Architectures of the New Silk Road – Spaces of Transnational Infrastructure-led Urbanization

The aim of the seminar entitled “Architectures of the New Silk Road” is to devise pathways for making emerging spaces of urbanization along New Silk Road corridors sustainable for all attendant stakeholders. In view of the rapid pace and unwieldy processes of urbanization catalyzed by large-scale infrastructure works, the question is whether such projects will improve the quality of life for local populations or, on the contrary, will only exacerbate poverty, poor governance, and environmental degradation already afflicting regions affected by transnational development.

Whereas all eyes are on China’s Belt and Road advances in Africa, Eurasia, and Southeast Asia, many other players are just as eager to strengthen their presence on these regions via multilaterally orchestrated development projects. But the projects themselves, regardless of who initiates them and where they are implemented, seem to follow a generic formula by now familiar worldwide. Even more, for all the planning know-how invested in a new port, data center, special economic zone, health facility, or smart city, what remains neglected are the collateral spaces of urbanization generated by selective economic growth agendas.

Drawing on expertise from a broad range of disciplines, we will examine infrastructural projects underway in specific corridors along the so-called New Silk Road. These corridors are undergoing the kind of rapid urbanization that accompanies transnational development, thus making them exemplary sites of settlement constellations still in the making. The significance of the research lies in its multi-local approach to studying proto-urbanization processes in progress. Examining individual projects as well as clusters of infrastructural interventions, we will not only determine urbanization processes and patterns throughout the regions of study but will also projectively ask how to make infrastructure-led development – usually treated as a financial and technical issue alone – a contextually responsive driver of sustainable urbanization.


Up to four seats will be held for MDes students. 

This course will be taught online through Friday, February 4th.