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UCL Urban Laboratory

People

Director

Dr Ben Campkin

Ben Campkin is Director of the UCL Urban Laboratory and Senior Lecturer in Architectural History and Theory at the Bartlett School of Architecture

As an urbanist and architectural historian, Ben's cross-disciplinary research focuses on urban decline and 'regeneration' in London; housing, including early twentieth century slum clearances, and the representation and redevelopment of modernist mass housing; and the uses of images in urban change.  He is the author of Remaking London: Decline and Regeneration in Urban Culture (IB Tauris, 2013) and co-editor of Dirt: New Geographies of Cleanliness and Contamination (IB Tauris, 2007, paperback 2012), and his work has recently appeared in journals such as Architectural Theory Review (2013), The Journal of Architecture (2007), Architectural Design (2010) and the Centre for Education of the Built Environment: Transactions (2009), and anthologies including  Urban Constellations (2011), Camera Constructs: Photography, Architecture and the Modern City (2012), The Art of Dissent: Adventures in London's Olympic State (2012) and Ladies and Gents: Public Toilets and Gender (2007). 

Ben teaches on the Bartlett School of Architecture's BSc Architecture, as coordinator of year 3 architectural history and theory, and on the MA Architectural History, PhD Architecture by Design and PhD Architecture History and Theory programmes. He is co-convenor of the inter-faculty MSc Urban Studies, and chairs the UCL Grand Challenge of Sustainable Cities Executive Group.

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Co-Directors 

Co-Directors and Directors' Advisory Group

Dr Pushpa Arabindoo (Co-director)

Lecturer in Geography and Urban Design. Dr Arabindoo is a specialist in the fields of urbanization, public space and political activism in India, and is also a practising designer in the UK. Her research focus is on the emerging aspects of urbanisation and development issues in South Asian cities amidst the concerns of neoliberalisation and globalisation. She is currently working on the changing nature of the urban environmental discourse in India following recent natural disasters including the 2004 tsunami and the 2005 floods.

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Dr Matthew Beaumont (Co-director)

Senior Lecturer in the English Department. Dr Beaumont is the author of Utopia Ltd. (2005) and The Spectre of Utopia (2012), and the co-author, with Terry Eagleton, of The Task of the Critic (2009). He is the co-editor of Restless Cities (2010). Dr Beaumont’s research interests currently centre on various aspects of the metropolitan city. He is in the early stages of writing a book about nightwalking in cities, provisionally entitled Midnight Streets.

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Dr Camillo Boano (Co-director)

Director, Building and Urban Design in Development MSc. Dr Boano directs the MSc in Building and Urban Design in Development, is the Director of Communication in the Development Planning Unit and Coordinator of the DPUsummerLab initiative. Dr Boano’s interests are focused on urban development, contested urbanism, socio-spatial dialectics, design and urban transformations, and shelter and housing reconstruction in geographies of the global south. He is working on a series of interconnected research projects in South East Asia and the Middle East aiming to recalibrate design through dissensus.

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Dr Licia Capra (Co-director)

Reader in Pervasive Computing in the Department of Computer Science. She first joined UCL in May 2000 as a Research Assistant, and then as a Ph.D. student. From October 2003 until March 2005, she has been a Research Fellow in the Software Systems Engineering Group at UCL/CS, before taking up an academic position in April 2005. Before coming to England, she was an undergraduate student in the Dipartimento di Informatica at the University of Bologna, Italy. Licia conducts research in the area of ubiquitous computing. Specific topics include: crowd-sourcing and crowd-sensing, urban computing, location-based services, recommender systems, data mining for development. The aim of her research is to provide application developers with abstractions, algorithm libraries, and middleware systems to ease ubiquitous computing application development, and provide end users with better experiences when interacting with the technology.

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Dr Andrew Harris (Director of MSc Urban Studies)

Lecturer in Geography and Urban Studies. Dr Harris has worked extensively on the role of culture and the visual arts in urban regeneration strategies, with expertise in London and Mumbai. Dr Harris convenes the MSc Urban Studies. He recently ran an AHRC funded international research network on 'Creative city limits: urban cultural economy in a new era of austerity' between 2011-2012. He is a member of the ESRC Peer Review College and Events Coordinator for the Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers Urban Geography Research Group.

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Professor Jennifer Robinson (Co-director)

Professor of Human Geography. Previously Professor of Urban Geography at the Open University, she is author of Ordinary Cities, which offers a critique of urban studies from the point of view of cities in poorer countries. Her work challenges the conventional divide between western and 'Third world' cities, and argues for a truly cosmopolitan approach to understanding cities. Her empirical research has been focussed on South Africa, including studies of segregation and state power, and the politics of urban development. She is currently working on methodologies for comparative international urban research, and planning a comparative research project on city strategies and the circulation of urban policy. 

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Steering Committee

Dr Michele Acuto (STEaPP)

Research Director and Senior Lecturer in Global Networks. Dr Acuto directs the UCL City Leadership Initiative, and specializes in global city politics, the use of STS methods in international relations and urbanism, and on the intersection between city networks, urbanisation and global governance.

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Samuel Barton (Student Representative)

PhD Candidate (Geography). Sam's PhD project, ‘Always Different Always the Same’ is an ethnographic study of the role of claims to authenticity in the process of neighbourhood change in Brixton. His work also explores the work of Ruth Glass and the former Centre for Urban Studies at UCL.

Professor Iain Borden (Bartlett School of Architecture)

Director of Architectural History & Theory and Vice-Dean of Communications (Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment). Professor Borden is currently researching large-scale architectural and urban spaces in cities worldwide, from the Limehouse Link tunnel in London to the Singapore Flyer observation wheel in Singapore, and interpreting these as ways of experiencing different postmodern conditions.

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Dr Victor Buchli (Anthropology)

Reader in Material Culture. Dr Buchli works on architecture, domesticity, the archaeology of the recent past, critical understandings of materiality and new technologies and the anthropology of sustainability and design. Currently, Victor is Co-Investigator of the Adaptable Suburbs Project funded by the EPSRC.

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Dr Claire Colomb (Bartlett School of Planning)

Senior Lecturer in Urban Sociology and European Spatial Planning. As a sociologist and urban planner, Dr Colomb’s research interests span urban governance, policies and politics, European spatial planning, and urban sociology.

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Dr Adam Drazin (Anthropology)

Lecturer in Anthropology.. Dr Drazin works on design and with designers and currently runs the MA programme in Culture, Materials and Design. He aims to promote the broad spectrum of ways in which anthropology engages with design and materials, and explore how dialogues with institutions in the private and public sectors can advance anthropological understandings.

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Michael Edwards (Bartlett School of Planning)

Senior Lecturer in the Economics of Planning. Michael has worked on planning and real estate markets for many years and he is active in London planning, most recently supporting community groups in challenges to the 2009 Draft Replacement London Plan.

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Professor Murray Fraser (Bartlett School of Architecture)

Professor of Architecture and Global Culture, Vice-Dean for Research. Professor Fraser has published extensively on design, architectural history & theory, urbanism, and cultural studies.

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Dr Alexandre Apsan Frediani (Development Planning Unit)

Lecturer in Community-led Development in the Global South and Course Director, MSc Social Development Practice. 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.

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Professor Matthew Gandy (Geography)

Professor of Geography. Director of UCL Urban Laboratory, 2005 - 2011. Professor Gandy is currently working on three main areas: cyborg urbanization (looking at changing relations between the body and the city), urban metabolism (with particular emphasis on cultural histories of urban infrastructure), and cinematic landscapes. 

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Dr Adrian Lahoud (Bartlett School of Architecture)

Programme Leader, M.Arch Urban Design. Adrian is an architect and teacher working on concepts of scale and their architectural, urban, and geopolitical consequences. In addition to his role at the Bartlett, he is an external advisor at Projective Cities at the Architectural Association, London.

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Dr Barbara Lipietz (Development Planning Unit)

Lecturer and Course Director, MSc Urban Development Planning. Barbara’s research work focuses on the politics of urban development planning policies and practices and is particularly interested in the spaces for community-led strategic action planning. She convenes the DPU’s research cluster on Urban Transformations and is Secretary of the Urban Planning Advisory Group to the UNISDR’s Secretary General.

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Dr Rafael Schacter (Anthropology)

Research Fellow, Department of Anthropology. Rafael is an anthropologist, writer, and curator who has been undertaking research on Independent Public Art for over ten years. He has co-curated a number of exhibitions around the world including Street-Art at the Tate Modern in 2008.

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Professor Nick Phelps (Bartlett School of Planning)

Professor of Planning. Professor Phelps has wide-ranging international experience in the analysis of development patterns on the urban fringe. His research focuses on the themes of urban governance, sustainable cities, and the changing nature of welfare states. 

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Dr Hilary Powell (Chemistry)

Artist in Residence, Chemistry. Hilary is an artist working with a range of media from installation and film to printmaking. Prior to her position in the Chemistry department, she was based at the Bartlett School of Architecture as AHRC Fellow in the Creative and Performing Arts.

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Professor Mike Raco (Bartlett School of Planning)

Professor of Urban and Regional Governance. Mike’s current work focuses on the London Olympics, privatization, new localism and London governance. He is lead Researcher for the Bartlett School of Planning on the EUFP7 Project: DIVERCITIES - Governing Urban Diversity.

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Niranjana Ramesh (Student Representative)

PhD Candidate (Geography). Niranjana is working on a doctoral research project titled 'Techno-politics of urban water: the case of desalination in London & Chennai'. She is on the steering committee of Stadtkolloquium, a postgraduate research network for urban scholars.

Kieren Reed (Slade School of Art) 

Lecturer in Fine Art. Kieren's practice encompasses sculpture, performance and installation, from studies in form to the production of architectural structures. Currently working on large-scale social architectural commissions for 2013 and new artworks which further consider notions of form and functionality. 

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Professor Jane Rendell (Bartlett School of Architecture)

Professor of Architecture and Art. Jane is a writer and architectural historian/theorist/designer whose work explores interdisciplinary intersections between architecture, art, feminism and psychoanalysis.

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Jordan Rowe (Urban Laboratory Administrator)

Jordan's interests lay in the cross-section of politics and (sub)urban culture, understanding the science behind how citizens relate to particular topics and issues, parties and voting habits, taking as a case study Weimar Berlin. He has previously worked at The Guardian and the Bartlett School of Architecture.

Dr Claire Thomson (Scandinavian Studies and Film Studies)

Lecturer in Scandinavian Film, Head of Department of Scandinavian Studies. Dr Thomson’s research and teaching interests centre on eco-critical, post-humanist and multisensory approaches to film, and on interculturality and (post)national identities in film and literature. 

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Research Associate

Dr Clare Melhuish

Clare Melhuish is an anthropologist specialising in architecture and the built environment, including Modern Movement architectural heritage and social identity; domestic space and cultures; ethnographic research and urban design and regeneration; and the ethnography of architectural design practice. Prior to joining the Urban Lab she was Research Associate in Geography at The Open University on the ESRC-funded project ‘Architectural atmospheres: the role of digital visualising technologies in contemporary architectural practice’, which involved a multi-sited ethnography of urban design practice in London and Doha; and co-developer of  the cross-disciplinary research project Caribbean Urban Aesthetics, with Art History at the OU.

Read more about Clare's work at the Urban Laboratory here.

Artist in Residence

Max Colson

Max Colson is a London-based photographer, and an artist-in-residence at the Urban Laboratory since September 2014, funded by a grant from the Leverhulme Trust.

Max’s performative photographic practice dramatises the appearance and use of security and surveillance apparatus in public space, exploring how design engenders feelings of safety or a sense of individual or collective distrust.

The residency - provisionally titled Smart World - will extend Max’s performative photographic investigations into the world of urban ‘smart’ technology. It will examine how data gathering hardware, particularly sensor technology, can be seamlessly integrated into street furniture and other forms of architecture in the wider built environment. Integral to this project will be a questioning of the role of photography as a suitable means of apprehending the shape of this new and obscure form of urban monitoring.

Read Max's residency blog here.

Tom Wolseley

Tom Wolseley is an artist-in-residence at the Urban Laboratory since April 2015, funded by a grant from the Leverhulme Trust.

Tom has worked for over 20 years, creating films and installations that explore our relationship to the environment we live in, with increasing emphasis on film and the city.  He has collaborated with a diverse range of practitioners to develop a practice/methodology that reflects on its own condition as it does on the subject. He has created and worked within his own semi fictional institution, Architrope, previously based in an up-cycled shipping container in an urban park in Hackney, for 5 years.

During his residency, he will work with Urban Lab Co-Director Dr Andrew Harris on the project 'Shardology: New Visions of Vertical London'. Tom will research the Shard, London and Western Europe’s tallest building, as an object and event between the financial processes that funded it and the imaginaries of the people who experience it in their city.

He will create an essay film as a way to examine the Shard from a range of perspectives; emotional, economic, social, architectural, cultural, international, political and geographical, in a meandering narrative, that also references the construction of the film itself. The broader research will be archived on an interactive website.

Tom's previous projects can be viewed here.

Advisory Board

Ipek Akpinar (Istanbul Technical University)

Karen Bakker (University of British Columbia)

Stephen Barber (Kingston University)

Neil Brenner (Harvard University)

Dominic Church (German Sustainable Building Council DGNB)

Mustafa Dikec (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Adrian Forty (University College London)

Susanne Frank (TU Dortmund University)

David Gissen (California College of the Arts)

Stephen Graham (Durham University)

Gareth Jones (London School of Economics)

Jane Jacobs (Yale-NUS College)

Roger Keil (York University, Toronto)

Patrick LeGales (Sciences Po Paris)

Jorge Francisco Liernur (Torcuato Di Tella University)

Julia Lossau (Humboldt University of Berlin)

Iain Low (University of Cape Town, African Centre for Cities)

Jeremy Melvin (Royal Academy)

Kate Orff (Columbia University)

Ayodeji Olukoju (Caleb University, Lagos)

Vyjayanthi Rao (The New School)

Rebecca Ross (Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design)

AbdouMaliq Simone (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Erik Swyngedouw (Manchester University)

Karen Till (National University of Ireland Maynooth)

Visiting Researchers

Past visiting researchers

Dr Beatrice de Carli

Insurgent Regeneration. A critical review of notions and practices

Beatrice de Carli completed her architectural studies at Politecnico di Milano, Italy, including a PhD in Architecture & Urbanism developed in collaboration with the University of Leuven, Belgium (2011). She has previously held positions as Research and Teaching Assistant at Politecnico di Milano, and has worked in practice in Milan for several years. Since 2011, she has been teaching Urban Design and Urbanism at Politecnico di Milano and KU Leuven. She joined the Urban Lab in January 2014 under the Bartlett Visiting Research Fellows scheme, as part of the Cross-Disciplinary Research Programme and will be supervised by Dr Ben Campkin (UCL Urban Laboratory) and Dr Adriana Allen (Bartlett Development Planning Unit). During her tenure at UCL Beatrice will work on a project entitled ‘Insurgent regeneration. A critical review of notions and practices’. The project investigates the notion of ‘insurgent regeneration’ as a means to explore the capacity of occupant practices to inform and steer state-led discourses on ‘sustainable urban regeneration’ in inner city areas of the global South. As such, the project aims to address two distinct challenges: the cyclical decay and deterioration of cities and their sustainable resurgence and adaptation, and the housing crisis in the global South – particularly in its manifestation through the informal occupation of vacant and deteriorating buildings and site.

Her research focuses on issues of territorial regeneration, housing and participation in architecture and urban design, specifically in contexts of conflictive spatial change and/ or scarce resources. She is interested in developing creative research and teaching methodologies and alternative modes of spatial practice, including an on-going interest in activist practices in urban contexts. She is a member of Architecture Sans Frontieres Italy, an architectural NGO that works between architecture, community and international development. Recently she has been appointed as vice chair of ASF International. 

Eduardo Canteros

Social Work Department, Universidad Alberto Hurtado, Santiago

Urban Values from a Grassroots Organisation In Urban Regeneration Process

Eduardo Canteros is a sociologist and social worker who has recently submitted his thesis in Architecture and Urban Studies. He has worked in community participation programmes in public and private organisations, and in academic positions in different social sciences schools in Chilean universities. 

Eduardo has research interests in urban collective action, citizen participation, and community knowledge and expertise. Eduardo joined the Urban Lab in January 2014 under the Bartlett Visiting Research Fellows scheme, as part of the Cross-Disciplinary Research Programme. While at UCL Eduardo will be working on a project entitled 'Urban values from a grassroots organisation in urban regeneration', supervised by Dr Ben Campkin (UCL Urban Laboratory) and Dr Alexandre Apsan Frediani (Bartlett Development Planning Unit) using qualitative methods to examine the values around which communities organise when they critique and reject regeneration proposals. The project will build on research conducted in Chile and will involve a comparative dimension.

Dr Andy Merrifield

Neo-Haussmannization

Dr Andy Merrifield will be working on Neo-Haussmannization, mentored by Urban Laboratory Steering Committee members Michael Edwards (The Bartlett School of Planning) and Professor Murray Fraser (The Bartlett School of Architecture).

Andy Merrifield is a writer, social theorist and urban geographer with a PhD in Geography from the University of Oxford. He has taught at assorted universities in the UK and USA. Merrifield is co-editor (with Erik Swyngedouw), of The Urbanization of Injustice (1995) and author of eight books, including Metromarxism (2002), Dialectical Urbanism (2002), Guy Debord (2005), Henri Lefebvre: A Critical Introduction (2006), Magical Marxism (2011) (which was shortlisted for the 2012 Bread and Roses Prize), and most recently, The Politics of the Encounter: Urban Theory and Protest under Planetary Urbanization (2013). 

His many essays and reviews have appeared in publications including AdbustersThe NationHarper’s MagazineNew Left ReviewHarvard Design Magazine, and The Times Magazine

Andy's new book, The New Urban Question, will be published by Pluto Press in March 2014.

Andy will be leading a seminar series for postgraduate research students and advanced undergraduates during his time at UCL on 'Urban theory and protest: from collective consumption to predatory dispossession'. For more information please click here.

Professor Thea Brejzek

Zurich University of the Arts

The politics of performance

Professor Brejzek is director of the PhD on Scenography at Zurich University of the Arts, and currently Visiting Fellow at UTS Sydney. Professor Brejzek will be Visiting Professor at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL from January to September 2013 as part of a larger research project she is working on, linking up over 10 institutions internationally to explore the politics of performance.

Dr Robin Kim

Department of Geography/Urban Laboratory

JHK Urban Research Lab, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow

Robin Kim’s project explores urban regeneration in London, with particular focus on the area between St Paul’s Cathedral and Tate Modern formed by the artery of the Millennium Bridge and Peter’s Hill. The proximity of Tate Modern to St Paul’s has helped shape this new axial pedestrian link and strengthened the relationship between the commercial centre of the City and the cultural hub of Southwark. At the same time, the narrative of urban intervention created by the new urban quarter has contributed to the transformation of that part of central London. The aim is to explore the form and role of this new urban axis and the way it has reshaped central London’s socio-spatial geography. Historical references and policy documents are used to analyse how planners, civic authorities and historians have considered integrating the north and south of the River Thames. For purposes of spatial and visual analysis, conventional survey maps, drawings, sketches, photographs, planning documents and development plans are employed. The research also involves site observation, visitor surveys and Millennium Bridge pedestrian counting data analysis to explore the usage pattern of the axial space and the improvement of pedestrian accessibility on both riversides. This project is supervised by Professor Matthew Gandy.

Anna Mayr

URBANgrad

Global cities discourse in urban transformations

Anna Mayr, a PhD candidate at the graduate school URBANgrad at the urban research center of TU Darmstadt, visited the Urban Laboratory in March 2012 and participated in the International Stadtkolloquium. Anna's research is on global cities discourse in urban transformations, taking a comparative view on Johannesburg and Delhi. Her doctoral research project compares local visions of becoming a world-class city in Delhi and Johannesburg.

Aditya Mohanty

Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur

The politics of governance amongst civil society organisations in Delhi

Aditya Mohanty, a PhD student from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, was awarded a Commonwealth Split-Site Doctoral Scholarship to spend a year (2011-12) at the UCL Urban Laboratory and Department of Geography under the supervision of Dr Pushpa Arabindoo. His research examines the politics of governance amongst civil society organisations in Delhi.

Professor Susan Parnell

University of Cape Town

Leverhulme Visiting Professor

Professor Susan Parnell from the Department of Environmental and Geographical Sciences and the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town joined the Urban Laboratory in January 2012 as a Leverhulme Visiting Professor. She worked with Professor Jenny Robinson in the context of the Urban Laboratory to support international urban teaching and research at UCL. Professor Parnell presented a Leverhulme public lecture in May entitled ‘The Crisis in Urban Studies: revolution, reform and reconstruction’. She also undertook teaching and other public lectures in the Geography Department and at the Development Planning Unit, including a Dialogues in Development seminar series at the DPU on African perspectives on urban development planning. She travelled to Manchester and Edinburgh to present further Leverhulme public lectures and build links between UCL, UCT and urban groupings in those Universities. Professor Parnell was also invited to contribute to a range of policy-related discussions, notably with the government Department for International Development.

Maider Uriarte Idiazabal

University of the Basque Country

Fringe landscapes

Maider Uriarte Idiazabal is a PhD candidate at the University of the Basque Country who visited the Urban Laboratory for 6 months, funded by the UPV-EHU. Her research on the urban fringe was supervised by Dr Ben Campkin and Professor Nick Gallent and was presented at Stadtkolloquium 2012.

