Urban voids, interstitial spaces and vacant lands: An emerging agenda for the vague geography of cities.

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Qualitative Research Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: Cleveland 2, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Organizers: Dimitrios Panayotopoulos
Chairs: Dimitrios Panayotopoulos

Call for Submissions

We aim for an interdisciplinary session and are open to papers that contribute to, but need not be limited to the above conceptualisation of urban voids.

Abstracts of 250 words should be submitted to ca.silva@auckland.ac.nz and d.panayotopoulos.16@ucl.ac.uk for consideration by October 17th, 2018. Participants will be notified by October 19th if their paper has been accepted. They will then need to register for the AAG conference and provide their PIN to the organisers by October 25th in order to be included in the panel.


The literature on urbanisation has been traditionally focused on the construction of the urban environment as an implicit derivation of the built-up space. However, the built-up dimension of cities can be hardly considered without reference to the series of undeveloped areas, vacant lands, open tracts, interstitial spaces and voids that lie between developments.

In the new “connected city” driven by the optimisation of flows and commodities, a new territorial unevenness emerges between premium spaces and disfigured ones that tend to remain invisible, eventually becoming spatial gaps that exacerbate social and economic marginalisation.

Defining the void in urban space however is a challenging task as the notion of absence is much more evasive to grasp than factual phenomena. Even more so as absence in the urban system can refer to a large array of situations ranging from the absence of built entities to that of activities, and policies. Arguably, such conceptions of the void are more about the narratives they create, the interruption of the status quo and the possibilities that emanate from these breaks.

Highlighting these categories is a relevant exercise as it can provide a more comprehensive understanding of the build environment, not only from what has been done, but also what is left in-between.

Despite their apparently random condition - a counterpoint to the supremacy of planning regimes of control - the spectrum of voids and interstitial spaces of different kinds opens an agenda in urban studies from alternatives theoretical entrances, including political ecology, landscape planning, urban morphology, architecture, environmental services, urban resilience, natural capital and green infrastructure inter alia. Hence, a multi-disciplinary discussion covering trans-scalarity, relationality and temporality of urban voids is key to explore their complex nature and the intricate relations they entertain with the city.

On this basis, we propose reinforcing the debate on cities but from the values and implications of its varied interstitial (or vague?) geography - the one that has a quantitative and qualitative significance - somehow diminished by the supremacy of narratives of the production of the space as synonym of the built-up space. We propose to explore ideas that attempt to reconceptualise the “void” and the way it is perceived from “unhealthy” structures of cities to paradigms of urban transformation and change.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Introduction Chad Steacy University of Georgia 10 5:00 PM
Presenter John Lauermann*, City University of New York, Eva Kassens-Noor, Michigan State University, Plans that didn't happen: The geography of urban regeneration failures in South Boston 20 5:10 PM
Presenter Sarah SanGiovanni*, Clark University, “Bringing up Uptown?” Conceptualizing the role of place in the development of Pittsburgh’s Uptown EcoInnovation District 20 5:30 PM
Presenter Dimitrios Panayotopoulos*, University College London, Scale and perceptions of urban voids in post-industrial cities. Learnings from Eleonas in Athens, Greece. 20 5:50 PM
Discussant Robert Oliver Virginia Tech 20 6:10 PM

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