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The Martin Centre for Architectural and Urban Studies

- the research arm of the Department of Architecture

Studying at Cambridge


Cambridge City Seminars: Shaping Cities for the ‘Nightwatchman’ State?

The City Seminar at Cambridge has a prominent history of exploring relevant and provocative topics in the field of urban studies with a commitment to taking an interdisciplinary perspective by bringing together theorists, practitioners and students.

Theme 2016/2017

Shaping Cities for the ‘Nightwatchman’ State?

‘Our middle classes conceive the moral purpose of the state in narrow terms: that it exists exclusively and solely to protect personal freedom and property.  This is to think of it as being like a nightwatchman, because the state can only imagine the totality of its role being limited to the prevention of theft and robbery.’

Ferdinand Lassalle, Berlin 1962

The intention of this seminar series is to explore the way in which we shape our cities in the context of the more limited role played by the State in many western countries since the beginning of the 1980s. To frame an answer to this question, the seminar will not only look at the effect on European and North American cities of the retreat of the state but will also draw on examples from further afield, from Latin America and Africa, to illustrate the variety of ways in which cities may operate and different social groups find a way of surviving – even of flourishing – beyond the formal machinery of city government that Europeans and North Americans tend to take for granted.

Time and Location

The Cambridge City Seminar takes place on Tuesdays during term starting at 17:30 in the Boardroom at the Department of Architecture, 1-5 Scroope Terrace, CB2 1PX.


Lent Term 2017


Housing Supply and Affordability in London

Christine Whitehead, London School of Economics

24 January


Proactive Planning in Croydon

Vincent Lacovara, London Borough of Croydon

7 February


Ayona Datta, King’s College London

21 February


Isis Nunez Ferrera, University of Westminster

7 March


Roundtable discussion

14 March 


Michaelmas Term 2016


Introductory Session for Shaping Cities for the ‘Nightwatchman’ State: The Sale of Council Housing, Thatcher's Most Successful Privatisation

Nick Bullock and Felipe Hernandez

11 October 


Boom Cities! The Rebuilding of British City Centres

Otto Saumarez Smith, University of Oxford

18 October


Construction of the Free World State: New Village Movement

Alex Young Il Seo, University of Cambridge

25 October 


Medellin Urban Innovation

Helena Rivera, University of Edinburgh

1 November


Defined by Decline

Eve Avdoulos, University of Cambridge

8 November


Philanthropy, Urban Form and Social Fabric in Cali, Colombia

Felipe Hernandez, University of Cambridge

15 November


Who cares about public baths? Paris, 1890-2016

Claire Lévy-Vroelant, Université Paris 8

22 November 



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Eve Avdoulos –

Ahmed Husseiny –

Marcus Nyman –

Dena Qaddumi –

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Archive of City Seminar from 2006-2015: