The Bartlett School of Architecture


Sabina Andron

Torn posters and graffiti on a wall



Skin Deep: The Material Site Specificity of Urban Surface Inscriptions

First and second supervisors 


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, I look 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 I explore through photographical practice and interpret through semiotic analysis.


Sabina is an MPhil/PhD student at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, with a thesis on the material site specificity of street art, graffiti and other forms of independent inscriptions that shape our city surfaces.

Driven by a passion for the marginally visible, she observes and documents different textures and marks on the built environment, and tries to make sense of their layering and spatial arrangement.

A background in literature and visual culture keeps her fascinated by the language / image dynamics, which gets reflected in her practices as a copywriter and urban surface photographer.

Sabina is also in charge of I Know What I Like, a London based organisation that handles urban & street art education through in situ activities like customised tours, debates and gallery visits.