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About Macau.

In 1557, Portugal established a colony on Macau, then a sparsely populated archipelago in the Pearl River Delta. Macau developed into a major trading centre and regional leader in the gambling industry. Macau became a self-governing Special Administrative Region of China in 1999.

Macau’s islands were expanded through land reclamation over time. The spatial limitations arising from the territory’s enclave geography led to extreme yet phased urban densification. Macau is today the most densely populated territory in the world, with 650,000 residents concentrated in just 30.5 km², primarily on the 8.5 km² Macau Peninsula. Yet despite its small size, Macau Peninsula is a place of strong neighbourhood and functional distinction, encompassing heritage tourism zones; Buddhist, Taoist, and Christian religious sites; residential districts at all income levels; casino zones; green parks; and retail districts.

Although Macau is best known for its gambling tourism and UNESCO World Heritage status (both of which are characterised by strict regulatory regimes), Macau Peninsula in particular is rich in vernacular urban and architectural practices that flourish alongside, above, and sometimes beneath the city’s internationally oriented facade.

The simultaneous preservation of colonial heritage and construction of monumental casino tourism infrastructure means that, despite the withdrawal of Portuguese colonial rule, the culture, traditions, and lifestyles of the Chinese people of Macau continue to be pushed to the margins of this hyper-dense city, necessitating creative spatial practices and clear differentiations between spaces for tourists and residents. At the same time, in an atmosphere of Western suspicion toward China, Macau’s decolonisation and re-Sinification is often framed in terms of culture loss, a framing that paradoxically echoes discourses surrounding Indigenous activism. Macau’s urban space thus contains and conditions complex negotiations regarding cultural authenticity, visibility, and practice.

Convenor: Adam Grydehøj

Conference coordinator: OuZuan

Culture in Urban Space

Urban Form, Cultural Landscapes, Life in the City

8-12 April 2019, Macau, China

The city cannot be understood in terms of its buildings, infrastructure, and physical geography alone. Urban materiality is inextricably linked with city life: Urban spaces are influenced by the cultures that inhabit them, and urban form shapes these cultures in turn. This conference brings together researchers, planners, designers, and architects from around the globe to explore the mutual influence of urban culture and urban form.

Impacts of past urban planning reverberate long after original rationales have become obsolete: Fortifications (walls, moats, fortresses), coastlines and land reclamation, transport infrastructure (roads, bridges, city gates), and other elements of the built environment structure future development. Aspects of urban form contribute to dividing the city into neighbourhoods, determining which areas flourish while others decay, encouraging shifts from industrial to tourism to leisure uses. The city’s architectures affect the cultures of the people who use them: Different kinds of housing foster different forms of sociality or isolation, and different networked infrastructures promote different pathways to the internal cohesion and/or citywide integration of urban cultures. Whether urban cultural landscapes evolve gradually over time or result from decisive, top-down planning, they reflect and influence the city’s multitude of identities, industries, cultural politics, ethnic relations, and expressive cultures.

About the conference.

Culture in Urban Space allows delegates to contextualise knowledge and engage with the local community. On 8-10 April, delegates will explore the morphological and cultural distinctions of Macau Peninsula, visiting diverse neighbourhoods across the city, with an emphasis on the ways in which the urban environment has transformed over the centuries. Delegates will experience Macau’s urban environment through three days of walking-based field trips, including visits to tourist gateways, religious sites, heritage tourism zones, and residential neighbourhoods, and casino zones, and commercial areas. Conference presentations will take place on 11-12 April.

Special emphasis will be placed on negotiations of meaning within the urban environment, particularly in the aftermath of colonialism and other forms of cultural encounter.

How to make a presentation.

This interdisciplinary conference welcomes presentations addressing any region of the world as well as innovative perspectives that highlight the complex intersections of multiple peoples, places, and polities.

Presentations last 15 minutes and will be followed by around 5 minutes’ question time. The deadline for abstracts is 31 August 2018. You can submit your abstract here. The deadline for early registration is 31 October, and the final deadline registration 30 December.

If you have any questions, e-mail convenor Adam Grydehøj (