Call for Papers

105th ACSA Annual Meeting 
|  Brooklyn says "Move to Detroit"
March 23-25, 2017  |  Detroit, Michigan
Co-chairs: Luis Francisco Rico-Gutierrez, Iowa State University & Martha Thorne, IE University
Host Schools: University of Detroit Mercy, Lawrence Technological University, University of Michigan, & Cranbrook Academy of Art

Call for Papers


ACSA invites paper submissions under the following 18 thematic session topics plus an additional open category. Authors may submit only one paper per session topic. The same paper may not be submitted to multiple topics.



 Health + Design 

Topic Chairs: Sherry Ahrentzen, University of Florida 

Ronald Shorr, University of Florida

Architects have recognized design’s impact on human health for centuries. In recent years, calls for documenting and replicating evidence for the interconnection of design and health are driving research in the built environment disciplines to converge with those in the health professions, social sciences, and other disciplines. This topic invites submissions of papers investigating or documenting the impact of design interventions on health outcomes. Submissions may be made for design at any scale and using any number of research methodologies. With the accepted papers we hope to capture a broad and inclusive profile of what is happening with research in health and design and where it can advance in the future. 


 The Stadium: Architecture, Urban Regeneration, and Politics 

Topic Chair: Benjamin Flowers, Georgia Institute of Technology

Sport and architecture are the two social practices in contemporary life with the broadest impact on the world around us, in particular the city. The role architecture plays in shaping cities is widely acknowledged and has occupied historians, critics, and urban theorists for centuries. Likewise the cultural, economic, and political impact of sport on cities is the subject of sustained and substantial inquiry. When sport and architecture converge in the form of the stadium, then the impact of these two forms of social activity is redoubled. 

Looking at stadia like Herzog and de Meuron’s Bird’s Nest, Eduardo Souto de Moura’s Estadio Braga, or Jeanne Gang’s proposal for a stadium perched atop a skyscraper, it is difficult to pinpoint where the sporting spectacle ends, the architectural spectacle begins (and vice versa). Indeed, it may be that the most powerful contemporary expressions of the sublime in urban architecture—where the experience of space is at once overwhelming, potentially terrifying, and simultaneously pleasing—are found in stadia. That these structures are material expressions of tremendous political power and often come with onerous social and ecological costs only adds to their psychological heft.

We live in a moment where stadia are among the grandest and most expensive projects in the urban landscape. They are associated with ever-grander urban redevelopment schemes (for instance the large-scale redevelopment of East London around the 2012 Olympic Stadium) and price tags regularly exceeding $1 billion. (Or in the case of the late Zaha Hadid’s recently abandoned New Tokyo National Stadium, perhaps as much as $2 billion.) They are a building type favored by political authorities across the political spectrum and around the world. They are sites where novel technologies and structural systems are leveraged for the production of spectacle and celebration of consumption.

And yet, there is a paucity of work critically examining the stadium in its urban context. If we wish to engage with the production of public space, surely the stadium is of interest. If we want to understand what politicians, developers, and community leaders want from architects, certainly debates around stadium projects can be revelatory. This is true not just in the creation of stadia, but in their demise (see the Pontiac Silverdome in suburban Detroit). This session invites papers that examine the urban stadium as a building type whose construction (and destruction) takes place at the intersection of a wide range of (often conflicting) architectural, political, economic, ecological, and social agendas. In an era of economic uncertainty and with an increasing emphasis on sustainability and adaptive reuse, how and why do stadia continue to rise and fall around the world? What does it mean when so many urban regeneration schemes are linked to the construction of stadia? How can we move beyond knowing what the stadium is to understanding what it means? We hope this session will offer new, critical insights into this building type past, present, and especially, future.

 The Movement to Service: Reflecting on the Evolution of Service in Architecture Education and Practice 

Topic Chairs: Alexis Gregory, Mississippi State University
John Poros, Mississippi State University

“Perhaps never in history have the talents, skills, the broad vision and the ideals of the architecture profession been more urgently needed. The profession could be powerfully beneficial at a time when the lives of families and entire communities have grown increasingly fragmented, when cities are in an era of decline and decay rather than limitless growth, and when the value of beauty in daily life is often belittled. Surely, architects and architecture educators, as well as the organizations that represent them, ought to be among the most vocal and knowledgeable leaders in preserving and beautifying a world where resources are in jeopardy.” 
Ernest L. Boyer and Lee D. Mitgang, Building Community: A New Future for Architecture Education and Practice, 1996

Twenty years ago Boyer and Mitgang challenged the architecture community in their seminal text on the state of architectural education and practice. This session focuses in on their particular request for architects and architecture education to “service” the nation. While public interest design, community design centers, and service-learning have become more prevalent in architecture education and practice, what is the state of this “service” and how has it impacted both education and the profession? Our current Millennial students yearn for more meaningful architectural experiences, but are they receiving them? The community as a whole is just as fragmented and in decay as ever before, but has the profession of architecture engaged this need? In a landscape of increasingly defunded budgets in both higher education, and public infrastructure, how have architects and architecture programs impacted the communities in which they reside?

We invite papers that engage these, and other questions, to discuss what developments have happened over the past twenty years. What new forms of “service” have been created out of the challenges that have arisen to our nation? How have international emergencies, such as the Syrian refugee crisis and the Fukushima disaster, impacted the evolution of architecture education and practice? Do the developments of non-profit organizations like Public Architecture, SEED, and Architecture for Humanity truly showcase the talents, skills, and vision of architects? What will the next twenty years bring in challenges to our nation and the world, and how should architects respond? This session intends to start a discussion on the past, present, and future of architectural service and the challenges and rewards it entails.

 The Fertility of Urban Ruins: Obsolete Industrial Cities as Ecosystem Holders 

Topic Chairs: Alex Wall, University of Virginia
Luis Pancorbo, University of Virginia
Montserrat Bonvehi Rosich, University of Virginia

This session invites inter-disciplinal theoretical and speculative proposals, precedents or contemporary case studies, and design-research, coming from areas as architecture, landscape, urban design, urban ecology or environmental and urban soil sciences that explore the opportunities and challenges of the potential relationship between industrial ruins and emergent urban ecosystems.

Confronted with the ancient cultural palimpsest, which is the traditional city, technical ensembles and procedures have shaped the urban layout of the American industrial city. Productive organization and optimization are crystallized on the city’s fabric.  Yet the form of the American industrial city also resides on its strong entanglement with the wild environment.  Those cities, in opposition to the continuous cyclic evolution of the traditional ones (cycles of decay and development, but toward the direction of strengthening and saturating its own urbanity), unfold in the same way that technical objects do, in a discontinuous fashion, following abrupt technological changes toward functional concretization. This has led them to a catastrophic and irreversible kind of obsolescence. While the resilience of the traditional city can be confined to purely cultural terms, is the survival of the industrial city doomed to its mutation into a new post-urban type?

Different types of urban obsolescence have produced different kinds of ruins. These ruins and fallow lands can be seen as a “place-holder” ecosystem, a potential for a post-urban fertility, instead of being considered as a problem to be solved or something that remains hidden or invisible. Could a hybrid anthropogenic environment be produced to balance the relationship between technical, cultural and living systems? Could we reconceive unused industrial facilities as fruitful ruins? Could these post-industrial and post-urban environments be refashioned as hybrid ecosystems, similar in their characteristics to Simondon’s “associated milieu”?

We see the future emerging from the obsolete technological environments of American cities. We imagine scenarios in which humans and living systems resettle themselves in parasitic and symbiotic relationships within the vast landscapes of urban ruins.  This may require a new parliament and alliances with actors and stakeholders from many disciplines. Would there be a new relationship between order and self-emergence in such urban conditions?

By processes of “ecosystem engineering,” human have been able to transform their physical environments. At the same time other species and organisms inhibiting those environments have taken those alterations to change their adaptive fitness. “Niche construction theory” argues that organisms alter environments and must in turn adapt to these altered environments, generating feedbacks in both ecological and evolutionary processes. Analogous to processes of contemporary evolutionary biology, the environments of post-industrial American cities could develop through a process of continuous adaptive evolution. Could rustbelt cities become a laboratory for developing new adaptive urban design and architectural practices? Are we at the threshold of new typologies of American post-urban environment? What should be the new materials, spatial typologies, programs and reuse strategies that can adapt and the same time reshape this new environment?

 Living Laboratory or Laughing Stock? 

