The Bartlett is home to some of the most talented staff, students and alumni in the world, tackling some of the most urgent problems facing our planet, says Dean Christoph Lindner.
Since its creation a hundred years ago, The Bartlett has been a place that has addressed important design, societal and spatial issues. But the expertise we bring together in the faculty is needed now more than ever.
Our ability to reshape the built environment for a more resilient and just future is going to be essential to how we survive the climate emergency. We live in a world where cities are slowly killing us. In extreme cases, we can’t breathe the air, we can’t drink the water, we can’t walk the streets. Cities and buildings are too often places of unhealthiness – and that needs to be flipped completely. Cities should be places where we thrive. They should enrich our lives and empower us. Rapid environmental change is adding new pressure to the global situation by exacerbating existing threats and creating new ones.
A shared concern that connects all of our Schools and Institutes across The Bartlett is the unequal impact of climate change on cities and communities around the world. Our many areas of expertise give us the ability to do something meaningful about this. For example, we have people working on different aspects of environmental sustainability in the emerging era of climate emergency and injustice, running the gamut from architectural design and city planning, to shaping government policy, to technological innovations in materials and building. Over the next year, we will be doing more to support that work, to give it greater visibility and to map the points of connection around climate-change research and teaching across The Bartlett and UCL.
A strength of our faculty is that the work we do in the studio, in the classroom and in our field research is relevant and applied to the real world. In the area of climate change in particular, we can draw on a robust body of work that is already helping societies to understand the nature and scale of the problems we face and to begin developing solutions.
We are not alone in being concerned about climate change, and it is important that we continue our collaborations with other departments within UCL, with partner institutions, and with partners in government and industry around the world. Our work necessitates such collaboration and it is something to be embraced. In addition, our breadth of expertise gives us the ability to engage with multiple public audiences locally, nationally and globally. These opportunities for knowledge exchange enable us to ‘think out loud’ about the implications of climate change for the built environment writ large.
One area where this is particularly important is in identifying the inequalities that are embedded in studying the built environment in a time of climate emergency. This means tackling issues of equity and inclusion. It also means increasing diversity within The Bartlett and the built-environment professions.
The Bartlett Promise, which we launched in October 2019, is part of this effort and will offer scholarships worth a total of £1.2 million to students from under-represented backgrounds. It covers fees, living costs and study costs. Recipients also receive mentoring, personal support and careers advice throughout their studies.
In the first year, the scholarship is open to students from the UK and EU applying to our undergraduate degrees in The Bartlett School of Architecture, School of Planning and School of Construction and Project Management. In the future, the Promise scholarship will extend to all parts of The Bartlett and to students at all levels of study, including international applicants.
Increasing our diversity as a community is absolutely critical to our future success. In relation to social justice, it is the right thing to do in a world marked by historic, ingrained imbalances of power that need to be rebalanced. Another reason why it’s important is that creativity and innovation flourish under conditions of diversity. By this, I mean diversity in the full, multiple sense of that word – a diversity of languages, histories, identities, cultures, ethnographies, geographies, and more. We are enriched as an academic community by including more people and more perspectives in our conversations. The Bartlett is a place that thrives on difference.
So if we truly want to address something as urgent and daunting as climate change, we need to attract the very best talent from all over the world and at home. The Promise increases our ability to accomplish this.
The Bartlett is world-leading because we think radically and act boldly. As we head into 2020, we recommit to that ethos. We will continue to innovate, take risks and experiment. We will challenge ourselves to push the boundaries of what’s possible.
Professor in Urban Studies
Dean, UCL Faculty of the Built Environment