The Bartlett


Building Better: The Bartlett Podcast

The cities and human spaces that we build worldwide have a huge impact on our daily lives, our societies, and our planet. In this podcast, we’re asking the big question: how can we build better?

Building Better: The Bartlett Podcast graphic with multicoloured building blocks showing people in the windows listening to a podcast

Welcome to this podcast series from The Bartlett, UCL’s Faculty of the Built Environment. In each episode, experts from The Bartlett and the built environment sector explore some of the world’s most important challenges, and how we can build better for everyone.

Guided by our host Christoph Lindner, former Dean of The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment, we discover diverse perspectives and insights from a range of subject areas at The Bartlett to help us open up new ideas and spark innovative solutions for our world.  

We’re calling this podcast Building Better because that’s exactly what we want to do. 

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Season Three

Episode 1: Space on Fire

In the first episode of Building Better Season Three, we discuss fire and the role it plays in architecture and design.

Throughout history, fire has shaped the cities we live in, and the risks of urban fire in a warming climate are ever-increasing. Host Christoph speaks to three guests from within and outside the UCL community to discuss their work with fire:

  • Professor Jose Torero Cullen, Head of the Department of Civil, Environmental, Geomatic and Environmental Engineering and specialist in fire safety engineering
  • Dr Eva Branscome, Associate Professor, Architectural History and Theory, The Bartlett School of Architecture and Mentor at SPID Theatre
  • Naomi Israel, Youth Ambassador for SPID Theatre and co-director of The Burning Tower which explored the impact and response to the Grenfell Tower Fire

TW: This episode discusses the Grenfell tower fire as well as other fires from across the world and throughout history and has reference to death and injury; however, these will not be discussed in great, explicit detail.

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Episode 2: Black Voices in the Built Environment

In this episode, we explore the role of racism and colonialism in the construction of the built environment and how we can improve. 

In October 2022 we have been marking Black History Month at The Bartlett through talks, workshops and our series Black Perspectives in the Built Environment which explores architects, researchers and activists who have shaped – and are shaping – our field.   

In this episode of Building Better, we are joined by two guests to discuss the ways that racism and colonialism have influenced people who study, design, create and live in built environments: 

  • Omoleye Ojuri, Honorary lecturer at The Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction, Senior Lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University and World Bank Scholar
  • Kudzai Matsvai, architectural activist and founder of the BLAC Collective at the University of Liverpool and the Wedzera Network 

Through this discussion, we explore the legacy of racism and colonialism in the built environment, conversations about anti-racism, and how we can improve.

Content warning: in this episode we are going to discuss racism and colonialism within the built environment and the systemic violence that this has caused toward Black communities around the world. 

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About the speakers: 

Omoleye Esan-Ojuri is a World Bank Scholar and a Fellow of the Schlumberger Foundation Faculty for the Future. She did her undergraduate training in Quantity surveying. She has a M.Phil in Infrastructure Management from Yokohama National University, Japan. Furthermore, she has a PhD in Construction and Project Management from the University College London’s Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management (Now Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction). She is an Honourary Lecturer at the Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction and a Senior Lecturer in School of Civil Engineering and Built Environment at Liverpool John Moores University. She is a module leader for Construction Procurement including Management Theory and Practice. Besides lecturing, she is a researcher. She seeks to understand how social value is developed, created and measured in infrastructure projects. She works on the delivery of infrastructure projects beyond basic functionality but to include broader social outcomes and create additional value for the end-users in terms of well-being, mental health, among other forms of social value.

As part of her extracurricular activities and community development, she is passionate about mentoring young girls and women. She is the founder and coordinator of Fullexcellence Foundation for Women (www.fullexcellence.org). This represents her commitment to supporting one million young women in pursuit of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and STEM careers by the year 2030. She recently published a novella – "Breaking stiff Boundaries". It is a thinly disguised memoir of the challenges that a woman from the Global South faced in pursuing a doctoral degree at an elite global research university.

She was the Guest Lecturer on "The Built Environment Landscape Frontiers in the 21st century", during the 2019 Directorate of Physical Planning Annual Lecture at the Federal Polytechnic, Ile-Oluji, Nigeria.