Topic Chair: Edward M. Orlowski, Lawrence Technological University

In 2015, Berlin-based artist Ryan Mendoza removed the exterior of a foreclosed house in Detroit, and reassembled it as “The White House Project” at Art Rotterdam.  For over six months, the remains of the blighted house stood on Stoepel Street, creating an eyesore and a safety hazard, until the city’s land bank stepped in to demolish it.  While the identity of the person truly responsible for leaving the house in such a state is unclear, residents of ‘rust-belt’ cities like Detroit are all too familiar with being treated in this manner.  The post-industrial city holds tremendous fascination for outside creatives and academics whose interest in these environments range from a romanticizing of ‘ruin porn’ to the availability of inexpensive property for rental or exploitation.  Terms like ‘carpet bagging’ and ‘gentrification’ become common when speaking with those who feel their existence as humans in a context of misfortune is being ignored, or even mocked.  “It is this exact wielding of privilege and resources,” writes Sarah Rose Sharp, “that creates schisms between outsiders and Detroiters.”  Further, the group Detroit Resists has sharply critiqued the Detroit-themed U. S. pavilion at the 2016 Venice Bienalle as “structurally unable to engage this catastrophe and will thereby collaborate in the ongoing destruction of the city.”

Even well-intentioned interventions can be guilty of reinforcing inequities in power, opportunity, and privilege.  Designers, educators, students, and activists can all fall victim to the ‘white knight syndrome’ – seeing themselves as acting in a noble or heroic vein, when in fact they fail to make the kind of true investment in understanding a context and constituencies necessary for healthy engagement.  By practicing from a position of sympathy, rather than empathy, these agents run the risk of reinforcing a power dynamic where they are the patronizing experts ‘here to help’, rather than partners in the building of community capacity through the integration of their design talents with the embedded wisdom found among affected constituencies.  Even in the best of circumstances it is possible to fall into the trap of ‘designing for’ rather than ‘designing with’.  In addition, the artifacts left behind must be appropriate – and answerable – to the context and users.  The homes built for the Make-It-Right neighborhood in New Orleans feature photovoltaic systems that encourage energy self-sufficiency, but may require maintenance far beyond the capacity of the typical homeowner.  In other instances, interventions fall into disuse, disrepair or even blight because they never adequately spoke to the true needs and resources of locals.

This session seeks papers and dialogues that uncover both the explicit and covert agendas present in works undertaken in rust-belt American cities.  By revealing and examining the intended and unintended consequences of work pursued ‘in the public interest’, there is much to be learned about the social, political, and economic underpinnings of interventions into underserved or neglected contexts, and their reception amongst established constituencies.  Submittals should critically (even provocatively) address both best-practices and failures as a means of illuminating questions of power, intentionality, and identity.  

 Architectural Intelligence 

Topic Chairs: Evangelos Kotsioris, Princeton University
Molly Wright Steenson, Carnegie Mellon University

Once a distant technological dream, artificial intelligence (AI) today is a subject of wide interest, with promises that machine intelligence and autonomous interaction will alter our daily lives. More than ever, artificial intelligence—the intelligence exhibited by machines with a learning capacity—is a vital architectural concern, as the designers of smart cities and applications for the Internet of Things deploy machine learning with big data and responsive systems at an architectural scale. The AI imaginary can be both thrilling and dastardly, and at the architectural scale, the ramifications of AI play out most vividly. In this panel, we seek to explore a long history of the architectural and spatial engagement of intelligent systems.

The relationship between AI and architecture is not new. Artificial intelligence was defined as a term in 1956, and starting in the 1960s, architects such as Nicholas Negroponte and the MIT Architecture Machine Group, Christopher Alexander, and Thomas Moran began to explicitly engage and collaborate with AI research, postulating new design methods, and designing artificially intelligent learning machines and expert systems. Moreover, architecture’s relationship with intelligent systems predates the computational paradigms that transformed architectural design protocols after World War II. The English term “robot” is a translation that originates from the title of Karel Čapek’s 1920 play R.U.R. (“Rossum's Universal Robots”), the transformable mechanized set for which was designed by no other than Frederick Kiesler. Siegfried Giedion discussed 18th century automata and Pierre Jaquet-Droz’s “writing doll” (1770) in Space, Time and Architecture (1941) as precedents for modern automatic telephone network and technological innovation. It is through such cases that both architects and historians anticipated the dissolution of intelligent devices into seemingly ubiquitous systems.

