Friction and the City 2017

Friction and the City:

Convergence, Divergence and Transformation in the Urban Realm

If you were not able to attend the conference, you can watch it here.

Society of Fellows Annual Weissbourd Conference
Experimental Station, 6100 S. Blackstone
Friday May 19, 9am-7pm

Friction and the City is a one-day conference about the architectural, social and political dynamics of change in the urban realm, comprising an international roster of speakers from professional practice, the humanities and the social sciences.

With their increased scale and prominence, cities have come to represent the contradictions of modernity, harboring the best (demographic diversity, technological advancement, job opportunities, a concentration of cultural events, lower carbon footprints) and the worst (gross iniquities in income distribution, crime, cramped living conditions and ghettoization) aspects of a globalized society. Increasingly these frictions are emphasized in the media, depicting racial injustice, class conflict, migrant camps, urban sprawl and uneven development as symptomatic of the failure of urban societies. Yet simultaneously, the skylines of the urban realm are held up as symbols of its success, with glossy architectural renderings representing unprecedented accumulations of wealth.

This conference asks the question: what are the decisive factors determining friction in the city? In the literal and geological sense, the notion of friction is that of a resisting force, which is produced in the contact between two bodies altering the motion of one relative to the other. The term therefore designates a productive interaction in which different phenomena come into dynamic contact and hence provides a useful framework within which to investigate the current urban condition. As a physical process, friction can be both constructive and oppositional, but always transformative. This conference aims to understand the process of friction in the urban realm via three thematic sessions, Convergence, Divergence and Transformation, which address the dynamics of urban change within the built environment and the public realm.

For information or assistance contact:
Amy Thomas (
Marcello Barison (

Website with schedule, bios and more at: