Dr Alexandre Apsan Frediani

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The Development Planning Unit conducts world-leading research and postgraduate teaching that helps to build the capacity of national governments, local authorities, NGOs, aid agencies and businesses working towards socially just and sustainable development in the global south. We are part of The Bartlett: UCL's global faculty of the built environment.



Development planner specialising in squatter settlement upgrading policies and participatory approaches to development. Areas of expertise include human development, housing, urban development, participation and Amartya Sen’s Capability Approach. His PhD explores different strategies to squatter settlement upgrading through the evaluation of projects from Salvador da Bahia, Brazil. As an output, the PhD proposes a methodology for assessing the impacts of slum upgrading programmes through the lens of Sen’s Capability Approach. Since then, Alex has focused on taking such ideas forward, by undertaking consultancies, action learning initiatives and research activities which have been concerned with examining the role of collective action in pursing wellbeing and justice in the urban global south.

In 2009, Alex conducted a consultancy for UNDP-Brazil using participatory methods for the assessment of needs in the 10 municipalities of lowest Human Development Indices in Brazil.

With Architecture Sans Frontieres – UK, Alex has been running together with ASF-UK colleagues workshops on participatory design which took place in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil (2009 and 2010), Nairobi, Kenya (2011), Quito, Ecuador (2013), London, UK (2014) and Cape Town, South Africa (2015). In each of such contexts, the workshop took place in partnership with local social movements and NGOs. The workshops produced a methodology on an integrated approach to participatory spatial practices which is outlined in the Change by Design publications.

Together with colleagues from the School of Architecture of University of Sheffield and the Universidade Federal do ABC Paulista (São Paulo, Brazil), Alex has been conducting research on the occupations of housing social movements of vacant buildings in the inner city area of São Paulo. More information on this initiative can be found in the Insurgent Regeneration website: http://www.bartlett.ucl.ac.uk/dpu/insurgent-regeneration. 

Since September 2015, Alex is part of the exciting project to set up the Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre (SLURC). The project is run in partnership with colleagues from Njala University and aims to generate capacity building as well as research initiatives in cities across Sierra Leone focused on the well-being of residents of informal settlements. See more information on this in the SLURC website: https://www.bartlett.ucl.ac.uk/dpu/sierra-leone-urban-research-centre.

Through the practice module of the MSc in Social Development Practice, Alex has been running a series of action learning initiatives, exploring the linkages between teaching, advocacy and research. From 2012 to 2014, in partnership with Practical Action, Alex run field trips to Kisumu exploring the role of Neighbourhood Planning Associations in processes of upgrading informal settlements and democratising urban governance. Since 2013, a partnership with CitizensUK has been generating a series of student action learning initiatives focusing on housing rights in London and the impacts of urban regeneration in the Euston Area.

Outcomes from Alex's initiatives are shared through publications but also through teaching in different Masters programmes, mostly focusing on the application of the capability approach and participatory methodologies to development in the urban context of the global south. Alex is a visiting lecturer on the post-graduate programme in Urban Infrastructure Design and Management of the University of Cape Town, Masters in Cooperation for Development of Universidad Politecnica de Valencia and Masters on Human Development and Food Security of Roma Tre University.

Research Summary

Main research interests include: 

  • Housing and Squatter Settlement Upgrading;
  • Participatory Approaches to Research, Planning and Design;
  • Social Movements and Right to the City;
  • Urban Regeneration and Well-being;
  • Human Development and the Capability Approach. 

Research outputs

Expanding Capabilities through Participatory Action Research 2017 Boni A,Frediani AA
The Multidimensionality of Empowerment: Conceptual and Empirical Considerations 2017 Boni A,Drydyk J,Frediani AA,Walker M
São Paulo: A pedagogy of confrontation. Informal building occupations in São Paulo’s central neighbourhoods 2017 Frediani AA,De Carli B,Barbosa BR,Comarú FA,Moretti RS
Strategic Upgrading: Lessons from International Critical Practices 2016 Frediani AA,Lipietz B,Butcher S
Critical Urban Learning through Participatory Photography 2016 Frediani AA,Hirst L
Re-imagining Participatory Design: Reflecting on the ASF-UK Change by Design Methodology 2016 Frediani AA
Change by design: reimagining regeneration through participatory design in Cape Town 2016 Architecture Sans Frontière ,Apsan Frediani A,Campkin B,Bainbridge E,Bennett J,De Carli B,French M,Macedo C,Walker J
Insurgent regeneration: spatial practices of citizenship in the rehabilitation of inner city São Paulo 2016 Apsan Frediani A,De Carli B
Regeneration and Well-being: Reflections from Carpenters Estate 2016 Frediani AA,Butcher S,Watt P
Transforming a ‘New Urban Agenda’ into a just urban agenda 2016 Allen A,Frediani AA,Walnycki A
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Research activities

Architecture sans frontieres - UK international workshops on participatory design
Global urban livelihoods project
Justice in the Green
Mapping social-networks for setting up a micro-credit project
Public consultation informing 2010 Brazilian Human Development Report
Urban settlements in high risk land: relocation, mitigation and prevention
Urbanisation Research Nigeria
Water & sanitation: Challenges and lessons in rapidly urbanising countries
Well-being of children with disabilities living in slums