Call for papers Inner City Redevelopment 1300-1800

Call for papers for the 13th International Conference on Urban History, Helsinki, August 24-27, 2016

M09. Inner City Redevelopment 1300–1800: Transformations of the Structure and Appearance of Pre-modern Towns


The dynamism of pre-modern towns is often ignored in urban and architectural history. Many authors unquestioningly assume that the structure of pre-modern towns did not change once the successive phases of urban expansion and the related building booms ended. Recent research however has shown that most medieval and early modern town centres were (in some cases radically) adapted to new conditions. The rise and decay of economic activities did not only affect the edges of towns, but also their centres. In any town that either grows or shrinks, the dynamics of urbanization will lead to the emergence, relocation or demolition of buildings, facilities and functions, and morphological transformations. If needed, complexes of buildings or larger areas were transformed as functional change took place, or the urban structure was adapted to new flows of people, produce or merchandise.

In Reformed north-western Europe, the structure and appearance of many towns changed considerably when large complexes, such as convents or charitable institutions, were secularised and redeveloped, while the Counter Reformation in catholic Europe let convents expand at the cost of housing and open areas. Capital cities were affected by project development by the courts, such as the grands boulevards, places royales and places ducales in France, while the Golden Ages of Antwerp and many cities in Holland stimulated the commercial development of new streets, housing blocks and the subdivision of existing areas.

In this session, we consider the pre-modern town as a dynamic structure or even as a palimpsest, scraped off again and again under the influence of functional change. We welcome papers that address any of the following questions.

  • What were the causes of pre-modern urban change and what was their nature?
  • How did social, economic, cultural change influence specific areas?
  • Were these transformations autonomous projects in specific areas or were they influenced by their urban surroundings?
  • Were the effects of transformations radiating in their vicinity?

For the sake of comparison we are looking for case studies that surpass the scale of a single building and focus on large complexes of buildings, streets or inner-city areas.


Keywords: Project development, spatial development, town centres, townscape, urban morphology

Period:            Medieval, Early Modern

Type:                Main session

Session organisers:

  • Jaap Evert Abrahamse, Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands
  • Heidi Deneweth, FWO and Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium
  • Reinout Rutte, Faculty of Architecture, Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands


How to propose a paper: