31 August – 04 September 2020

Cities in the 21st Century – The International Seminar on Urban Form


The International Seminar on Urban Form invites submissions of abstracts for papers to be presented for the annual conference. The conference will be held in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, on September 1 to 4, 2020 The conference is organized by the College of Architecture + Planning at the University of Utah. The organizers invite participation in the Conference by interested academics and professionals.

Please submit your paper proposals here. The deadline for Abstract Submittal is January 4, 2020.

In returning to North America, it is appropriate for morphologists to reflect on the cities that are being built in the 21st century and analyze the extraordinary changes in urban form that characterized 20th century cities. The theme of “Cities in the 21st Century” will also look forward to the new morphologies of world mega-cities, which are decidedly unique in history, as well as responsive to burgeoning city populations. The theme has special meaning, in that there is a new urgency in developing and adapting sustainable urban forms for the growing majority of residents in cities. 

This theme will explore the current state of evolving world urban morphology, encompassing the following tracks: 

  • The evolving morphology of world mega-cities. Mega-cities arising in Asia and Africa are showing extreme and challenging new forms. This theme explores the analysis and comparison of these built environments, and will begin to collectively identify and assess mega-city physical characteristics.
  • Legacies of the 20th century: repairing modern city form. The 20thcentury was particularly disruptive to the continuity and form of the city, birthing multiple new typologies and forms based on technological imperatives. Nevertheless, these cities require extensive change in order to meet new challenges of sustainability and rapid urban growth. What is the urban morphology of urban repair? 
  • Sustainability as an imperative and limitation in urban and regional evolution. The singular world challenge for cities is dealing with climate change in its many iterations. How does the urban framework and urban regional form respond to sustainability? Are there relevant lessons from historic cities and their forms?
  • New building and neighborhood typologies in response to urban crisis. The crisis brought about by rising urban populations, climate change, and potential catastrophic events calls for new typologies and revisited old typologies that can absorb and respond to these changes. How could the mechanisms of typological evolution address crisis?
  • Adaptation of historic cities: weaknesses and strengths. Cities are continuous forms that slowly adapt over time to new conditions. The characteristics of historic cities must be protected, yet adaptation still needs to occur. 
  • Utopian and ideal cities of the 21st century, including “smart” cities.Utopian cities of the 20th century influenced the actual form of many cities. As new utopian ideals arrive, what forms need to be retained and revered. Can we compare the ideal forms of previous eras to the issues of urban form today?
  • Methods and practice of urban morphology as adapted to new city forms
  • The legacy of Gian Luigi Maffei. The passing of Professor Maffei in this past year will be noted in a retrospective of his work and his influences. His proteges, admirers and colleagues are invited to propose topics in this theme

Abstract Submission

Abstracts of paper proposals (250 words) should address at least one of the topics outlined in the call for papers. Speakers should also submit a short biography (100 words). Submissions will be accepted online through Ex-ordo.com where participants may sign in and submit abstracts in a few minutes. Ex-ordo provides a dynamic submission process, where more options become available according to your selections.

Please submit your abstracts proposals here by January 4, 2020.

Authors will be notified of acceptance by the Conference Committee by April 1, 2020. Final acceptance will be based upon review of the full-length paper which must be received before the corresponding deadline.

The organizers are planning a special digital issue of Urban Morphology from selected papers presented at the conference. In addition there will be a digital Proceedings assembled after the conference. Only papers presented by one of the authors will be published in the Proceedings. Electronic presentations (e.g. Skype) may be considered. For additional information, including contacting the organizers, venue, hotel, travel, and visa requirements please see the conference website:


The International Seminar on Urban Form (ISUF) is the international organization of urban form for researchers and practitioners. It was inaugurated in 1994, bringing together urban morphologists worldwide. It seeks to advance research and practice in fields concerned with the built environment, especially the comparison of change and evolution of urban forms and building types over time and across space. Members are drawn from several disciplines, including architecture, geography, history, sociology, urban design and urban planning. ISUF organizes conferences, publishes the journal Urban Morphology and provides an international framework for communication between members.