City Debates is the yearly conference organized by the Masters in Urban Planning & Policy and Masters in Urban Design at the American University of Beirut. Started in 2002, the series brings together professionals, academics, and students from Beirut and beyond to explore issues of contemporary relevance to the urbanization of the region. Over the past few years, City Debates has addressed issues such as Cultural Heritage and the Political of the Present, Security of/in the City, and Emerging Practices in Urban Design.
Titled Rethinking Informality: Design Tactics/Planning Strategies, City Debates 2013 will address the theme of informal spatial production as it materializes in different scalar levels and within multiple contexts of the Middle-East and beyond. By bringing together scholars, practicing planners and designers, as well as activists engaged in a reflection about the spatial production of informal settlements, their changing position in ever-growing cities, and their relation to both the agricultural and urban landscapes at the intersection of which they often stand, the event seeks to articulate a critical discourse about planning and design that goes beyond the traditional/professional understandings of these disciplines. Case studies will be taken from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt but also India, Columbia, Germany, France, the United States, and more to draw parallels across national contexts. In light of the centrality of forced population displacement movements in our region, special attention is given in refugee camps in the region.