The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Silk Cities

An independent contextual platform for knowledge sharing and communication between built environment professionals.

silk cities

20 April 2014


Silk Cities is an independent, bottom-up and not-for-profit professional and academic initiative, concerned with contextual urban challenges that countries along the historic Silk Roads face within the process of urban transformation. By using the narrative of the urban Silk Roads we tap on the notions of connectivity and exchange, historical presence that is reflected in city characteristics and urban life, and contextual contemporary challenges. Silk Cities’ initial focus area has been these cities in the Middle East and Central Asia connected to their regional and global contexts. The Beta version of Silk Cities was initiated by Farnaz Arefian, a DPU doctoral researcher at the time in 2014 and DPU's honorary research associate now. 

  • Read the story of Silk Cities here
  • Read more about the focus region and what Silk Cities do here 
  • Read the report on the international conference 2017 here 
  • See examples of Silk Cities activities here

Silk Cities International Conference 2019

Reconstruction, Recovery and Resilience of Historic Cities and Societies

L’Aquila, Italy 10-12 July 2019       W: silk-cities.org 

The DPU will provide a number of conference grants for students from low and middle income countries in order to assist their participation in the conference. Details on the selection criteria and submission of applications is available in the Silk Cities website (link). The deadline for applications is 15th April. In order to reflect on this we have decided to extend the general abstract submission period until 15th April.

Conference Overview

2019 marks the tenth anniversary of the L’Aquila earthquake which devastated the city and its historic centre, affecting over 100,000 people who lived in the city and its surrounding areas. While rebuilding work is ongoing, economic and social recovery is struggling. The conference aims to offer new perspectives and strategies on linking urban processes, reconstruction processes and heritage processes and push the traditional theoretical and practical boundaries in order to improve the future of post-disaster reconstruction in historic cities. A particular focus of the conference is for the people of L’Aquila to benefit from the global, dispersed, knowledge on the subject matter that will be gathered in the city during the conference

In a post-crisis situation, the interrelation of historic urban context, cultural heritage, social, psychological and economic factors presents a highly complex scenario for decision makers, practitioners and affected local populations.  This is a matter of increasing international concern which has been highlighted by recent disasters of both natural and human origin, from Kathmandu to Mussel, from L’Aquila to Aleppo and more. Beyond monuments, having dynamic layers of urban heritage greatly increases the complexities of urban reconstruction and retrofit which per se is a complex matter and connects with all aspects of urban life and development before and after the crisis, initial expectations and envisioned improvements from the reconstruction activities and the way they are managed. The multidisciplinary nature of the conference fit within the UN Habitat III agenda, the Sendai framework on disasters and resilience and the themes of the International Committee on Monuments and Sites [ICOMOS]. 

This will be the third Silk Cities international conference and it is designed to address the issues surrounding reconstruction in historic cities at two levels. At a wider level, the conference seeks to influence the way in which risk is considered in historic cities and to promote a holistic approach to resilience which takes account of social, cultural and psychological factors. At a local level the conference will provoke conversation and reflection on the rebuilding work already carried out and consideration of the next ten years of reconstruction and recovery in L’Aquila.

The Conference will provide an opportunity to bring together the voices of various local stakeholders in L’Aquila as well as academics and practitioners. The three day conference will be part of the series of events marking 10 years from the earthquake, and open to all, it will encourage participation of the citizens of L’Aquila many of whom have been active participants in initiatives aimed at social reconstruction. 

Conference themes vertically address three interconnected notions of reconstruction, recovery and resilience, and horizontally they are stem from the particular circumstances of the host historic city that nevertheless are also applicable in other cases. Papers are invited under the following three themes:

Managing reconstruction, heritage and city planning

•    Reconstructing cultural heritage and rediscovering civic identity.
•    Heritage-oriented reconstruction vs reconstruction-oriented heritage restoration. 
•    Post-crisis masterplanning.
•    Linking urban development processes and reconstruction processes.
•    Big data in reconstruction: potential and limitations.
•    Information technology and smarter reconstruction.
•    Communicating urban heritage and reconstruction.
•    Transparency and communication in decision making.
•    Who is cultural heritage for?
•    Public engagement and civic participation.
•    The audience for reconstruction: local or global?

City recovery: Social, Psychological, Economic and Cultural Heritage

•    Cultural heritage as a stimulus for recovery.
•    Narratives of approach to disaster and recovery.
•    Social, psychological and economic recovery.
•    Linkages between reconstruction process and socio-economic recovery.
•    Reclaiming cultural heritage.
•    Economic and political stimuli for urban recovery.
•    Information technology and the resurgence of historic cities.
•    The role of information technology in city recovery.
•    Social media disaster response policies and practice.
•    Rebuilding confidence in the capacities of the city.
•    Tourism and heritage cities.

Linking urban resilience and cultural heritage

•    Knowing the city, owning the city.
•    Engaging the next generation: reconnecting younger citizens with heritage.
•    Pre-crisis masterplanning and preparedness.
•    Risk communication and public awareness in in historic cities.
•    Cultural heritage as a mean to building resilience.
•    Smarter cities, data sharing and risk modelling.
•    Information technology and civic resilience.

Important Dates
  • 15th April 2019, Abstract submission deadline
  • Mid April 2019, Notification of peer-review outcome and selected papers
  • 2nd week of April 2019,Conference registration open
  • 2nd week of April 2019, Full paper submission open
  • 3rd week of June 2019,Conference registration deadline
  • 3rd week of June 2019, Full paper submission deadline
  • July 10th-12th , 2019  Conference

The conference programme will comprise a mixture of formal presentations, specialist roundtable and dedicated sessions, a guided tour on the reconstruction of L’Aquila, as well as a social tour and an optional conference dinner. All designed in a way to encourage social interactions and informal discussions and exploring future potentials. Round table discussions are planned which will bring academic participants in the conference together with policymakers, local activists and stakeholders to look at strategies for recovery and resilience. Guided tour of city centre, includes visiting completed, ongoing and non-commenced reconstruction works including public and private examples, public spaces, schools and churches. Programme details will be announced in due time. Tentative conference programme is as follows.
- Thematic sessions

- keynote speakers

- Special interactive sessions on L’Aquila

- Conference publication editorial meeting

- City reconstruction walking tour

- Social event/tour

- Conference Dinner (optional)

Abstract submission





University of L’Aquila

The historic city of L’Aquila is easily accessible from Rome and Pescara.

For detailed information on Silk Cities 2019 please visit www.silk-cities.org.

Contact Conference organisers here

Read the report on the Silk Cities Conference 2017 here