In this panel, we invite papers that explore the intersections of architecture and artificial intelligence. In particular, this panel asks: How does one even start to compose such a history in architecture? What kinds of fantasies, imperatives and mandates have diachronically elevated the design of machine intelligence systems into a contemporary matter of concern? Which theoretical constructs and material artifacts does one mobilize to thread such a broader, deeper narrative, ranging from diagrammatic Vitruvian machines to 18th century automata to deep-learning to data mining algorithms, and beyond? We are especially looking for papers that uncover previously overlooked systems of architectural intelligence, perform novel readings of canonical objects of architectural history, and consider non-Western and non-computerized approaches to artificial intelligence. Proposals addressing such questions across scales (from the body, to the sensor, to the city), objects, infrastructures, and eras are welcome. 

 In Practice: History as Research and Design Strategy 

Topic Chairs: Francesca Torello, Carnegie Mellon University
Kai K. Gutschow, Carnegie Mellon University

In both the profession and the academy, there is a renewed interest in the past.  With the passing of theory, and efforts to move beyond the emphases on economics, technology, and ecology, contemporary architects are once again looking to history and the past as drivers for design.  History is not just a source of precedents, or a “bag of tricks” for the architect to apply, but a research problem, the source of a design strategy, even a layer of complexity in the material of architecture.  Architects are ever more self-consciously inventing, projecting, or manipulating the relation of present and past.

We are interested in collecting and presenting an array of “strategies” that focus on the practice of architecture as an intellectual process in dialogue with history.  We seek papers that challenge given notions of the distinct role that practice and history play, that scrutinize situations where the threads of history and practice cross paths in a critical and productive dialogue.  We welcome investigations into all manner of critical exchange between the project of architecture and the project of history. We are curious about collaborations between architects and historians, as well as architects working as historians, and vice versa.  We are especially interested in cases in which contemporary architecture pushes the historical discourse into new territories.

 Disruption: Copyleft and Open-Source Design 

Topic Chair: Brian Kelly, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

“Productive, collaborative, shared design is happening all around the world, and it is only accelerating. Yet as it becomes increasingly mainstream for software and consumer goods, the open source mentality has been muscled out of architecture by traditional practice and remains in the murky periphery, away from the discipline’s spotlight. A reductive categorization is that architecture still operates under the authorship model of copyright, when design, media and culture are moving toward copyleft and Creative Commons. Almost all disciplines are rapidly expanding in scope while architecture progresses tentatively.” Carlo Ratti 1

Disruption is defined as a ‘disturbance or problem that interrupts an event, activity, or process’ and can often have detrimental effects on a culture, government, industry, economy, or ecology. Key business and industry disruptors include globalization, outsourcing of services, and shifts in technology. The 20th century fall of Detroit was in part a reflection of disruptions in the automotive industry and demonstrates the systemic connectivity of place. In the last 20 years, the discipline of architecture has witnessed an upswell of changes to practice with simultaneous challenges to the value of design. Technology is more advanced and accessible, the general public are now authors AND makers, representational content is being outsourced globally, and discussions around critical global issues too often do not include the architectural profession.

Post-Renaissance design disciplines of the built environment are predicated on the Albertian model where conception and representation of built form occur initially, followed separately by construction of the artifact as represented without alteration. This relationship seeks to assure control of the content by the author; it is copyrighted. It is also being challenged in the 21st century as the line between designing and constructing becomes increasingly blurred. Enabled partly by a democratization of fabrication, the maker and end user are now authors in the process.

Open-source design, a term first coined late 20th century in the context of software development and computer science, embraces the sharing community where evolution outweighs authorship. Recently, open-source has become even more popular as groups including Google, Facebook, and Tesla have adopted the mindset as a way to encourage rapid, comprehensive development of their products. Within the profession, it has been utilized from WikiHouse to Pritzker Prize winner Alejandro Aravena. While the potential of open-source design is invigorating, it faces significant challenges in professional disciplines deeply entrenched in copyright, intellectual property, and/or liability exposure.

This session invites submissions which foster discourse on the impact of the copyleft culture as well as the potential for an open-source architecture. What is the role of copyright and authorship in a 21st century architectural profession? How are architects navigating this new territory of copyleft? What is the role of engagement in a copyleft culture? How are open-source examples from other products/media such as music, fashion, robotics, and furniture impacting or changing mindsets in architecture? What is the source code which is the base for an open-source architecture?
1. Carlo Ratti with Matthew Claudel, Open Source Architecture (London: Thames & Hudson, 2015), 94.


Topic Chairs: Carla Leitao, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Ed Keller, Parsons The New School for Design

In the design of today’s ‘smart cities’, we increasingly see scenarios of pervasive information collection and datamining deployed across diverse population demographics, further embedding a set of relations of power, asymmetry and inequality in the name of a ‘parametrized efficiency'. The role of cultural production in the nurturing and maintenance of thriving urban centers is disassembled and ‘optimized’ through ideas of urbanity that can be seen as encapsulated into new forms of architecture or expanded/exploded into new forms of technologically based micro-cultures, deployed as ecosystems/assemblies instantaneously across the network.  As a case study, Vernor Vinge’s “Rainbows End” explores the consequences of this developing techno-scape: set in a near future balancing between biotech misuse, emerging forms of crowdsourcing, immersive VR, total surveillance and security, and ubicomp/AI.

In the last 10-20 years we have seen discourses around these ‘smart city’ concepts emerge, develop and implode into ‘post-smart’ city dimensions of inquiry, critique, and resistance. Intrinsic to these investigations is the questioning of processes by which information is connected to and helps define aspects of spaces, objects, forms, and human exchanges.

Throughout his work, Adam Greenfield has alerted us to visible and invisible models of technological surveillance and the more or less insidious ways in which they establish different characters of urbanity. Moreover, in Against the Smart City, Greenfield proposes alternatives to the lure of the pervasive reading/mapping processes of centralizing smart-cities, by refocusing on meaningful processes of cultural exchange that create thriving aspects of urban existence.

From another perspective, in The Stack, Benjamin Bratton recalls and characterizes the new formats of the overlapping ‘cyberlayer’ - smart grids, cloud platforms, mobile apps, ubiquitous sensing, the Internet of Things, automation - that now underlie all landscapes, and which catalyze a new series of questions around political economies and government. Bratton’s work radically questions foundational human principles for organizing the city, seeing both a truly new post-human produced by the ‘stack’, and imagining a collision between these new ontologies and emergent forms of governance.

Through the lens of the concept of addressability, we propose to reflect on and discuss the ways in which different modes of information collection, data mining, and knowledge production define a plethora of architectural and urban alternative platforms for interconnecting individuals, populations and cultural forms.

While addressability is a term used in computer science and information technology, we propose it as a condition of belonging, transparency and history by which exchanges - cultural, informational, social, political - create new geologies for urban existence, and myriad possibilities for individual and collective agency.

By focusing on the procedural aspects of these processes, the objective is to reveal avenues for potential new definitions and/or characterizations of cities or urban existence;  which are otherwise invisible or suppressed in existing models or materialities. We suggest that an anticipatory and predictive urban forensics, or ‘dissection' of these new substantive forms of addressability might propitiate and host generative processes in the design of a more politically responsive ’smart city'.

 The City after Freddie Gray: From Acquiescent to Heady Urbanism 

Topic Chair: Erkin Ozay, University At Buffalo, SUNY

A month before Freddie Gray’s arrest, in an op-ed piece about Baltimore’s Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood where Gray lived, an observer made note of the failed revitalization attempts that took place in the district, and stated, “It makes one think that some areas are too lost to be helped much.”* This incremental “reclamation” project in the West Side from the 1990s was followed by an all-out initiative in the East Side a decade later—an aggressive urban renewal project targeting the Middle East neighborhood, criticized for its heavy-handed demolition and relocation practices. While the projects followed two very different strategies, in both cases, the outcomes fell well short of the high-minded ideals they set out to fulfill, despite the strong political and institutional support. The observer’s statement echoed the economically deterministic suspicions that investing in highly impoverished cities is a losing bet, demonstrating the loss of public trust in the ability of mainstream urban spatial practices to positively impact the lives of citizens—perhaps the most damaging outcome of these initiatives.

Is it really possible to leverage market forces to urban communities’ benefit, when means of development often clash with their interests? American city-building practices failed to address this question. Empowered by ill-conceived policies, American urbanism could be read as a series of misguided development practices that left indelible imprints on the urban landscape: from the slum clearing projects of the 1950s to the housing bubble of the 2000s, our cities are chronicles of ostensibly scalable initiatives that failed to go beyond reductive paradigms. From apathetic tower-and-slab schemes to vain neo-traditionalist configurations, these hapless interventions have not only maintained, but also legitimized the prevailing modes of development.

