American University of Central Asia - AUCA - Central Asian Urban Forum

Central Asian Urban Forum

The City. Prototype 20ХХ

April 20-24– Urban Week – a series of urban events and workshops

April 25-26 – Urban Forum

American University of Central Asia, Bishkek


Cities in Central Asia are in many ways similar and at the same time different from each other. Some of them have ancient roots, others are relatively young, but the challenges they all face are many and solutions are not easy to find.

2020 is a good year to summarize and analyze the outcomes of the last 30 years of post-Soviet history, to calculate risks, and to try to imagine the future.

Since early 1990s, the transformation of cities in the independent nation-states of Central Asia produced a paradigm shift in the socio-economic development and led to the emergence of national elites and the institution of private property. This trasnformation has gradually turned into a bizarre mutation: the former Soviet modernist cities noticeably changed their appearance, turning into "Euro-Asian” or almost “Asian.” On the one hand, we see many new types of buildings: shopping malls, restaurants, entertainment centers, hotels, mosques, boutiques, private schools, offices of international companies and organizations, elite style apartments. On the other hand, there are squatter settlements for the poor, chaotic and uncontrolled construction of buildings and building extensions, and very eclectic architectural styles.

Cities in Central Asia face many other common problems, such as environmental pollution, road congestion, loss of public and green spaces, radical transformation of urban fabric and of historical urban scale, growing inequality and social stratification, limited opportunities for civic participation in decision making, and many others.

The legacy of the Soviet urban planning model is nearly exhausted. The modernist logic of development was supposed to be replaced by a postmodern approach with a more complex system of relationships, new urban models, technologies, strategies and perceptions of development. However, Central Asian cities seem to be stuck in a grey transitional zone with everything needed for urban degradation: old forms and methods have exhausted themselves, while new models of development are nowhere to be found. The image of Central Asia’s urban future is blurry and fragmented.

When we are trying to temporarily patch the continuously re-emerging “holes” and looking for appropriate solutions, we are always a few steps behind the constantly changing situation. Often, we forget about what is most important – the foundational prototype of the city, authentic to the aspirations, opportunities, and expectations of its citizens who are living in the 21stcentury. We forget about the prototype, which could adequately respond to contemporary urban challenges, generate new opportunities, and pour foundations on which to build a dignified living environment of the future.

The Central Asian Urban Forum asks following three main questions:

  • Who is the city for? Who has the right to the city?
  • What kind of a prototype can evolve in Central Asian cities (from a historical retrospective to the present moment and future vision)?
  • How and with what instruments can we affect the vectors of urban development?

These are simple questions. But answers to them can lead us to the revision of the entire typology of urban elements that shape the form of contemporary cities.

The preliminary themes structuring the Prototype 20XX Forum include following:

  • Historical reflection and development trajectories of Central Asian cities;
  • A critique of how images of the city are produced today;
  • The right to the city;
  • City and nature;
  • Urban mobility;
  • Urban semantics;
  • Technologies and alternatives;
  • Global and regional challenges;
  • Urban anthropology;
  • Urban infrastructure;
  • Architectural forms and urban design;
  • Concepts and scenarios for the future.

The Forum will take place in Bishkek.It will start on April 20thwith a series of events, workshops, film screenings, art exhibitions and performances, and site visits – all in the format of an Urban Week. The program will culminate in a two-day international conference on April 25 and 26.

We would like to invite scholars, researchers, professional practitioners, urban administrators, activists, real estate developers and builders, business representatives, real estate developers, construction companies, and everyone who is concerned about the future of cities in Central Asia. The participants can choose to join the entire program (April 20-26) or only the last two conference days (April 25-26). Conference organizers can cover the cost of travel and living for a limited number of participants. To apply, please, enter the necessary information by following this link - by March 20, 2020. If you have questions, please, write to us at

American University of Central Asia
7/6 Aaly Tokombaev Street
Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic 720060

Tel.: +996 (312) 915000 + Еxt.
Fax: +996 (312) 915 028
AUCA Contacts