The International Conference ‘Grand Projects - Urban Legacies of the late 20th Century’ aims to debate the transformations that have taken place in urban territories over the last two decades by considering the impacts of late 20th century policies and conjunctures.

The consolidation of European Union unity was monumentalized in the 1980s in several interventions that were carried out in the core of Paris. These interventions, which were based on the visions of then French President François Mitterrand, were part of a process that became known as ´Les Grands Travaux´ (Grand Projects). Driving these, was the anticipation of an optimistic feeling that would feature at the end of the millennium.

The case of Paris would become a reference for a post-modern period that was also marked by the end of the cold war after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991. This shift, which was described by Francis Fukuyama in his 1992 book titled “The End of History and The Last Man”, corresponded to the optimistic feeling that existed at the time about the social models of the world´s occidental democracies.

In the 1990s, the impacts of new technologies and the widespread use of the internet created a sense of globalization, which introduced new challenges to the world economy. The majority of local manufacturing industries in the EU became obsolete, as they were unable to compete on a big scale dominated by trade rules and controlled by multinational companies. The existence of a vast cheap work force ready to be hired in under developed countries, created the idea of a post-industrial era in the West. The tertiary sector of economy achieved greater importance through the general increase in purchasing power and the growth of tourism.

Many industrial areas became disactivated, creating a transitory urban scenario. These were considered by Ignasi Sola Morales as ´terrain vagues´, as these areas were waiting for change and new investments. This process was particularly visible in the proximity of harbour areas, which constituted the main opportunity territories of the late 20th Century. The change of sea routes, the evolution of logistic technologies, and competition coming from aerial and road mobility forced a process of renovation upon harbours and their activities so that they could maintain their competitiveness in the context of the new networks of people and the transportation of goods. These impacts were felt in the harbour cities of London, Barcelona, Genoa, Amsterdam, and Hamburg in Europe; Tokyo, Yokohama and Singapore in Asia; and in Buenos Aires in Latin America. In the majority of cases, the harbour areas located close to city centres reduced their activities, freeing up areas and old warehouses for real estate investments as well as idleness and cultural programs.

The speculation of vacant areas was also increased by international events, as a strategy to concentrate and canalize capital in new urban operations of change. In the short period of eight years four international events were organized - the 1992 Expo in Sevilla and the Olympic Games in Barcelona, the 1998 Expo in Lisbon, and the 2000 Expo in Hannover. Urban areas associated to each event were labs of architecture and urban design rehearsal, inspiring and seducing people’s imaginary for new century landscapes.

The role of architects was decisive in this period, which was defined by exploring new shapes and typologies and a renovated sense of monumentality, both of which contaminated the public sphere. Bilbao´s Guggenheim should be mentioned as a particular case, due to the huge impact that was generated by the Frank O. Gehry building in the context of the city´s renovation.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001 in New York City, USA, can be seen as a first cooling off of this optimistic period. The collapse of the Word Trade Centre towers was a hard blow, as an architectural symbol of The United States of America was destroyed. The towers were designed by Minoru Yamasaki, the same architect who designed the Pruitt-Igoe neighborhood, which when demolished in the 1970s was qualified by Charles Jenks as marking the end of the modern movement. Another moment of inversion was the subprime crisis of 2008, and the market bubble that resulted from the devaluation of housing-related securities.

Almost twenty years has passed from the “golden era” of the 1990s. The West is now committed to new challenges such as the need to respond to climate change, refugee crises and to new democratic demands. Nevertheless, the model pursued at the end the previous millennium is still seen as being a viable alternative to boost the urban economy, as exemplified by Expo 2008 in Zaragoza Spain, the 2014 FIFA World Cup of Football in Brazil, the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Brazil, Expo 2015 in Milan, and the recent Expo 2020 that is currently in progress in Dubai. In this sense, the conference “Grand Projects”, intends to confront and analyze the impacts this late 20th Century legacy has had on urban territories and policies over the last two decades.

This conference is organized in the context of the research project Grand Projects – Architectural and Urbanistic Operations after the 1998 Lisbon World Exposition[PTDC/ARTDAQ/32561/2017], funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology. Since October 2018, the ongoing research developed at DINÂMIA’CET-Iscte, aims to identify, characterize, debate, and reflect the urban policies and architectural works produced in Portugal after EXPO’98.