Gray’s death, and later, the events in Ferguson and elsewhere, have spurred a crucial public debate on matters of urban justice. As the discipline seeks effective ways to participate in this dialogue, this session proposes to test architecture’s capacity for imagining potent socio-technical ensembles to address the challenges facing underserved urban communities. What are the openings for contemporary practices to effectively cultivate publics, in order to construct inclusive and supportive settings combining robust spatial and procedural strategies? What are some of the compelling provocations fostered by the non-traditional actors of space production, overlooked by the mainstream modes of development? The cases may include alternative development models, mediated environments, innovative public institutions, experimental habitational arrangements, platforms of economic cooperation, and grassroots organizations. Eschewing scale and scalability over intensity of experience and grounded specificity, we seek spatial and procedural constructs enabling improved social scenarios that resist maldistribution, offer spaces of reprieve, and surpass the limitations of paradigmatic urbanisms.

* Paul Marx. "Rouse's Failure in Sandtown-Winchester." The Baltimore Sun. 13 March 2015.

 Is Another Architecture Possible? Exploring Counter-Hegemonic Architectural Practices 

Topic Chair: Joseph Krupczynski, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

In describing the potential for radical democratization in cities, sociologist Agustin Lao-Montes, notes that, “the right to the city means the right to freedom, to explore and invent new and more fluid ways of life and self-definition, and to create new and to re-create older forms of political community out not only of need but also from desire.” How can architecture respond to this creative call to action? Can architecture meaningfully make spaces for fluid self-definition? And how can it support the making of political communities that emerge from both the practicalities of “need” and the drive of “desire.” Navigating ideals and their realization can be seen as a core function of any architectural praxis, but in working within complex socio-political realms that creative linkage is often difficult for architects to attain. This session hopes to uncover and reflect on the kinds of innovative projects and practices that are necessary to support transformative civic and social change.

What are the new models of spatial practice that can be used to contest frameworks of power that reproduce inequities? What evolving critical practices in architecture and design work to create spaces that reveal, instigate and challenge dominant social and political structures? How can architects, working within communities racked by the contested context of neo-liberal globalization, support critical architectural/spatial dialogues that promote meaningful public exchange and democracy? What kinds of design processes are necessary to thwart normative models of “development” and to re-direct the hegemonic designs of globalization through local agency? These questions highlight the need for an inventory of counter-hegemonic architectural practices, where political and social contexts are engaged through performative, symbolic, activist, and/or socio-cultural approaches.

These questions can be addressed through a critical examination of community design processes, and community-based creative work that move beyond models of consensus to models of tactical collaboration, reciprocal cooperation and creative conflict—as Marcus Miessen has suggested.  Or through approaches that are hybridic, self-organizing and complex, and are best measured not by the forms created by architects, but through the social formations provoked and supported by spatial practitioners working as cultural agents—as described by Teddy Cruz. This session invites exploration and documentation of any spatial practices that provide an alternative operative and aesthetic model, and that may include new practice models, design projects, historical precedents, contemporary case studies, and other works in support of transformative civic and social processes.

Design practices that are capable of countering the alienating spectacles and divisive social processes that are endemic to our cultural landscape can work nimbly in this expanded field of operations.  Especially within communities that are burdened by disenfranchisement and social exclusion, and where there is great potential and an urgent need for catalyzing their material, symbolic and cultural capital. In the context of a growing recognition of the need for sustainable cities—inventive and open to a free balance between the social, environmental and economic factors—investigating practices that connect our ideals and their attainable realization is an imperative directive for architecture.

 The Design of Practice:  Between Authorial Agency and Institutional Pressures 

Topic Chair: David J. Goodman, IE University

The scope and nature of the architect’s work is in flux. The reasons for this shift have been well documented: new technologies of production, shifts in the ambitions and responsibilities of the architect, the blurring or dissolution of disciplinary boundaries, as well as sociopolitical shifts outside architecture practice have all combined to trigger innovations in architectural production. While much has been written about the nature of these changes and how they affect what is produced, we know somewhat less about the emerging organizational structures surrounding and enabling this production. How does the shifting landscape described above affect the shape of architecture practice? Are new organizational forms emerging as a result of this shift, and if so, what are they and how have they come about? Do innovations in architectural production require innovations in the design of practice itself, or are previous structures and modes of practice nevertheless adequate, or at least adaptable, to the new tasks that confront us? And how can innovations in organization design lead to further innovations in architecture practice?

