Morten Nielsen, Speaker at the Why the World Needs Anthropologists, Sustaining Cities: Urban Orders, when the city models itself – The Human Show Podcast 73





Morten Nielsen is a social anthropologist working in Mozambique, Scotland and USA on the interrelationship between time and materiality. Since November 2018 he has been based at the National Museum of Denmark where he is a senior researcher.  In 2015, Morten Nielsen founded the Urban Orders Reseach Center, a transdisciplinary research center based at Aarhus University, Denmark, which focuses on popular participation, self-management and collaborative design in urban spaces. Since moving to the National Museum of Denmark in 2018, he has continued his work on these issues with a particular emphasis on popular participation and collaborative design in social housing projects. He currently heads the interdisciplinary research projects Middle class urbanism: An interdisciplinary study of the physical reordering of urban sub-Saharan Africa funded by the Danish Council for Independent Research. Humanities (FKK).

In today’s episode Morten explores the topic he will cover at the conference – urban orders, when the city models itself. He gives examples from his work of how sustainable urban design processes arise from the meshwork of social life in cities. He asks us to reflect on questions such as: how might people’s everyday urban practices be converted into viable resources for designing sustainable cities? What would it take for urban planning to become a medium of translation of the lived city into the planned city? What new models of urban sustainability might be discovered by taking seriously the force of urbanites’ concerted actions? His talk focuses on the productive dilemmas of allowing sustainable urban design processes to arise from the meshwork of social life in the cities. Building on a discussion of the forms of regularity that may come to characterize the relationship between social life in the cities and the built environment in the absence of formal planning agencies, it addresses the challenges of converting such ‘urban orders’ into prototypes for sustainable urban planning.

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