1_Mega-events and mega-projects: trends and demands  

 Stefano Di Vita (Chair) | DAStU, Politecnico di Milano 

 Andrea Rolando | DAStU, Politecnico di Milano 

 Davide Ponzini | DAStU, Politecnico di Milano 

 Eva Kassens-Noor | SPDC, Michigan State University 

 Javier Monclus | DA, Universidad de Zaragoza 

 Mark Wilson | SPDC, Michigan State University 

Since the 1990s, according to phenomena of de-industrialization in Western cities and countries, mega-events (such as the Olympics, Expo, Football World Cup, as well as the European Capital of Culture) have become more and more strategic in processes of urban and regional change: e.g. the redevelopment of large brownfields, the development of new cultural and sport venues, the construction of new infrastructures, the growth of real estate and tourism sectors, as well as the international repositioning of host cities and regions. Nevertheless, besides their positive legacies, the outbreak of the global crisis in 2008 – that is now exacerbated by the coronavirus epidemy – has highlighted their negative impact and effects: e.g. the raising and unsustainable economic cost and social disparities, as well as the difficulties in reusing specific venues and infrastructures in the post-event.

Against the backdrop of a growing dissatisfaction to mega-events, this special session aims to discuss about the necessary advancements in:​

- the assessment of cultural, economic, social and spatial impact of mega-events;
- the improvement of connections with multi-scalar contexts of host cities and regions, as well as smaller and ordinary urban regeneration processes, policies, plans and projects, which are often excluded by mega-events;
- the contribution of these impact assessment and connections to the innovation of mega-events in relation to current, global challenges of climate change, health crisis, economic downturn and social justice.


 Ana Vaz Milheiro (Chair)  | FAUL and DINÂMIA’CET - Iscte 

 Nuno T. Costa | DINÂMIA’CET - Iscte 

 Alexandra Areia | DINÂMIA’CET - Iscte 

According to Françoise Choay, the idea of the ´hero architect´ was already established in Alberti's founding treaty, thus strengthening the intellectual and artistic status of the profession. The post-modernism of the decades of the seventies and eighties of the last century reinforced the idea of the author architect, anchored in writers such as Michel Foucault. This idea opened up a path for architecture based on the prestige of individual work as a catalyst for architectural and urban value. The last quarter of the XX century was thus marked by exceptional “masterpiece” that centralized the debate on Western architectural culture, with a recognizable authorship, iconographic status and costly financial execution. Some of these works would soon become irrelevant. Others, however, would benefit from unique conditions to make profound paradigm changes. It was therefore a time of profound transformation for the discipline of architecture, but mainly for the way in which architecture and society started to interact.

This session challenges researchers - architects, sociologists, and historians, among others - to reflect on themes such as:

1. star architects,

2. the media and architecture,

3. iconographic architecture,

4. urban regeneration,

5. architecture as economic value.


3_Terrain vague redevelopments

 Pedro Pinto (Chair) | DINÂMIA’CET – Iscte 

 Belinda Tato | GSD, Harvard University 

 Jorge Bonito | C.M. Lisboa 

 Jose Luis Valejjo | GSD, Harvard University 



Ignasi Solà-Morales (1942-2001) developed the concept of ´terrain vague´ in 1994(1), which he associated with a particular kind of expectant urban spaces where the absence of functional use gave them an evocative power, a strangeness, which could be read as a critical alternative to the productive rationality of common urbanization. The non-productive and non-formal ambiance of these places not only questions the pragmatic nature of construction, but it also inspires artists, architects and urban planners to explore alternative ways of urban dwelling.

In this session we question the contexts of creation, appropriation and transformation of the terrain-vague, as well as social and disciplinary responses to the promises of freedom that have been pointed out.

Papers are accepted that address the idea of terrain vague along with one of the following sub-themes:

1. Urban regeneration strategies

2. Waterfront developments

3. Mega-projects and expansion areas

4. Urban voids appropriations

5. Shrinking cities

6. New urban environment and social representation

1. The first presentation of the essay of the Catalan architect Ignasi de Sola-Morales was held in an academic seminar at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, in Montreal, Canada, in 1994. The work would be published in 1995 and 2002.


4_Environment Impact Awareness in Urban Developments

 José Luís Saldanha (Chair) | DINÂMIA’CET – Iscte 
 Giulia Sonetti | DIST, Politecnico di Torino 
 Caterina Barioglio | DAD, Politecnico di Torino 
 Manuel Correia Guedes | CiTUA, IST-UL 

The Lisbon “Expo ‘98” Fair, held along a stretch of the city’s riverfront, established a turning-point in Portugal in dealing with brownfields, soil contamination, or the city’s major landfill, while also making a leap forward in environmental awareness in urban development and public space concerns. Additional operations along these lines were carried out in the city’s Metropolitan Region across the following years, with the implementation of critical urban space programs, green parks, communal kitchen gardens, or the completion of inter-municipal sewage water treatment systems.

Paper submission engaging Worldwide design and implementation of urban, architecture and engineering concerns of the kind, from the late 20th to early 21st Century time-frame, addressed by “The Grand Projects - Architectural and Urbanistic Operations after the 1998 Lisbon World Exposition” research project behind the Congress, is encouraged and welcome at the Environment Impact Awareness in Urban Developments session, dealing with major issues in the field, such as:   

- Urban sustainable development

- Green architecture

- Green spaces and well-being

- Green infrastructures and nature-based solutions

- Climate change adaptation


5_Methods and technologies on architectural design and urban planning

 Rui Póvoas (Co-chair) | CEAU – UP, Porto 

 João Paulo Delgado (Co-chair) | CEAU – UP, Porto 

 Franz Graf | École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne 


By their very nature, large exhibition events are privileged occasions for the use of innovative design tools and building technologies. The need for promptness and cost-effectiveness propitiates the search for new solutions and methods. This factor is associated with a willingness, from decision makers, designers and contractors alike, to showcase their suitability for the task at hand.

The goal of this session is to identify and discuss the main technological developments that emerged during the design and construction processes within the scope of the conference. This encompasses, but is not limited to, all Portuguese cases, such as those taking place in Lisbon or those included in the Polis Program. It may also cover other international examples that occurred during the 1990s and 2000s. Within the latitude of the conference, the session welcomes contributions dealing with new design tools (e.g. software and other computerized processes); building systems and technologies (e.g. structures and envelopes); and environmental technologies (e.g. HVAC and home automation).


6_Urban policies

 Teresa Madeira da Silva (Co-chair) | CRIA-Iscte 

 Luís Vicente Baptista (Co-chair) | CICS.NOVA - NOVA FCSH 

 Caterina Francesca Di Giovanni | CIES — Iscte 

 Ricardo Paes Mamede | DINÂMIA’CET – Iscte

This session focuses on a number of themes on the impact grand projects have on urban policies. A number of questions arise: What is the impact of grand projects on urban planning and city management?; What kind of urban policy is behind big international events like Expo'92 in Seville, the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona, EXPO '98 in Lisbon, Expo 2000 in Hanover and others that are to follow?; What is the role of architects and planners in grand projects and urban policies?; What are the urban planning strategies and instruments being used in these grand projects and how are they transforming the cities in which they operate?; What is the contribution of public and/or private management at the big events?; What are the economic, social and environmental impacts of grand projects?; How can grand projects make cities inclusive, resilient and sustainable?

This session calls for the presentation of papers on the following themes:

- Policy assessment

- Urban governance and urban planning

- Urban regeneration policies: strategies and instruments

- Participatory planning approaches


7_Urban competitiveness and social challenge

 Sandra Marques Pereira (Chair) | DINÂMIA’CET - Iscte 

 Madalena Corte-Real | DINÂMIA’CET - Iscte 

The 21st century is being marked by the intensification of urban globalisation and an increase in international competitiveness between cities which conditions them to develop "winning" and attractive strategies for investment. Tourism, urban rehabilitation and temporary city-use are fundamental pillars of these strategies. These are almost always framed by other actions and parallel approaches, namely: i) the reconstitution of the physical/material and the symbolic image of the city and investment in its dissemination at the national and international level; ii) the adoption of models of urban management inspired by New Public Management (NPM), which imports the logics of private management for the public sector, in what D. Harvey called "urban entrepreneurship". However, the benefits and costs resulting from these strategies are unevenly distributed, calling into question the functional, geographical and socio-economic balance of contemporary cities.

This session calls for the presentation of papers that present analysis around this theme, preferably focused on specific case studies that are theoretically and methodologically grounded. Priority will be given to the following themes, which can also be addressed in the light of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic:

1. Place branding/marketing

2. Tourism and its urban impacts

3. Social and spatial segregation

4. Gentrification

5. Privatization of Public Spaces (Pops)


8_The role of artists and urban art

 Jorge Bassani (Co-chair) | University of São Paulo 

 Pedro Costa (Co-chair) | DINÂMIA’CET — Iscte 

 Arturo Orellana | Catholic University of Chile 

 Camila D’Ottaviano | University of São Paulo 

 Natacha Rena | Federal University of Minas Gerais 

The late 20th century Grand Projects, from their begginings to their heyday of the 1990s, were characterized by excessive attachment to the formal issues of the time, whether with typological or morphological purposes. Spectacularization has also been a striking feature of these interventions. The aestheticization of city life and landscape did not stay strictly with the disciplines of architecture and urbanism, as the visual arts also took a leading role in Grand Projects environmental results.


On the other hand, the transformation processes derived from the Grand Projects produce new expressions of territory that rub against pre-established formal patterns. They are transversal and dissonant expressions of urban intervention logics which question operations as a whole. This includes actions by groups of artists and movements for urban rights.

This session invites reflections on the two fronts of artistic expression around Grand Projects and, also, about the confrontation between them.

9_The Syndrome of Grand Projects: contamination processes between North-South, West-East, Global-Local

 Nuno Grande (Co-chair) | CES – UC 

 Álvaro Domingues (Co-chair) | CEAU - FAUP 

 Ana Fernandes | DINÂMIA’CET - Iscte 

 Marta Sequeira | Iscte – Instituto Universitário de Lisboa 


Throughout the last quarter of the twentieth century, the salvific model of Grand Projects affirmed itself as a final attempt to overcome the deterministic and extensive visions of Functional Planning which marked that very same century. Since then, Grand Projects have been leading accelerated, punctual and intensive urban transformations in different cities around the world.

Mobilising high volumes of public, private, or mixed investments in areas under restructuring processes, these operations frequently join the organisation of major events - Olympic Games, Universal Exhibitions, International Football Championships, and Cultural Festivals. This leads to the construction of new urban compounds, full of iconic architectures, and aiming “the repositioning of cities in the Globalisation chart”, something which has become a common proclamation.

Based on markedly global development models - with a western matrix typical of the neoliberal economies of the Northern hemisphere - the Grand Projects have often generated “alter-cities” that are peripheral to local urban fabrics, induce huge real-estate valuations around traditional city centres, or, in another sense, lead to their uncontrolled gentrification.

Spreading like a syndrome, Grand Projects are currently present in different cultural contexts, as they are present in the Middle East and the Far East, as well as in countries of the Global South (e.g. on the continents of Africa and Latin America). Many of these are experiencing asymmetric development processes. Involving global capital investments, these kind of operations are implemented in a self-referenced manner, are indifferent to the endogenous potential of these countries (in most of the cases), and are paradoxically contradicting their own cohesion and development strategies.

The purpose of this session is to expose, compare and evaluate “contamination” processes generated by Grand Projects throughout the last two decades that have existed between North and South, West and East, and Global and Local (in both senses). In this regard, we expect different lecturers' contributions, among others, coming from countries where those effects are currently taking place.


10_Urban analytics and city design

 Rosália Guerreiro (Chair) | CRIA-Iscte 

 Sara Biscaya | Salford University 

 Teresa Heitor | CiTUA – IST UL 

Theory and practice have always been two distinct approaches towards the city. There are those who seek to understand cities and those who seek to practice their planning and design. In the last few decades this distinction has been narrowed down by the emergence of the new disciplinary field of urban analytics. Based on computational technology, urban analytics is a set of methods that can be used to explore, understand and predict properties and features of cities (Batty, 2019). The aim of the proposed session will be to discuss the understanding of the contemporary city between urban scientists and urban designers within the context of “Grand Projects” and according to the proposed themes. The focus will be on the application of quantitative, computational, design and visual methods to the spatial and morphological structure of cities, mainly over the last three decades.

This session calls for the presentation of papers on the following themes:

1. City science and city design

2. Cities and complexity

3. Big data, urban patterns and city design

4. Spatial network analysis

5. Space and society

6. Urban sensing and urban design

7. Evidence based design

8. GIS and urban planning

9. Space Syntax, tools, theories and practices