Students

Current Urban Laboratory affiliated PhDs:

Killian Doherty (Bartlett School of Architecture) 

'Post-development' design practice(s); making and unmaking of communities within post-conflict Rwanda

Building upon 5 years of Rwanda based architectural practice & research this proposal will: examine inherited concepts of ‘modernity’ that underpin urban policy in Rwanda; question these in light of current design trends of ‘modern’ architectural practice entrenched within development/NGO cultures; and posit alternatives to these by working with a marginalised, low-income community in Rwanda. The latter theme will be explored through a settlement-led design project.

Alexandra Parsons (English)

Derek Jarman and Life-writing

My research focuses on the director, artist, writer and activist Derek Jarman. I explore the way he records his dissident uses of the city as the means by which to provide social commentary and ignite political activism. I engage with his use of city spaces as diverse as the abandoned industrial wastelands of Millenium Mills, heterotopias such as Hampstead Heath at night, the development of central urban areas like Soho, and how he reclaimed the streets via protests and political activism. I do this by exploring Jarman’s life-writing. Throughout these texts, Jarman repeatedly makes use not just of his own memories, but also examines the lives of queer figures from the past alongside those of his friends and other contemporaries.

Kristen Hartmann (SSEES)

Sarajevo’s Post-Conflict Urban Environment: Interventions in the Urban Landscape and Peace Building in a Plural Society

The aim of my research is to investigate how interventions in post-conflict urban environments affect peace building in plural societies. I will analyze the impact of new sacred and secular Muslim building constructions on the plural social fabric of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). My research will examine ideas of trans-national identity formation and capital flows from countries in the Islamic world and the negotiations and contestations surrounding new architectural constructions. The urban environment plays a crucial role in the formation of identity, and within the current context of Bosnian and Herzegovinian society, uncovering how Sarajevans are reacting to new architectural projects will have implications for continued peace building in BiH.

Sigi Atteneder (Development Planning Unit)

Borderland Levant: Transformative urban geographies in Amman and Tel Aviv-Jaffa

My research is about the potential of the coming together of spaces - overlaps, folds - and related border issues as materialisation of power relations, especially in urban areas. On the theoretical side the work draws on Etienne Balibar´s notion of "borderland". For the empirical part I am focussing on the so called "Levant", and Amman and Tel Aviv-Jaffa in particular.

Pooya Ghoddousi (Geography)

Being Iranian in London: nomad-sedentary micropolitics

This research uses the concept of nomadism to go beyond socially or geographically bounded notions of diaspora, citizenship, or local communities that abound in urban and migration studies. An ethnographic study of everyday practices and routines in the lives of my interlocutors (snowballing from my Iranian networks in London) will map the micropolitics of how they build and maintain ties with their human-non-human environments as well as trace their mobile trajectories. The resulting ‘cartographies’ show the socio-material (dis)organisations of these transnational assemblages using insights from theories and historical examples of nomadism – especially the dynamic nomad/sedentary mixes found in ‘dimorphic societies’. In addition to an epistemic contribution to the study of these emerging modes-of-being-in-the-world, this study traces the lines of flight and novel becomings of these transnational assemblages with the phronetic hope of increasing the reflexive agency of  the nomadic subjects to navigate their unpredictable lives and negotiate their instances of marginality.

research diary

ThienVinh Nguyen (Geography)

Urban development, governance, and oil windfalls in an African city: The case of Sekondi-Takoradi (Ghana)

Funded by a UCL Graduate Research Scholarship and a UCL Overseas Graduate Research Scholarship, supervised by Charlotte Lemanski and Jennifer Robinson

ThienVinh's research explores the themes of urban development, governance, and the potential for poverty alleviation in light of recent oil windfalls in the city of Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana. The discovery of commercial quantities of oil in 2007 off the coast of the city has been marked by the galvanisation of civil society organisations, traditional authorities, different levels of Ghanaian government, and transnational corporations (and their respective governments, which include the UK, US, China, and Norway) wishing to benefit from the promise of oil. Because oil brings about societal upheaval, vis-à-vis heightened economic activity, altered perceptions of place and new opportunities for  socio-economic development, this research shall investigate ways in which different actors and groups contest and coordinate for their interests, as they shape the development of this city. Although cities are constantly moving, transforming, and constructing, such moments of profound change provide a rich and dynamic context for studying the reconfigurations of everyday life, politics, and the trajectories of development—giving further impetus for this research to uncover the potentialities of a city to come.

Sabina Andron (Bartlett School of Architecture)

Skin Deep: The Material Site Specificity of Urban Surface Inscriptions

A battle for visibility takes place every day on the surfaces of the city. Drawing strongly from the materiality of those surfaces, inscriptions of various kinds struggle to make their way into our field of vision, by employing different tactics of placement and form. Surfaces display their own inherent frames and contrasting materials, offering opportunities for the marking of visual territories. Whether they are done through size, legibility or crispness, the visual statements of surface inscriptions break the skin of the city into different spots, some blinder and others bolder.

The workings of visibility through city surface inscriptions are the focus of my doctoral research, which aims to record and understand the connections between the materiality of various surfaces and the types of inscriptions they will support.

Through a visual exploration of brick and metal, perspex and paper, Sabina looks for the structural frames of the city and the visual and textual marks that adorn them. Surfaces are territories in themselves and they define a new form of site specificity, which she explores through photographical practice and interpret through semiotic analysis.

Nicola Antaki (School of Architecture and DPU)

A Learning Architecture: Designing environments for municipal primary school children from informal settlements in Mumbai

Can we change the way we design learning spaces for children from informal settlements in Mumbai, if we approach them with a wider view of educational philosophies and pedagogy, whilst engaging with communities and governing powers and taking into consideration the effect of architecture on learning processes and outcomes? Driven by live practice-led experimental research, this thesis focuses on small-scale situated interventions using a local heritage of design languages, as a means of defining sustainable strategies of practice, using participatory methods within a community and a local culture. The invention and implementation of such strategies are then used to catalyse self-organising processes and activities that would evolve without the need for the architect ‘leader’, to strengthen a community’s engagement with its territory, empowering individuals to generate improvements in their environments.

Mohammed Bakkali (Institute of Environmental Design and Engineering)

Developing a climate-responsive urbatecture combining land use, street canyons and building forms in an integrated, multi-scaled approach reducing energy demand and GHG emissions, improving comfort and health in London and the UK

This research focuses on developing a climate-responsive design framework tailored to the early design stages. This will create tools for masterplanning as well as the design of individual buildings, making use of climate-responsive built form indicators and modelling tools. The framework will highlight key features of the urban environment that affect local urban climate by interlinking land use, street canyons and building forms and assessing them in a multi-scaled approach. 

John Bingham-Hall (Space Syntax Laboratory)

The Blog and the Territory; a geography of place and hyperlocal media in three London neighborhoods

Funded by an EPSRC Studentship. This research looks into the cultural formation of cities and society, and addresses the critical contemporary debates around the internet, modern communication patterns and socio-urban form. The work asks: how is the geographical coverage of each hyperlocal channel derived from the physical and administrative boundaries present in the urban fabric? How, in turn, might the distribution of locally-specific information though a hyperlocal channel influence the way neihghbourhood boundaries are perceived and come to have a part in shaping the geography of urban places? What are the implications – when people living close by come to connect through mediated communications – for place-based social networks and individual access to localized social capital? As an outcome he aims to contribute both theoretically to the “smart cities” and society and technology studies debates, and also offer a resource for the growing practice of using the internet as part of community-building and placemaking.

Pei Sze Chow (Scandinavian Studies)

Representations of Urban Space and Architecture of the Øresund Region on Film and Television

Funded by a UCL Overseas Graduate Research Studentship (2011)

Pei-Sze is a PhD candidate supervised by Dr Claire Thomson in UCL's School of European Languages, Culture and Society. Her research focuses on contemporary cinematic representations of landmark architecture and space in transnational regions and cities, particularly the Øresund and Berlin. The project investigates the synthesis of cinema, architecture, and haptic viewing in order to examine a group of film documentaries/essays that capture the emerging relationships between transnational communities and their architectural environment. In her dissertation, she will consider films by documentarists and filmmakers such as Fredrik Gertten (Sweden) and Uli M. Schüppel (Germany). Her broader research interests include visual experimentation in film, cities, and identity and place-making.

Jae-Sung Chon (Geography)

Modernization and co-evolution of man, machine and nature in three cities: Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai

Jae-Sung Chon's PhD research discusses ‘urban gaps’, forged by postwar elevated urban roads, as latent sites for post-functional and post-carbon imaginations. Taking ‘infra-structures’ as forms of ‘sub-presence’ of others, the discussion expands the recent discourses around ‘informal urbanism’ and imagines spatial conditions for cohabitation and coproduction of human and non-human: a braid urbanism. 

Carole Enahoro (Geography/Anthropology)

Satire, Space, and Survival in Abuja, Nigeria

My thesis examines minor acts of dissent against city bureaucracy in Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja. Its focus is on edicts articulated by city administration, translated on a capricious, unpredictable level by officialdom, and civil society’s response, in certain cases, through satiric attack. I study the way in which these encounters affect spatial control of the city. Finally, I observe how the city itself plays a role in this dynamic cluster, through the play, segregation, and structure of the built environment.

Mohamad Hafeda (Bartlett School of Architecture)

Negotiating spaces: informal processes for claiming spaces in Beirut

Awarded funding from the Global Supplementary Grant Program, Open Society scholarship and from The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture

This project based PhD research investigates the design, use and experience of contested boundaries in Beirut. The research investigates, in particular, the negotiation of spaces of sectarian-political conflict and the informal processes and strategies for claiming spaces by different site users and controllers such as residents, militia, and politicians. The study aims to examine the notions of division, connection and negotiation between and within two adjacent and contested sectarian communities of Tarik Al-Jdideh (Sunni majority) and Al-Mazraa (a Sunni and Shiite mixed area with Christian minority) in specific and consequently the ephemeral and concealed borderlines experienced in the city. The research aims to use participatory research methodology by employing design and ethnographic research tools to work with site users/residents on their everyday spatial practices through observation, documentation, analysis and intervention. The research method aims to test the ability of the creative processes to play an active role in sites of conflict by engaging in both; conceptual debates and practical situations inside and outside the geographic site of interest to understand how divisions (or borderlines) are constructed and confirmed in a country as both mental notions and material practices – spatialised and negotiated everyday by people.

Sandra Jasper (Bartlett School of Architecture and Geography)

Cyborg Imaginations: nature, technology, and urban space in West Berlin

Sandra Jasper's work to date has focused on how cities forge relationships between nature, technology and the human body. Her doctoral thesis, Cyborg Imaginations: nature, technology, and urban space in West Berlin (1961-1984), supervised by Professor Matthew Gandy and Dr Peg Rawes, traces urban change in Berlin in the post-war period. To investigate the shifting boundaries between the body and the city by Sandra draws on concepts from urban political ecology, acoustic ecology and on feminist perspectives on bio-political space.

