Silk Cities 2015 Workshop

On 29th October 2015 a one-day cross-disciplinary workshop at DPU/UCL explored contemporary urban issues of cities around the historic Silk Roads. It was a collaboration between the ‘Silk Cities’ initiative, The Bartlett DPU and Institute for Sustainable Urban Heritage (ISH).

Co-organisers: Dr Farnaz Arefian, Dr Kalliopi Fouseki

Advisors: Prof. Yves Cabannes, Prof. Julio Davila


From the second century BC to the end of the fourteenth century AD, a great trade route, the Silk Road, linked China with the Roman Empire. The Silk Road was not only a trading route for goods; but exchanged the rich cultures of China, India, Persia, Arabia, Greek and Rome. Such knowledge exchange was influential on how cities along the Road were formed and maintained. ‘Silk Cities’ exist in many countries and have urban cultural heritages related to the Silk Road. With the demise of the trading role of the Silk Road however still many of its related urban historic characteristics exist in ‘Silk Cities’. In parallel, the world faces global challenges around cities and their development in general. This raises the question of how being a ‘Silk City’ plays a role in those challenges and the way they are dealt with, if at all. A common past unites these cities. We would like to explore if the past is the only common thing for talking about ‘Silk Cities’ or if there are some specific common urban related themes connected to that common past. For example, if there is such a case in heritage, reconstruction or environmental design. It is hoped the workshop contributes to exploring refining contemporary common themes for contemporary ‘Silk Cities’.

The aim of this event was to connect multidisciplinary urban researchers and practitioners working on ‘Silk Cities’ in order to understand contemporary urban implications of being a Silk City in 21st Century.

The workshop was open to a limited number of participants who  shared their experiences in panel discussions. This small number of participants should help in creating a deeper and more intense level of debate. The participants to the Workshop distinguished researchers, consultants and specialists working on the topic internationally. In particular, the workshop welcomes researchers, practitioners and policy makers from the countries along the Silk Road to share their insights.


  • Explore what it means to be a Silk City in 21th Century.
  • Explore the complexities of ‘Silk Cities’ that are related to their existing historic urban elements towards linking them to contemporary urban debates in theory and practice (e.g. heritage, reconstruction and disaster risk reduction, and environmental design)
  • Explore implications and interconnections of the existing historic context in ‘Silk Cities’ to contemporary global challenges and the way they are dealt with in theory and practice (if there is any).
  • Develop a network of interested people and explore potential avenues for future work.

The final programme  focused on interactive and lively discussions among participants. Participants were encouraged to avoid lengthy PowerPoint presentations and the time slot for each individual presentation was 10 minutes. The full programme can be downloaded here (pdf):