‘UrgentCity: Towards a New Vocabulary of Terms’ is a research project paired with a program of activities, which investigates the challenges present in communication and collaboration between disciplines involved in city making and addressing urban challenges. We start from the premise that the language we use does not only describe our reality, but also actively shapes it. Our contemporary vocabulary is dominated by terms which may appear generic, confusing, hyped, redundant or simply understood differently by people from different disciplines. How can we trace these terms and compose them in a contemporary vocabulary? And what does the language we use say about our contemporary society?  

UrgentCity event in Florence 2016. Photograph by Luca Chiaudano©


UrgentCity was created by New Generations and Amateur City. Progressing urbanization, technological development, environmental and social challenges have an enormous effect on our lifestyles and the spaces we inhabit. The language we use to address these topics is equally important as it can either enlighten or obfuscate possible ways of dealing with these challenges. This project seeks to address four topics: NEW ECOLOGIES, URBAN ASSETS, DIGITAL TOOLKIT and NEW COLLECTIVESand comprises of three phases which are comprised of crowd-sourcing of terms, a series interviews with Dutch and Italian experts and a public event held in Florence. 


In the wake of the environmental crisis, we look for new ways to protect biodiversity both within and outside of cities. When looking for new possibilities for nature and cities to coexist, we have already found biodegradable materials, new ways of remediation, renewable energy and urban farming. But at the same time, increasing human interference with natural processes seems to make us lose faith in the very existence of nature proclaiming our time as anthropocene or capitalocene.


Urban assets are the hardware of the city: houses, offices, shops, cinemas, roads, bridges, embankments and all other physical structures that build it. While European cities are shrinking and suffering from the abundance of vacant buildings, in other parts of the globe there is a huge shortage of housing and infrastructure. Regardless of location, the availability and management of urban resources including buildings, public space, infrastructure and land poses many challenges that are yet to be fully addressed.


New technologies and media relate to digital governance, e-learning, information, automation, hacking, artificial intelligence algorithms and the way we in which we choose to spend our free time. To understand their impact, we need to take a closer look at the growing hybridization of urban space with digital media, and the effects this is having on mobility, information access, data management, empowerment, privacy and surveillance.


Cities not only become denser, but also more multicultural and more complex. Bigger agglomerations provide bigger opportunities; but at the same time, alienation, exclusion and isolation remain in striking contrast to the emerging sentiment for community, new forms of cooperation, communication and their potential to change the traditional way of shaping our cities.

UrgentCity event in Florence – La Palazzina Reale – 2016. Photograph by Luca Chiaudano© 


UrgentCity project brought together a diverse group of professionals to elaborate on the contemporary urban vocabulary – its inefficiencies and its potentials – to help us understand the cities of today and prepare for the future. The research had 3 main objectives: to investigate which words are seen as problematic in the discourse and why, to explore different possible readings and misunderstandings found in the contemporary urban discourse, and to find methods to enable better communication between professionals from different backgrounds.  


Between July and October 2016, Amateur Cities and New Generations interviewed 20 experts from Italy and the Netherlands to ask about their notions of contemporary vocabulary in regards to the urban environment, and what possibilities there are of building better ways of communicating these urban challenges we face. Each interview includes a set of terms proposed by the interviewee as a contribution to the ‘New Vocabulary of Terms’ which questions on the condition of the contemporary vocabulary, as well as discussing the four umbrella topics: New Ecologies, Urban Assets, Digital Toolkit and New Collectives, which constitute a basic framework for the ongoing research. All invited speakers were asked to reflect on the specific urgencies from the point of view of their own discipline, in addition to personal reflections and anecdotes related to their work. 

Click on the image above to watch the interviews in our video section or visit our vimeo channel to find out more.


The UrgentCity public event took place on 11th & 12th November 2016 at La Palazzina Reale in Florence, Italy, to summarize our research goals. For two days, guests from various disciplines took part in a series of workshops and discussions structured around the four main categories mentioned. Each day was built on a workshop session that led to public round-table debate in the evening.   

Image compilation of UrgentCity event in Florence 2016. Photographs by Luca Chiaudano©  

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