MAS Context Fall Talks 2016
Christopher Marcinkoski

El Cañaveral development at the eastern periphery of Madrid looking towards the southwest. Europe’s largest informal settlement, La Cañada Real Galiana can be seen in the foreground. © Photo courtesy of the author.


Architect Christopher Marcinkoski lectured on Tuesday, October 25, 2016, as part of MAS Context’s 2016 Fall Talks series. The lecture is organized in collaboration with the Society of Architectural Historians and took place at the historic Charnley Persky-House (1365 N Astor St, Chicago, IL 60610).


Speculative Urbanization and The City That Never Was

This lecture explored the phenomenon of speculative urbanization, and the implications of its recent proliferation on the urban design disciplines. The lecture drew from Marcinkoski’s recently published book, The City That Never Was (Princeton Architectural Press, 2016), as well as his current research Africa 2040: An Atlas of Speculative Urbanization. The recently published book positions speculative building within a longer arc, arguing that it is a recurrent phenomenon seen throughout history, yet one rarely acknowledged or engaged by urban design, architectural or planning theory. The book explores the radical urbanization activities seen in Spain between 1998 and 2008 as the basis for exploring the motivations of the phenomenon, as well as the complicity of the urban design professions in producing the severe consequences—environmental, social, political—that often accompany these activities. Marcinkoski’s current research follows on this trajectory by exploring the boom in speculative urbanization activities across the African continent over the last decade. Despite the urgent demand for urbanistic upgrades throughout much of the continent, the myriad proposals for new towns and vanity infrastructures that characterize the urbanization activities currently being pursued in this context are rarely oriented toward those populations actually in need. Rather, exogenous models of “proven” urban growth strategies are being imported into wholly incongruous contexts with little regard for the realities of their destination. Marcinkoski’s lecture offered a critical look at what happens when urbanization activities become wildly out of sync with economic and demographic realities.


MAS Context is supported by a grant by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts and by private donations. For information about how to support MAS Context, please visit:




Christopher Marcinkoski is an associate professor of landscape architecture and urban design at the University of Pennsylvania and author of The City That Never Was (Princeton Architectural Press, 2016). He is a licensed architect and director of PORT, a leading edge urban design and public realm consultancy with offices in Philadelphia and Chicago. In 2015, he was awarded the Rome Prize in Landscape Architecture from the American Academy in Rome.


Tamensourt new town, 25km northwest of Marrakesh. The first project initiated as part of the Morocco’s 2004 new towns program, Tamensourt was planned for 450,000 residents, or roughly 50% of the population of Marrakesh. © Photo courtesy of the author.


Copies of The City That Never Was. © Iker Gil.

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