IXth International Conference on Urban History

August 27-30, 2008

Lyon France
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 Session description

Underground the very forbidden urban space

Underground has a pervasive role within the metropolitan scenario, it includes many aspects of the construction of contemporary cities, it is part of them but, at the same time, it is independent from the apparent world.
The session Underground the very forbidden urban space should collect papers from scholars who studied underground spaces within the building of the cities in a historical perspective with the presentation of contributes which analyse, not only the instrumental use of these undervalued spaces on the development of the aboveground ones, but also the role played by its own identity on the urban developing processes, independently from the upper-world influence.
Far away from the stereotype which sees the underground and the aboveground world as opposite as the dark and light, I would like to stimulate the participation of scholars to animate a debate on the basis of a approach to the study of the building of contemporary cities where the aboveground spaces is not perceived as a “not space” but as part of the urban space. The so called upside down city is a city where underground can be considered as an interpretative key for many urban processes in a overturning approach. The urban history approach is asked to investigate on the role played by underground on the construction of contemporary cities from two points of view.
First, the verticalization of urban structural processes is part of a process of a conscious acquire of the role played by underground specific characters on the development of the aboveground spaces, second we can see how social, cultural, economic and climatic aboveground problems which affected the urban contest have been faced and solved through the construction of the underground cities.
The connotation of the idea of urban underground is straightly connected to the use within the urban process and of course its use depended from the accordance from underground potentiality and urban needs.
Underground had an important role in many phases of urban settlement and development. During the very beginning phases, the original settlements were influenced by water, mineral and stones availability, but also from caves to be used as natural recovery. Later on, during the developing phases underground spaces were used to face natural and not natural adversities. Very recently underground had an important role in the infrastructures supply processes.
In this session scholars should analyse all the interactions between underground and cities building with particular reference to the circulation of modelling in urban development and globalization in their use.
The listed below sectors of study are recommended, more very welcome.
Resources: How the allocation and the realization of structures made to allow the use and distribution of natural resources influenced the setting and the building management processes of the above ground cities?
Suggested fields:
1)Water sources
2)Building stones
3)Energy sources

Crossing hurdles: How did the use of underground spaces make easier the development of upper cities by helping removing natural obstacles?
Suggested fields:
2)Levelling out soils
3)Buildings earthquake preventing foundations

Infrastructure: During the second half of 19th Century European towns faced the problem of building many underground public works. Each of them needed excavation to allow the installation of tubes, cables, pipes and many machines. The building of these structures, while answering to a collective need, had a fundamental role in planning phase of contemporary cities. The question is: how the planning and the realization of the infrastructural world interacted with the aboveground urban processes? Was this a one way relationship or not?
Suggested fields:
2)Sewers systems
4)Communication networks
6)Energy supply
7)Cars parking

Religion and afterwards: How urban underground was used to practice forbidden religions? More, what about the linkage between the underground and death? Underground caves are worldwide used to cancel the effects of mortality from the surface of the city. The darkness can be considered as a metaphor of the unknown and the underground obscurity can be seen as a perfect scenario for the transition from the light of life to the obscurity of death.
Suggested fields:
1)Urban catacombs
2)Urban chemistry

Climate: How did extreme climatic conditions were faced tanks to the use of urban undergrounds?
Suggested fields:
1)Escaping from ice
2)Under the hot sand

Urban underground economy: From storage of perishable urban supplies from the modern shopping malls; how the use and the shaping of underground spaces influenced an supported cities’ economy?
Suggested fields:
1)When one didn’t have a refrigerator. Oils, vines, cheese storage in urban contests
2)Shopping malls: the new commercial space frontier

Urban recovery: How urban caves were shaped to be used as a recovery during wars or as home for socially excluded people?
Suggested fields:
1)Underground as a home in emergency cases

Environment: Since undergrounds were considered to be the perfect location for all the above mentioned constructions, their realization was the moment when the destiny of these spaces was in the balance. How did the bared urban buildings influence the urban environmental equilibrium? Urban environmental history approach is warmly welcome
Suggested fields:
1)Soil pollution
2)Geological equilibrium

Session conveners:

  • Roberta Varriale

Session type: Specialist Session

Classification: M - Modern


City streams : the transformation of urban supply systems in the 19th and early 20th century

Author(s): Parby, Jakob Ingemann 

Eventrer Paris : le percement d'un chemin de fer métropolitain dans la capitale. les peurs, les techniques, les obstacles d'un grand ouvrage en sous-sol

Author(s): DESABRES, Pascal 

Form and No-form

Author(s): Mikami Pina, Silvia ; Teixeira de Paiva, Valeria ; Teresinha Donadon, Edilene 

The Underground: from Zapping to Musical Cityscape

Author(s): Roseta, Filipa 

Worldwide underground cities

Author(s): Varriale, Roberta