The Bartlett School of Architecture


How Can I Build Change? Architectural Activism Against the Status Quo

22 March 2021, 5:00 pm–7:30 pm

Graffiti on a train in Germany

Young architects and activists join academics in a roundtable discussion to question how designers can interrupt architectural dogma and challenge the status quo.

This event is free.

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Alessandro Toti

Alessandro Toti will chair this roundtable discussion between Dr Tilo Amhoff of University of Brighton, Prof Belinda Davis of Rutgers University, Dr Alexander Vasudevan of University of Oxford, Nina Gribat of Brandenburg University of Technology and Jacob Stringer of the London Renters' Union, as well as speakers from United Voices of the World and Deutsche Wohnen und Co Enteignen.


As a result of both the worsening of architects’ working conditions and the unveiling of the architecture industry's responsibilities in the current social and ecological crisis, more and more young architects are confronting the question of how they can make a difference. This is a roundtable event to discuss different strategies of architectural and urban activism experimented with in 1970s West Berlin and in present-day London and Berlin. During the roundtable, academics will construct a dialogue with young architects and activists to understand the boundaries and the potentials of their disciplinary agency. Discussing issues like architects' trade unions, tenants’ organisations, squatting movements and urban campaigns, the panel will question the architectural dogma of effecting change only by design and the panel will debate ways to actively and collectively organise to challenge the status quo. 

Speaker biographies

Belinda Davis

Belinda Davis is Professor of History at Rutgers University and Director of the Rutgers Center for European Studies.  She is author or co-editor of four books, including Changing the World, Changing Oneself: Political Protest and Transnational Identities in 1960s/70s, West Germany and the U.S. (NY 2010), co-edited with M. Klimke, C. MacDougall, and W. Mausbach; and The Internal Life of Politics: Extraparliamentary Opposition in West Germany, 1962-1983 (Cambridge); as well as Home Fires Burning: Food, Politics, and Everyday Life in World War I Berlin (Chapel Hill 2000). She has served on the advisory board of the Center for Metropolitan Studies, Technical University Berlin.

Nina Gribat

Nina Gribat is Professor for Urban Planning at Brandenburg University of Technology. She has taught and held research positions at the University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University, the University of Stuttgart, the Berlin Institute of Technology Berlin, the University of Strasbourg, and a professorship for Design and Urbanism at TU Darmstadt. Her research interests include: urban development conflicts in contexts of urban shrinkage and rapid urban growth; intersections between material and socio-cultural aspects in urban transformation processes; and educational and professional reform movements in architecture and planning. Nina Gribat is a member of the editorial collective of the open access journal sub\urban. Zeitschrift für kritische Stadtforschung.

Alexander Vasudevan

Alexander Vasudevan is Associate Professor in Human Geography and Fellow at Christ Church at the University of Oxford. Alexander's work explores the city as a site of political contestation drawing on a range of methods (archival, ethnographic and participatory). He is the author of The Autonomous City: A History of Urban Squatting (Verso 2017), Metropolitan Preoccupations: The Spatial Politics of Squatting in Berlin (Wiley-Blackwell 2015) and co-editor of Geographies of Forced Evictions: Dispossession, Violence, Insecurity (Palgrave). Alexander’s current research focuses on radical politics and precarious urban living. He is working on a project on the history of the anti-psychiatry movement.  

Tilo Amhoff

Tilo Amhoff is a Senior Lecturer in Architectural Humanities at the University of Brighton. His research explores the various labours and the social, economic, and political conditions of the social process of the production of architecture. Tilo Amhoff co-edited Produktionsbedingungen der Architektur (2018), together with Gernot Weckherlin and Henrik Hilbig, and Industries of Architecture (2015), together with Katie Lloyd Thomas and Nick Beech. He is the Chair of the Steering Committee of the Architectural Humanities Research Association (AHRA) and a founder member of Netzwerk Architekturwissenschaft, where he co-directs the “Architecture and Building” working group. His current book project, entitled The Making of Plans, investigates the beginnings of the architectural, urban, and economic plan as an instrument and product of regulation, organisation, and administration in Germany.

Deutsche Wohnen und Co Enteignen

Deutsche Wohnen und Co Enteignen was formed in 2017 by activists of the Berlin tenants movement. Their aim is to socialise about 240,000 flats from real estate corporations through a referendum.

Jacob Stringer

Jacob Stringer is a member of London Renters' Union and a researcher with Queen Mary, University of London. He is interested in housing, land and social change and recently set up a housing co-operative.

United Voices of the World

United Voices of the World Section of Architectural Workers (UVW-SAW), is a member-led trade union for architectural workers in the U.K, formed in 2019. Members of SAW collectively take action and fight against the negative impacts of architectural work on workers, communities, and the environment.

Alessandro Toti

Alessandro Toti is a PhD candidate at the Bartlett School of Architecture UCL in Architectural History and Theory. His research focuses on urban transformations and social struggles in 20th century European cities.

More information

Image: Straßen aus Zucker