The City as a Thinking Machine : The ExhibitionProgramme of Events : Satellite Events : The Catalogue

... activism in the built environment

Marking the centenary of the publication of Geddes, Cities in Evolution (2015) and the associated Cities Exhibition

Geddes Valley Plan

The aim of this project is to evaluate the relevance of Geddes’ thought for today by curating an exhibition and associated events and publications that place his work along side the work of contemporary practices.

The city thinks us. We think ourselves by thinking the city. The Scottish polymathic planner and botanist, Sir Patrick Geddes, was able to articulate conceptual frameworks – what he called ‘thinking machines’ – for understanding the evolution of cities and democratic social organisations. This program of research dialogues culminating in a public exhibition of work drawn from the Geddes archives, evaluates the relevance of Geddes to contemporary thinking on cities and their regions. It is timed to mark the centenary of Geddes' most comprehensive work, Cities in Evolution (1915). It is part of a larger project to re-evaluate key contributions to urban and social thought from the 20th Century – from Geddes to the recent architectural avant-garde - and re-integrate it into contemporary planning and design practices.

The Dialogues will bring together a select group of media art, architecture, and planning practices in Dundee and beyond, whose research is oriented by Geddes' thought.

The Exhibition will combine material drawn from the Geddes Archives, with contemporary projects that draw on Geddesian ideas and strategies for making sense of our cities, their communities, and their landscapes.

The Program of Events will put this work in relation to activists whose work aims to transform cities and contemporary urbanisation and the social formations that occupy them.

At a time when economics [and security?] dominate the debate about cities, we need to mine the recent history of urban thought for alternative narratives about the city and its regions, which can provide new tools and new ideas for evolving them. Given the economic, climatic, and social problems facing cities today, and the realisation that the quality of space impacts upon the quality of life, this project could not be more urgent. This project addresses several Scottish Government National Outcomes; it relates directly to the importance of living in well designed places and building strong resilient communities. It also addresses the question of how we value and enjoy the built environment. It takes up the challenge laid down by the Scottish Government: ‘We must challenge everyone involved in development to drive up standards for planning, design and maintenance of the built and natural environment.’ This is one of the few projects to use collaboration to put Geddes into practice on multiple fronts and in multiple media (art, architecture, planning), and in multiple locals (Perth, Dundee, St. Louis), without losing sight of the global significance of his ideas.

Funded by The Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland.

Supported by University of Strathclyde Archives and Special Collections, and University of Edinburgh Special Collections,  and University of Dundee Archives and Museum Services.

... activism in the built environment - programme of events

Accompanying the exhibition is program of evening events titled ‘Activism in the Built Environment’, beginning at 6:00pm with a guest lecture in the D’Arcy Thomson Lecture Theatre, followed by a round table conversation with the exhibitors in the Lamb Gallery.

Theme 1: Activism in the built environment: Architecture

28 October (Wed)  6-8pm

Mark Hackett, 'Belfast trajectories - restitching the city'

Mark Hackett is a Belfast-based architect specialising in building, research and urban design. As a director in City Reparo and a founding director in Forum for Alternative Belfast, both multi-disciplinary research and advocacy groups, he has authored architectural research projects on the divided city of Belfast. With Hackett Hall McKnight, he is the architect of the award winning MAC Arts Centre. He won the UK and Ireland ‘Young Architect of the Year Award’ in 2008.  

Theme 2: Activism in the built environment: Media

18 November (Wed)  6-8pm

Mike Small, 'Geddes and the 5th Estate: publishing, citizenship and cultural insurgency'

Mike Small is the editor of Bella Caledonia, a columnist for the Guardian, and a lecturer in Food Citizenship as part of the UNESCO Chair of Sustainable Development and Territory Management at the University of Torino. He founded the Fife Diet local eating experiment which aims to re-localise food production and distribution in response to globalisation and climate change. He worked with the anarchist ecologist Murray Bookchin. He has published widely on Geddes.

Paul Guzzardo, 'A Septic Turn in the Space of Appearance: a brief for the city with elites in decline'

Paul is a Fellow at the Geddes Institute for Urban Research. He is a media activist, designer, and lawyer based in St. Louis and Buenos Aires. He maps the devolving state of the American public sphere. He has published papers in Urban Design Journal and AD: architectural design, and co-authored with Michael Sorkin and Mario Correa Displaced: Llonch+Vidalle Architecture. His installations and theatre pieces have been exhibited and performed the US and the UK. His lecture, 'A Septic Turn' and video installation focus on the role of digital media in collective consciousness.

Theme 3: Activism in the built environment: Planning

09 December (Wed)  6-8pm

Greg Lloyd: The demise of strategic planning (again and yet again)

Greg Lloyd is Emeritus Professor of Planning at Ulster University. He has researched and published widely on all aspects of planning, with a particular focus on national, strategic and city-regional planning. Drawing on some forty years in adademia, Greg will take the long-view of strategic planning in Scotland, tracing the evolution of Geddes’ city-regional thinking and imagining its future incarnation in light of the Scottish Government’s 2015 review of land use planning. 

Gordon Reid: TAYplan: City-regionalism in practice

A graduate from Town and Regional Planning at the University of Dundee, Gordon Reid is Team Leader for Development Plans & Regeneration at Dundee City Council. A seasoned practitioner, Gordon has direct experience of the evolution of city-regional planning policy and practice in the Tay Valley region. Reflecting on his experiences, Gordon will discuss how strategic planning has evolved and what can be learned from wider community and stakeholder engagement in regional planning.

In addition, there will be a series of satellite events announced separately.

Postscript: Activism in the Built Environment: Art

Thursday 10 December 2015

John Dummett: Score for a prepared voice: the city is a thinking machine

John Dummett is an artist and writer based in Scotland. Working between sculpture, critical writing and performance, John addresses the social production of knowledge. His work examines the different and often contradictory images of ‘the public’ and how these underpin the architectural and social fabric of the urban environment. John is a PhD student at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, University of Dundee and an affiliate of the Geddes Institute. His work is included in the research project and exhibition The City is a Thinking Machine: activism in the built environment, currently in the Lamb Gallery. This will be the last evening event associated with the Geddes Exhibition.

For more information please contact:

Dr. Lorens Holm at

Dr. Deepak Gopinath at