Building City Now! | BCNow!

Ugly and uglier: defining value and politics in architecture

Olga Sezneva & Anastasiya Halauniova (2021), Journal of Urban Design, DOI: 10.1080/13574809.2021.1906635

What is beautiful or ugly about a building? How do people evaluate urban environment? How do their evaluation relate to their ideas and ideal bout public good, local identity, and good public administration?

This paper offers answers to these questions and describes a novel method for studying urban aesthetics, the Q-sort method. The analysis shifts focus to valuation. The findings expand the idea of aesthetic value as something not divorced from social order, but rather reflective of its complexity.

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Building the City Now!: Towards a Pedagogy for Transdisciplinary Urban Design

E. Bosch, O. Sezneva, 2019, DOI:10.5821/jida.2019.8377Corpus ID: 213833652

This paper presents and discusses the unique experience of a training program in urban design, directed by the authors, which facilitated an exchange, integration and new advancement of the pedagogy and knowledge of diverse fields concerned with the city: Building The City Now! A joint effort between Catalan architects and Russian academia and businesses with support from European experts, BCNow!’s first edition became a training ground for fifteen Russian professionals and activists from diverse backgrounds in Saint Petersburg in 2014-2015 seeking to explore an alternative understanding of the city and its production in their practices. Based on the idea of transdisciplinarity, the program was developed with a hands-on approach. This paper reflects on the experience and lessons from BCNow! contextualizing it in the existing traditions of urban thinking, discusses the idea of transdisciplinarity by relating it to comparable experiences, and zooms onto the specifics of the curriculum providing concrete illustrations of the training and its outcomes.

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What is "Urban Normality" and what we learned about it during the COVID lockdown?


Cities are once again at the centre of political public debate. Some commentators cast them as threats to public health and social order. Will there be a mass exodus accelerated by home working? Others suggest that city living can be redeemed by small adjustments: pedestrianising streets, altering zoning codes or rolling out new ‘smart’ technologies. Together with Urbanism & Participation at European University at St. Petersburg, BCNow! held a round table.

Six experts — three architects and planners, and three social scientists — met on Tuesday, 30 June 2020 to discuss ‘urban normality’, the ‘normal’ that cities could and should offer. The conversation gravitated towards three questions:

  1. What did we learn about normality under the lockdown?
  2. How did governments use and abuse the sense of normality that citizens desire?
  3. What lessons for professional designers and architects does the pandemic offer as they work to create a normal, livable city?

The discussion was moderated by Olga Sezneva, an urban sociologist from the University of Amsterdam and the co-director of BCNow!
The other participants were:

Urban Resilience in a City Facing the Challenge of Epidemic — discussion #2 of ‘Is This Normal?’ series


What should we know and research about cities after the COVID epidemic—to act professionally?

What should be understood, known about the cities and their ways of life? What should we learn about the reactions of citizens to the COVID epidemic and lockdown or other experienced measures—to let finding proper solutions?

What questions do architects and urban planners want to ask—to get answers that would help them to offer adequate solutions for the organization of urban space, premises, urban life?

What are social scientists interested about and how could results of their research be used by other professionals?