The International Conference ‘City as a Classroom’

The International Conference ‘City as a Classroom’ united 40 experts from 11 countries of the world. Online International Scientific and Practical Conference “City as a classroom” was held on August 23rd-28th, 2020. The speakers of the conference were more than 40 leading researchers and experts from various fields: architecture, philosophy, psychology, urban planning, urbanism, journalism, security – those who explore cities, their structure, history, mentality, principles of interaction in the environment, the special language of the city, its architecture, walkability, creativity and many other things.

The title “City as a classroom” suggests that cities can teach people something. So for six days, the conference speakers shared the results of their research to find answers to the questions: How does a city shape and form a modern individual? How does a city’s environment affect its residents? How does this define and shape one’s personality? His character, preferences, potential, professional skills, and abilities in general? What is a city for us? How powerful is the urban environment? Indisputably, one of the fundamental categories in the development of a person is the environment. The processes of urbanization, which actively catalyzed the dynamics of the development of civilization long before the 21st century, draw attention to the particular environment which is occupied by a modern person — a city.

Cities are the pillars of the modern world: they impersonate one of the pivotal roles in the global context, not only preserving their past but also determining their tomorrow. Therefore, the history of cities, their geographical spot, the purpose of building a city, its geometry, symbolism, and many other constituents compose a unique configuration and the power component of the space. This determines the distinctive characteristics and qualities of people who are born in these cities. These people may be firmly standing on their feet, successfully working on their career and leaving a mark after them… or, on the contrary, for some reason, they might not be understanding the “language” of the city, its mentality and flavor, not achieving their intended heights and instead, fight for survival.

Some are successful in their hometown; but as soon as they move to another point in the world, they cannot repeat their successes for some reason. Others depart from their failures in one city and inexplicably accomplish outstanding results, statuses and gain authority in a completely different city. What kind of a “break” with the city occurs in the first case? And what obliges a breakthrough in the second? On these and other questions in the framework of the conference was proposed to find out explanations to leading researchers and experts from 11 countries of the world.

The key speakers of  “City as a classroom”:

  • Felipe Fernández-Armesto is a British historian, Professor of Global Environmental History at Queen Mary College, University of London.
  • Michael Batty is a British urban planner, geographer and spatial data scientist. Bartlett Professor of Planning in The Bartlett at University College London (UCL). Member of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
  • Oleg Maltsev is a Ukrainian psychologist, criminologist, and investigative journalist. Founder and director of The Memory Institute.
  • Jan Gehl is a Danish architect and urban design consultant, whose career has focused on improving the quality of urban life by re-orienting city design towards the pedestrian and cyclist.
  • Charles Landry is a British urban planner, city development expert, author of the concept of a creative city.
  • Ellen Dunham-Jones is an architectural educator and urbanist best known for her work on re-educating the public on how to interact with their environment.
  • Liudmyla Fylypovych is a Ukrainian philosopher, Professor, Head of the Department of Philosophy and History of Religion in Institute of Philosophy by G.S. Skovoroda, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.
  • Gulnara Roll is an Estonian Geographer, Secretary of the Committee on Urban Development, Housing and Land Use, UNECE
  • Mitchell Joachim is an American architect and urban designer. Co-Founder of Terreform ONE.
  • Maxim Lepskiy is a Professor, Chair of Sociology of the Department of Sociology and Administration at Zaporizhzhya National University.
  • Eduardo Almeida is the CEO at INDRA and Minsait Brazil.
  • Carol M. Highsmith is an American photographer, author, and publisher who donated her life’s work of more than 100,000 images, royalty-free, to the Library of Congress.
  • David Abulafia is an English historian with a particular interest in Italy, Spain and the rest of the Mediterranean during the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
  • Vitalii Krivoshein is an Ukrainian sociologist and political scientist, Professor. Head of the department of sociology at Oles Honchar Dnipro National University.
  • Sarah Williams Goldhagen is an American author and architecture critic.
  • Avi Nardia is an Israeli martial artist, founder of KAPAP combative system.
  • Geoffrey James is a Canadian photographer. His black-and-white panoramic landscapes of the built landscape explore the relationship between human society and its surroundings.
  • Peter Nas is an emeritus Professor of cultural anthropology at Leiden University (Netherlands).
  • Spiro N. Pollalis is a Professor of Design, Technology and Management at the Harvard Design School.
  • Vitalii Lunov is an Associate Professor in the university named after O.O. Bogomoltsa. Member of the American Psychological Association.
  • Viktor Kotygorenko is a Professor, Head of the Department of National Minorities of I.F. Kuras Institute of Political and Ethnic Studies of National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. The President of the Ukrainian Academy of Political Sciences.

Additionally, 15 experts in sociology, anthropology, philosophy, psychology and architects from all over the world also participated in the conference.

There were six online Zoom discussion panels devoted to the following topics:

1. City as a set of factors that define the status and level of personality development.
2. Symbolism, photography, expeditionary scientific activities and other methods of exploring cities.
3. Ongoing threats in the context of the city
4. Cities as a living memory of the continents.
5. The city as a university and training program in life.
6. Architecture as textbooks for city residents and unconscious training (shaping) of them in the course of their lives in a city.

Most of these and other similar questions continue to be open in academics; they require solid interdisciplinary systematic study in the unity of the past, present and future. If cities invisibly affect each of us from our birth, it seems logical and appropriate to study the power of this environment and the “city-person” system, to subsequently use this knowledge in life and professional activity.

The conference was organized by The European Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, The Eastern European University Network, Ukrainian Association of Religious Scholars, APSI Academy, Institute of Political and Ethno-National Studies named after I.F.Kurasa at NAS of Ukraine, The Odessa Photographic Society, The Historical and Literary Society and The strategic forecasting and planning center.

“There isn’t one science that would study cities. Such a phenomenon as a city can be studied only at the intersection of several sciences. Cities are complex systems consisting of many networks. Before answering the question “how much city influences a person” —it is necessary to learn about how the principles of the city are adapted to different conditions and situations, and how the historical context affects the development of the city,” Michael Batty, well-known British urbanist and geographer, said.

“As everything in the city shapes the city itself, the city, in turn, shapes us. For me, urbanism is a discipline, it is the dynamics of the city itself, the potential that might be in the city. You should look at the city at 360 degrees. This vision is the only way you can see the whole picture of the city from the viewpoint of different sciences (anthropology, sociology, psychology, and other sciences),” Charles Landry, a British urban planner and author of the concept of a creative city, added.

“Symbols are a certain language, people who are literate enough to ‘read’ those symbols, can understand what a city is trying to convey. Today, when we would look at the cities and architecture, we see only a psychological part because most of the architecture today doesn’t represent its symbolic part. Some cities might have symbolic parts, but they fulfill psychological functions and not only symbolic ones. However, in the XVI-XIX centuries, the architecture of cities around the world was completely different. The architecture that contains the symbolic part was built at least 200-400 years ago. And the symbolism of cities is what makes the city a classroom,” Oleg Maltsev, Ukrainian scientist and initiator of the conference, said.

This conference is designed to unite the efforts of scientists and experts to ultimately comprehend existing questions with scientifically based answers, aimed at finding the logic and tactics of implementing the “How to make this civilization a flourishing one”.

Organizing Committee of “City as a classroom”
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