Content description

How does the aesthetic imagination influence the shape of our cities, social interactions, and the (self)image of citizens? Literature, film, the visual and performing arts, computer games―they all shape the urban imagination. They can have palpable effects in reality, whether intended or unintended, direct or indirect. How do such distinctions help us understand the changing landscape and social fabric of our cities, and where do they disintegrate?

The arts often serve as inspiration for urban planners. They are used for strategic purposes by architectural firms and realtors to picture utopian ideals of city life. In civil society, grassroots organizations likewise make use of imaginative projections to mobilize local communities and persuade politicians. Often artists and writers, as inventors of “possible worlds,” are called upon to produce visions of the urban future. Can this utilitarian attitude be beneficent? Where does it threaten artistic autonomy and the need for social critique? How can we pinpoint the material and social effects of aesthetic images? How difficult is the distinction between fictional and nonfictional strategies in “imagineering” cities?

This summer school, organized by the Urban Studies Institute (USI) at the University of Antwerp, in collaboration with the Antwerp Research Institute for the Arts (ARIA), will investigate both the impact of the aesthetic imagination on cities and the structural tensions between artistic visions and the social and material constructions of cities.



Paolo Favero (UAntwerp), Bart Keunen (UGent), Office of Metropolitan Architecture (Rotterdam, The Netherlands), Recetas Urbanas (architects, Spain), Saskia Sassen (Columbia University), Lara Schrijver (UAntwerp), Rob Shields (University of Alberta), Gediminas Urbonas (MIT), An van Dienderen (filmmaker, School of Arts Ghent), Elly Van Eeghem (artist, School of Arts Ghent), Christophe Van Gerrewey (EPFL, Switzerland), Bart Verschaffel (UGent).

Full list of speakers

For who

The summer school welcomes not only academic researchers (primarily at the PhD level) but also artists, writers, architects, urban planners, and policy-makers concerned with the role of the aesthetic imagination in the building of cities and the social construction of citizenship.

During an intensive one-week program, international experts from various backgrounds will discuss theories, empirical case studies, and aesthetic practices. The program will include field trips to locations where the aesthetic imagination has sought to shape urban reality.


What CityLAB participants say (edition 2017 on Smart Cities)...

"The way the lectures were given was very involving and organizers welcomed questions and discussion right in the process of the lecture. Very diverse students helped to see the problem from the angles I would never even imagined existed."


"An excellent course. I would highly recommend similar courses to colleagues."


"It was a nice and very interesting summer school. My vision about the smart city has definitely changed."