The Bartlett School of Architecture


Sol Perez-Martinez

Sol Perez-Martinez | PhD Thesis | Urban Studies Centres and Built Environment Education in Britain 1968-1988: A Framework for Critical Urban Pedagogy today?

Photo montage of students at work around a table and a student with a video camera



Urban Studies Centres and Built Environment Education in Britain 1968-1988: A Framework for Critical Urban Pedagogy today?

First and second supervisors


Britain has a long tradition of built environment education for youth that has been historically overlooked, leaving the story of the Urban Studies Centres of 1970s untold. As a result of this omission, we keep regurgitating old ideas rebranded as new in an incompatible educational and socio-political context and have neglected good practices that could be fruitful at present. This thesis seeks to address this ‘historical amnesia' and to study the delivery of built environment education in Britain, in particular between 1968 and 1988, to inform and promote a critical urban pedagogy today, based on what we can learn from the past.

In 2013 the Farrell Review – commissioned by the British Government – recommended implementing built environment education in all schools and to open an ‘urban room’ in every town and city in Britain to study the local environment (Farrell, 2014). However, the report doesn’t acknowledge that these ideas were already developed during the 1970s by the Town and Country Planning Association and its educational director, Colin Ward (Hardy, 1991). Nor does it tackle why they declined, just to fail in similar issues. 

This project continues the work of Ward and his colleagues aimed at balancing the ecological bias of place-based educational theories by incorporating the study of the urban environment, and deepens a general overview of built environment education in Britain, developed by Bishop, Kean and Adams in 1992. Also, it seeks to link the recommendations of the Farrell Review to educational theories like pedagogy of place literature by Dewey, Gruenewald and Smith and de-schooling literature by Freire, Illich and Goodman. But more importantly, it seeks to create a common ground between architecture, education and politics for further work. 

This research is a historical project with a design element and will be structured in three sections. Firstly, it will give the theoretical context and will position the project in the intersection of built environment, pedagogy and civic agency. Secondly, it will focus on the spaces, tools and voices involved in the history of built environment education in Britain through the study of the Bulletin of Environmental Education 1971–1988, newly conducted interviews with key actors and archival findings related to Urban Studies Centres. And finally, it will explore the design of a framework for a critical urban pedagogy in two educational settings as the product of an interdisciplinary work between teachers, students and built environment professionals. The proposal will seek to develop civic and environmental awareness through the critical inquiry of the local urban environment, aiming to “enable people to become the masters of their own environment” (Ward, 1995).


Sol Perez-Martinez is an architect, researcher and educator. She holds an architecture professional degree and a Master’s in architecture from Universidad Catolica de Chile, and a Master’s in architectural history from The Bartlett School of Architecture.

Before coming to London, Sol was a lecturer in architectural history at Universidad Catolica de Chile and ran an independent architectural practice in Santiago. Between 2009 and 2013 she and her partners had the opportunity to build more than 10,000 square meters for private clients and the Chilean government. Their last public building was a school in the South of Chile that encouraged her research about learning environments and built environment education. Currently Sol works as a researcher at UCL and as an architecture consultant in the UK and Chile.