Charlotte Jones (Geography)

The Revival of the Turkish bath in mid-Victorian Britain

Charlotte's thesis examines the revival of the Turkish bath in 1856 and its subsequent movement in relation to health, reform and the body. Her broader research areas fall into three distinct areas; nineteenth century heterodox medical practices (e.g. hydropathy) and how developments in 'cutaneous science' (dermatology) can be explored under the rubric of the body-space nexus and 'technologies of the self'; the role geopolitics played in the revival of the Turkish bath; and the history of the Turkish bath pre-1856.

Torsten Lange (Bartlett School of Architecture)

Critical Thinking, Complex Design: The concept of Komplexe Umweltgestaltung and the problem of complexity and quality in the production of the built environment in 1970s and 1980s East Germany

Awarded funding from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

This thesis explores the issues of complexity and quality in the production of the built environment in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) through, on the one hand, an historic analysis of the theoretical concept of Komplexe Umweltgestaltung [complex design of the environment] as developed by East German architectural theorist Bruno Flierl, and, on the other, a study of construction projects in the capital East Berlin. The aim of the research is to elucidate relationships between architectural discourse within the GDR (and beyond) and building practice during the 1970s and 1980s.

The research is situated within a context of current international scholarship about post-World War II modernity and about new towns and large housing complexes as specific heritage. This international perspective raises questions concerning mutual exchange and observation between the eastern and western parts of divided Germany, and with other western countries such as France and Britain in the late phase of the Cold War.

Lucrezia Lennert (Geography)

The City and the War Machines: Deleuze and Guattari and collective houses in Berlin

This project looks at the organization of, and struggles around, collective living projects (“Hausprojekte”) in contemporary Berlin. Collective houses, the legalized spaces which remain of the German squatter movement of the 1980s and 1990s, are sites in which anarcho-autonomous modes of living, knowledges and practices are elaborated. Increasingly these houses are threatened by the gentrification processes transforming inner-city Berlin as well as by the political will of the city government to eradicate spaces of radical left politics. Through interviews and ethnography the project sets out to understand the non-hierarchical organization and everyday experience of collective living in Berlin, as well how these spaces function as sites of resistance. 

Leah Lovett (Slade School of Fine Art)

Playing space: performing the spatial politics of invisible theatre

Funded by an AHRC BGP Scholarship.

Leah’s practice and thesis begin from an understanding of social structures as spatial and as performed. As an artist, she works collaboratively to make performances, videos, installations and workshops which explore how people negotiate each other and create space through conversation, story-telling and incidental actions. Under the provisional title Playing Space: Performing the Spatial Politics of Invisible Theatre, this practice-related thesis turns to Brazilian theatre practitioner Augusto Boal’s descriptions of invisible theatre as a starting point for considering the spatio-political potential of performance and performative writing. This project draws on the ideas and approaches of critical theorists from a variety of disciplines, including Lefebvre, de Certeau, Doreen Massey and Jane Rendell, and is supervised by Amna Malik, Ben Campkin and Jayne Parker. 

Sam Merrill (Geography)

The Production of Social Memory in the Landscapes of London and Berlin’s Buried Transport Infrastructure

Sam Merrill's research investigates forms of ‘buried’ social memory across the physical, representational and experiential landscapes of the London Underground and Berlin UBahn with the intention to reveal how such memory is manifested and contested.

Aaron Mo (Bartlett School of Planning)

Artworks and Networks: an ethnographic study of creatives and urban spaces in Manchester and Brno

A majority of placemaking practitioners and urbanists who are interested in creative-led development have limited knowledge of the actual workings of creative actors, and how the creative industry operates globally. These voids of knowledge hinder our ability to develop effective creative-oriented development and economic policies. Aaron Mo's Planning Studies thesis and visual essay attempts to address the missing pieces of information by identifying the interactions that may catalyse or hinder different phases and activities of a creatives' practice, and dissimilates how it relates with space and place. The investigations are undertaken in Manchester, England, and Brno, Czech Republic, so to avoid the potentially narrow 'World City' findings cliché.

Louis Moreno (Geography)

The Architecture of Financial Crisis: urban design and urban restructuring in the inner city of London and Leeds (1993 - 2008)

This thesis investigates the role capital investments in new buildings and public spaces in the UK played in the physical restructuring of UK cities, against the backdrop of the build up to the 2008 crash. It explores the new commercial landscape of the City of London and Leeds to try to understand the political and economic processes behind urban investment and architectural transformation. Examining the relationship between the development of commercial property investments in office, apartment and retail space and urban regeneration policies the thesis asks: Did the recent era of asset based growth produce a new approach to urban development and design? If so how were new buildings and spaces related to new capital investment and urban development strategies? What does the production of the built environment tell us about the role of contemporary architectural and urban design in urban economic development?

Braulio Morera (Geography)

The politics of sustainability: new environmental metaphors in Chinese urban development

Ana Maria Muñoz Boudet (Geography)

Power, agency and citizenship: public spaces of the city, Santiago de Chile

Ana María is undertaking her research while working as a consultant with the Gender and Poverty Group of the World Bank’s Latin America and the Caribbean Operational Region. 

Giles Omezi (Geography)

The history of infrastructure provision in Lagos, Nigeria

Regner Ramos (Bartlett School of Architecture) 

Revival of the Cyborg: Embodiment, Technology, and the Built Environment

This dissertation seeks to situate the current spatio-temporal condition of the modern-like cyborg-citizen within the built environment. Where theorists have addressed the role of the cyborg in science, politics, and performance, a fissure in the discourse is left to address the role of the cyborg within architecture. Through theories of performance, participation, embodiment, space, and technology, and innovative methodological solutions, the cyborg might find its home back in urban spaces with the aid of new dimensions in architecture and cyberspace.

From man’s dependency on technology, to the cyborg’s portrayal in sci-fi cinema; from gender differences, to notions of the abject, the cyborg has cunningly found its relevancy into this research and back into the twenty-first century. Through digital devices, and echoing theories of affection, how do people make sense of themselves, their environments, and interpersonal relationships?

David Roberts (Bartlett School of Architecture)

Make Public: performing the pursuit of public housing

Funded by a UCL Graduate Research Scholarship and an AHRC Studentship in Architectural Design.

The history of housing the working population in Britain has a predictable circularity in architectural form; one generation’s panacea becomes the next generation’s problem, only to be reappraised with remorse after it has passed. This thesis is a practical and theoretical research project into this cycle. It follows the life of an inner-city housing estate in London to allow its inhabitants to reflect on the utopian promises of public housing in order to reclaim the principles of equality, dignity and security at its foundation.

The project focuses on the Haggerston West Estate built in the late 1930s by the London County Council Housing Department which is to be demolished in 2013 and replaced by a mixed tenure and mixed funded development typical of contemporary regeneration programmes. The retreat of social welfare under austerity measures has paved the way for a dismantling of public housing in ideal and form. This has catalysed a groundswell of renewed interest in housing estates from academics and practitioners seeking to mend their conceptual, built and social fabric. I draw from the work of Alison Ravetz, Andrea Phillips and Paul Watt and the practice of Jane Rendell, Peter Watkins and Mike Pearson to create a dialogue between debates in architectural history, critical theory and housing policy and self-reflexive, socially critical practices in writing, filmmaking and site-specific performance. 

Vicente Sandoval (Development Planning Unit)

The progression of vulnerability: multi-scalar interpretation of disasters

This study aims to investigate the social production of disaster risk and its relation with contemporary notions of geographical scales. Specifically, this research looks for linkages of the progression of vulnerability at different geographical scales; local, urban, regional, national and/or global. In so doing, this work seeks to contribute to the disciplinary debate on the social production of disaster risk by providing a critical understanding of the progression of vulnerability as a multi-scalar phenomenon. 

Myfanwy Taylor (Geography)

Nurturing London's diverse economies: re-thinking urban planning for diverse economies

Myfanwy's PhD is concerned with the role of planning in relation to economic development in London. Diversity is an important starting point for her work, in light of the tendency within urban theory, policy and practice to focus on a narrow sub-set of activities thought to be productive and generative of urban growth, in particular financial services, creative and high-tech industries. The role of economic diversity in fostering innovation and resilience in cities also means that it may become an increasingly important focus of urban policy and planning in times of economic crisis and austerity urbanism. Finely-grained, incremental approaches that work with existing economies may be needed in place of large-scale development schemes. One might also point to the increasing recognition of the importance of jobs and livelihoods, rather than GDP growth alone, at the same time as living costs rise and welfare support is withdrawn or reduced.

Ophelie Véron (Geography)

Deconstructing the Divided City: Ethnic, Social an Cultural Divisions in a Balkan Capital

Saffron Woodcraft (Anthropology)

Re-imagining the London Terrace: sustainability, community and the urban family in East London

Why do some planned new communities flourish and others fail? How do new urban neighbourhoods represent political narratives about what a 21st century city should be? And how are competing ideas about urban development, sustainability, citizenship, community, family and home materialized in new communities? This research will address these questions by looking at how a new community in London is imagined, constructed and inhabited. Saffron is interested in how narratives about London's future, economic growth, housing need and sustainable development are interpreted by the planners, architects, developers and public agencies working on those neighbourhoods to create new visions of urban social life and new built forms.

Recently completed PhDs

Katy Beinart (Bartlett School of Architecture)

Salted Earth: Mining diasporic memory, surfacing voice, and building new composites of narrative and regeneration in contested urban sites

Johan Andersson (Planning) 

Consuming visibility: London’s new spaces of gay nightlife

Melanie Brickman Stynes (Geography)

The resurgence of tuberculosis in London and New York

David Gissen (Geography/Architecture)

Atmospheres of late modernity the urban production of indoor air in New York City, 1963 – 2003

Sophie Handler (Bartlett School of Architecture)

A little bit of TLC, (Urban curating, ageing and regeneration in Newham, East London)

Clare Herrick (Geography)

Governing the ‘obesity epidemic’: putting preventative public health to work in London and Austin

Joseph Hillier (Engineering)

Hydropolis: a history of water, engineering and power in London

Karolina Kendall-Bush (Film Studies)

Moving city: the ambulatory urban experience in film, memory and walking tours

Regan Koch (Geography)

Eating in public: Re-imagining collective urban space

Leandro Minuchin (Geography)

Material imaginations: architecture, nature and politics in Buenos Aires, 1929-49

Brent Pilkey (Bartlett School of Architecture)

Queering heteronormativity at home in London

Valerie Viehoff (Geography)

Engineering modernity: the provision of water for Tangier

Tse-Hui Teh (Engineering)

Hydro-urbanism: reconfiguring the urban water-cycle

Astrid Wood (Geography)

Peripatetic planning: an exploration of South African policy mobilizers

Stamatis Zografos (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Architecture and fire: an archival approach to architectural conservation

Page last modified on 15 nov 12 16:28


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