for papers that present theoretical and empirical contributions into the subject of suburban environments, ideally with a focus on the UK. We welcome proposals that explore:

– the relationship between shifting patterns of economic, social and cultural consumption and the way in which people move around suburban environments;

– the effect in practice of the intensification of areas of low density housing;

– the adaptability of suburban morphologies

– the role of suburban centres as places of production as well as consumption and the implications of these questions for the traditional high street and the practice of urban design.


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