The above line of inquiry suggests that the capacity for architects to innovate in the structures of their firms may be unbounded, and that innovation in firm structure may, perhaps, be an almost automatic consequence of architectural innovation. Yet a decades-long stream of research and debate in the field of organization theory suggests that there may exist strong institutional pressure not to innovate in firm structure, and that a firm’s owners and managers may actually exert a somewhat limited ability to shape the structure of the organizations they run. (1)  This research suggests a second series of questions, somewhat stickier than the first: to what degree is the architect actually free to decide the form of his or her practice, and to what degree do administrative norms, institutional structures, professional regulations, and social customs limit or condition the possible shapes of architecture practice? In short, how, if at all, are the possible shapes of architecture practice circumscribed by external factors?

This session welcomes papers, projects, and case studies that deal with either or both of the lines of inquiry outlined above. We welcome work that examines innovations in the organization of architecture practice, the effect that organizational structures can have on design innovation, as well as the structural impediments to those innovations.
(1) For a summary of this research and of the debate between individual agency and institutional norms, see Heugens, Pursey & Michel Lander. “Structure! Agency! (And Other Quarrels): A Meta-Analysis of Institutional Theories of Organization” Academy of Management Journal 2009, Vol. 52, No. 1, pp 61–85.

 Whither Public Space? Designing Infrastructures of Inclusion 

Topic Chair: Miodrag Mitrasinovic, Parsons The New School for Design

From Tahrir Square to Zuccotti Park, and from Rio de Janeiro to Athens, recent re-appropriations of public spaces through urban activism and public protests have brought back beliefs in democratic practices and civic values that have been historically associated with cities, public spaces and urban life. In the face of increasing commodification and privatization of public resources and the commons, public spaces have thus ignited imagination of millions worldwide through their capacity to enable forms of public discourse, exchange, and modes of coproduction that seemed forgotten.

Whither Public Space? attempts to brings together scholars, scholar-practitioners, as well as urban professionals involved in the design, planning, management and policy aspects of public space.

Contributions should attempt to frame the following fundamental questions: What is public space and how is it designed and produced? How do public spaces manifest larger cultural, social and political processes? What forms of socio-spatial interaction can we observe in public spaces, and what do they reveal? How are public spaces designed, produced, managed and controlled? How does design impact the nature and character of public experience? What critical participatory approaches can be used to create inclusive public spaces that respond to the diverse needs, desires and aspirations of individuals and communities alike?

Whither Public Space? will thematically include but not be limited to the following: current theoretical debates and the state of the public space question; the right to public space; roles that design and  architecture play in producing public space; governing, governance and management of public space; public space as site of activism and dissent; public space as a function of communication; public space as a function of mobility; gender, race, and public space; public art, public culture, and public space; experiential dimensions of public space; infrastructural dimensions of public space; privatization of public space. Papers discussing specific case studies are particularly invited, as well as those that attempt to frame discursive space by addressing comprehensive public space bibliography.

 Branding the Underdog: Imagining Detroit's Rebirth 

Topic Chair: Grace Ong Yan, IE University

In 2013, Detroit became the largest American city ever to file for bankruptcy. From its height in the early twentieth century as "Motor City" –the world's automotive capital—to its low point as a city in a state of emergency, Detroit has become the municipal underdog of the nation. The popular slogan, "Detroit vs. Everybody," is emblazoned on local T-shirts and encapsulates a sentiment felt by many Detroiters. Since the post-war era, Detroit has been plagued by negativity and bad circumstances, which include the travails of the auto industry, racial tension and violence, urban center depletion and the growth of suburbanization, and economic recession. Now that the city has hit rock bottom, there is nowhere to go but up. The question we ponder is, how will the rebirth of Detroit occur? In what shape and form will it occur? What will be its drivers? What can we gain from looking to the past for clues?

Currently, there is a promising artistic and countercultural movement at work in the Brooklyn-to-Detroit trajectory suggested by this year's ACSA conference chairs.  With this in mind, how can Detroit navigate between its past and its future? How can Detroit rekindle its former greatness—a greatness that was anchored in the stability of big auto companies—the kind of corporate support that is again developing today with Detroit's de facto CEO Dan Gilbert, chairman of Rock Ventures, a corporate entity that includes Quicken Loans, who aims to attract the next generation to the city. What kind of tension does this create in our current era of anti-corporate sentiment? As Detroit is poised on the threshold of resurgence, how can we imagine "America's Great Comeback City"? (A slogan found on a recent poster in Detroit) How can we elaborate on "Opportunity Detroit"? (Another slogan that hangs on signs throughout the city)  Detroit is a city whose future hinges on a new generation of entrepreneurs, the risks they take and the ingenuity they put forth.  

