SONA International Conference 2023

Role of architecture in the creation of the identity of the contemporary city

Cities are changing, from what was developed out of traditional principles of hierarchies and functions to amorphous agglomerations arising from unguided growth and commercial speculation. 

The medieval cities had character. The hierarchy of spaces, between the public and semi-public, reflected the need of the communities. The architecture was determined by the available materials and traditional technological advancements, with ornamentation presenting the highly developed skills of the craftspeople. This was featured mainly in the religious, community, and palatial monuments but also in the private dwellings. However, the nostalgia of the medieval cities is not always justified, considering the period's squaller and lack of hygiene. 

Change was introduced to the medieval city through the introduction of infrastructure and services. Extensive reconstruction has often been carried out, where the traditional buildings have been replaced by tall concrete buildings. Sometimes these concrete buildings are given facades mimicking the traditional but ignoring the essential character and the proportions. The medieval cities are changing.

The boundaries of the medieval cities have been torn down, both the physical walls and the intangible protective ring of deities. The cities now sprawl across the landscape, which used to be precious agricultural land. Areas that were the most fertile, which flooded during the rains, are now covered with a haphazard array of buildings. The narrow roads wind around and around, following no principles of planning. The buildings present a spectrum of diverse images envisioned by the owners or the architects or do not present any character.

Even the planned areas of the new city are created through the numeric plotting of a land pooling project. Plots are redistributed along a grid of roads. However, urban spaces are not planned. The overall character of the urban extension, and the aesthetics of the building designs is not considered. Usually, not even the environmental impact of the planning is considered. The sewer lines lead straight into the rivers.

This description will partially or wholly depict many cities in Asia and throughout the world. The question that arises here is, what is the architect's role in all this? Are architects responsible for the dire situation of our cities? What would the responsibilities of architects be to improve the cities? Do architects lack resolve in dealing with these circumstances, or are they not allowed to contribute by the relevant authorities? 

The International Conference that SONA is organizing will discuss these issues. Paper contributions are sought under the following sub-themes. 

1. The identity of traditional and modern urban spaces

The first sub-theme examines the identity of the traditional and modern urban spaces. Papers will need to examine the character of the urban spaces, that are defined by the functions and the surrounding architecture. There is a clear hierarchy of urban spaces in the medieval city, with the buildings themselves defining the courtyards, squares and streets, catering to the various categories of community activities. This has changed with the modern city, which is often defined by walls and fencing, reflecting the need of the individuals. How have the urban spaces of the cities changed? What has been lost? What needs to be addressed?  

2. The role of architecture in defining the identity of the city

The second sub-theme focuses on the architecture itself. The medieval cities presented harmony due to the use of traditional materials and buildings designs. Even within a certain level of diversity, there was harmony in form, color, and scale. A certain level of uniformity was also sought when cities were designed using neoclassical forms of architecture. The streets lined with uniform white stucco facades presented the vision of authority with power. The city's architecture has changed to allow a diversity that shatters any form of harmony or uniformity. Who is responsible for this diversity in architectural design? Is it detrimental to the character of the city? What has the position of the architect been in this process? What needs to be addressed?

3. Sustainability of the traditional building technology in the urban context

The third sub-theme focuses on the building materials, and the related construction technology. The mud, brick and timber structures have changed to include lime and plaster, followed by reinforced cement, concrete and steel. How has this change in materials affected the urban context? Taller buildings are being built, which might not have been possible without excessive use of materials. Every decreasing size of plots within the city requires efficient use of space and reduced thickness of walls. Do traditional building materials and technology still have relevance in the modern city? Do the considerations of sustainability play a role in this discussion? What is the role of the architect in determining the most appropriate use of construction materials? How do such decisions affect the identity of the city? What needs to be addressed?



Venue: Kathmandu, Nepal (Online)

The SONA Annual Convention (SONA) will be held in Kathmandu— a Cultural megacity.  The convention shall be convened in a hybrid system as most of the technical sessions shall be carried out online. The modality of the convention shall be determined by the COVID Scenario developed in the next couple of months. 


*Detailed modality of the program shall be finalized soon. 



Coordination and Management 


 Ar. Rajesh Thapa

Conference Chair

President, SONA


Ar. Apil K C

Conference Secretary

General Secretary, SONA










SONA Convention Theme Track


 Abstracts from a wide range of architecture fields are encouraged for submission. The conference theme tracks are mentioned above and intended to bring content and context diversity to the discussion. 


The authors are requested to choose at least one theme track. This will help us identify the potential reviewer and group the convention schedule according to the theme.

The papers must focus (primarily) on a single subtheme. The papers must analyze and assess the changing conditions of the city and provide insight in the issues that need to be addressed. The papers must also consider the architect's position in defining the contemporary city's identity.


  1. Architecture and Cities
  1. Traditional Vs Modern Spaces in cities
  1. Vernacular architecture and Building Practices
  1. Crafts, Innovations, and architecture
  2. Economic development and policy
  3. Participatory design strategies and community roles
  1. Design, Materials and construction tools, and technology
  1. Architecture and Urban policy and design strategies







Ar. Rajesh Thapa

Ar. Rajesh Thapa

Convention Chair

Ar. Apil KC

Ar. Apil KC

Convention Secretary

Ar. Pranita Sharma Pandey

Ar. Pranita Sharma Pandey

Event Coordinator