The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Launch of the Silk Cities platform

12 February 2014

The DPU is delighted to announce the launch of Silk Cities.

Silk Cities Platform. Image: Yazd, Iran by Georgios Giannopoulos (2010)

Founder Fatemeh (Farnaz) Arefiah, currently in the final year of her PhD at the DPU, explains how and why the platform came into being:


The idea of an ongoing independent platform for knowledge sharing emerged during a successful international conference called Urban Change in Iran, which was hosted by DPU on 8-9 November 2012.

The ‘Why’

We believe communication and knowledge transfer is strategic pathways towards improving the built environment. A lack of sufficient communication in regard to the quality of the built environment is more prevalent in developing countries, especially those within the Middle East and Central Asia which are not usually in the limelight of international attention (from the built environment perspective). By an improved built environment we mean:

  • Creating built environments which are safer, more resilient to natural disasters, and adaptive to change
  • Providing people with a better life experience within their built environment
  • Positioning a built environment within its historical continuity

The ‘What’

Silk Cities is an independent contextual online platform which connects dispersed existing knowledge and ideas about the quality of the built environment in the Middle East and Central Asia. The initial thematic concerns are urban design and planning, reconstruction and disaster risk reduction, and addressing urban historical identity within urban development programmes, as well as local initiatives. 

Silk Cities aims to bridge the gap between generations, and theory and practice, stimulate urban debates and ideas and finally to have impact on the quality of the built environment.


  • Urban Talk: A place for original talks on related subjects by prominent speakers.  This provides food for thought and shares up-to-date knowledge directly with a wider audience.  
  • Urban Snap: A place for periodic visual assignments in order to visually explore the quality of the built environment.
  • Data Bank: An archival place for showcasing research and reflections by academics and practitioners on related subjects.
  • Student Showcase: A place for graduate students to showcase their knowledge and to compare them with their peers.

Read More

Through the Silk Cities microsite you can read more about the platform and you can register your interest through the platform's independent website (www.silkcities.org). You can also read proceedings from the conference including downloadable papers - more of which will be added in the coming weeks.