With the U.S. rebounding from an economic recession in recent years, the trend is once again to grow and develop downtown centers. This is an especially important aspect for Detroit. Locating cultural and civic institutions, businesses, and housing downtown attracts people who prefer to live in active, walkable neighborhoods.  As architects, designers, historic preservationists, and planners move forward, they and their clients will create new environments and construct new relationships within Detroit's current milieu.

This session invites papers that look to history in order to see the future— seeking papers for this session that research historical sources to give insight into "branding an underdog," be it a city, a neighborhood, an institution, or an organization.  Issues to explore include the branding of cities and institutions, the role of corporations or institutions in rejuvenating a place, and the aesthetic as well as the socio-cultural and political agendas invested in urban rebirth. Investigations should be historically and contextually grounded and may address architecture and urbanism of any scale in any world region from 1850 to the present. The panel encourages papers that cultivate a narrative, making links and connections to Detroit's possible future.

 Design for Performance: Bridging the Gap Between the Poetics and the Pragmatics 
Topic Chair: Vivian Loftness, Carnegie Mellon 


Topic Chairs:
Open I: Benjamin Flowers, Georgia Institute of Technology
Open II: Edward M. Orlowski, Lawrence Technological University
Open III: Erkin Ozay, University At Buffalo, SUNY
Open IV: Brian Kelly, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

 Money Talks: The Impact of Macro Investors in the Shape of Cities  


 Nomadic Cities or Life on the Run 


 Enslaving the Masters: The Pedagogical Challenges of Parametric Design and Fabrication in Architecture



Submission Requirements

All authors submitting papers must be faculty or staff at an ACSA member schools; Individual Members; Student Members or become supporting ACSA members at the time of paper submission. If you are not a member, you can join ACSA here.

Authors may submit only one paper per session topic. The same paper may not be submitted to multiple topics. An author can present no more than two papers at the Annual Meeting. Papers must report on recently completed work, and papers cannot have been previously published or presented in public except to a regional audience.

Paper formatting requirements: 

  • Papers should be no longer than 4,000 words, excluding the abstract and endnotes.
  • No more than 5 images may be used in the paper. Images (low resolution) and captions should be embedded in the paper.
  • Omit all author names from the paper and any other identifying information to maintain an anonymous review process. 
  • Papers must be written in English.
  • Do not include an abstract in the paper file. 
  • Papers may be uploaded in Word, RTF, or PDF formats.


Submission Process

The deadline for submitting a paper to a session for the Annual Meeting is September 21, 2016 (extended). Authors will submit papers through the ACSA online interface. Follow the steps below to being your submission. The web interface will then guide you through the steps to complete your submission. 

1) Click on the SUBMIT NOW button above.

2) Log in with your ACSA username and password. 

All submissions will be reviewed carefully by at least three reviewers. The session topic chairs make official acceptance. Selection is based on innovation, clarity, contribution to the discipline of architecture, and relevance to the session topic. All authors will be notified of the status of their paper and will receive comments from their reviewers. 

Paper Presentation

Accepted authors will be required to complete a copyright transfer form and agree to present the paper at the Annual Meeting before it is published in the Proceedings. It is ACSA policy that accepted authors must pay full conference registration for the Annual Meeting in order to be included in the conference presentation and Proceedings.

Each session will have a moderator, normally the topic chair(s). Session moderators will notify authors in advance of session guidelines as well as the general expectations for the session. Moderators reserve the right to withhold a paper from the program if the author has refused to comply with those guidelines. Failure to comply with the conference deadlines or with a moderator’s request for materials in advance may result in an author being dropped from the program, even though his or her name may appear in the program book. In the event of insufficient participation regarding a particular session topic, the conference co-chairs reserve the right to revise the conference schedule accordingly. 


June 2016
  Call for Papers announced  
July 2016
  Paper submission site opens 
Oct. 5, 2016
Paper submission deadline (EXTENDED)
Fall 2016
  Notifications sent to authors  
Dec. 2016
  Final revised papers and copyright forms due  
Feb. 2017   Conference registration deadline for presenters 


For questions please contact: 

Eric Wayne Ellis
Allison Smith
Director of Operations and Programs
Programs Manager