Kudzai Matsvai is a recent master's graduate from the Liverpool School of Architecture and a self-proclaimed architectural activist. 

She believes that in our current global climate it is vital that architects endeavour to creatively and authentically engage with diverse histories and communities in order to deliver design solutions that are truly inclusive, equitable, and accessible. This cannot be achieved until the profession itself is more diverse and inclusive, and so she is fighting to make architecture a more accessible and achievable career path for marginalised individuals. 

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Episode 3: Building Better Before the Clock Runs Out

In November 2022, the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties of UNFCCC, or COP27, was hosted in Egypt.  

Throughout the conference, heads of state, ministers, climate activists and academics met to discuss and reach agreements on how to mitigate and prevent the impact of climate change. 

In this episode of Building Better, we spoke to two Bartlett faculty members about their experience of attending the conference and what it means for the built environment sector around the world: 

  • Lilia Caiado Coelho Beltrao Couto, PhD Candidate at the Institute for Sustainable Resources and Chapter Scientist and Research assistant for the IPCC AR6 Mitigation report 
  • Dr Efrosyni Konstantinou, Senior Lecturer at the Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction   

Through their research and expertise, we'll explore the current global attitude towards climate change, and solutions to build better before the clock runs out. 

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Episode 4: To Queer Space

In this episode of Building Better, we spoke to two people within and outside of The Bartlett about ‘queering space’: how we can build spaces that suit community needs and what queerness means in the context of design. 

Our guests were: 

‘Queering space’ is a theme that we touched on in our first ever episode of Building Better, when we spoke to Lo Marshall about their research into LGBTQ+ nightlife. Through this discussion we continued that conversation by asking what makes a space safe for LGBTQ+ people and interrogating what it means to bring queerness into a space.  

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Episode 5: Moving Protest Beyond Borders

Exploring the role that space and occupation play in modern, global protest movements. 

In this episode we speak to two researchers about their work on the local and global protest movement in India, based on their project Transnational Infrastructures of Resistance:  

  • Dr Ufaque Paiker, Ashoka University and PhD in Modern Indian History from the Jawaharlal Nehru University 
  • Dr Raktim Ray, lecturer and joint program leader at The Bartlett Development Planning Unit 

They share their research and expertise on the changing shape of modern protest movements and transnational solidarity, and how activism can cross communities and borders.  

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Episode 6: Not Enough Space

In our final episode of the season, we explore the UK housing crisis, its causes and potential solutions for the future. 

We are currently in a cost of living crisis with renting and renters’ rights particularly precarious in the UK. The number of people sleeping rough is higher than pre-pandemic and many are experiencing homelessness for the first time. A huge part of this problem is the housing market and how it operates. 

Join us for our final episode of the season, where host Christoph speaks to two guests to talk about the housing system and potential alternatives:

  • Samir Jeraj, writer at the New Statesman, commissioning editor at Hyphen and co-author of the Rent Trap
  • Saffron Woodcraft, Principal Research Fellow at the Bartlett’s Institute for Global Prosperity

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Season Two

Episode 1: Please Switch on your Cameras

Is online space real space? Does it, should it and can it work in the same way and follow the same rules?

This is a big question that couldn’t possibly be answered in one episode, so we thought we’d be a bit more specific and ask, what does, or should, an online classroom look like?

Alongside two innovative educators from The Bartlett School of Architecture, host Christoph explores their personal experiences of teaching during the pandemic and ideas around how we might reinvent what a classroom looks like in the future.

Join Elizabeth Dow, an Associate Professor and Senior Departmental Tutor who leads the Architectural & Interdisciplinary Studies BSc and Alvaro Lopez-Rodriguez, a lecturer (teaching) and researcher in digital manufacturing and augmented reality for a reflective discussion on the possibilities - and limitations - of online teaching. 

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Episode 2: Are Buildings Gendered? 

In the second episode of season two, host Christoph speaks with two researchers at The Bartlett to think about buildings and how we can see society’s understanding of gender dynamics and imbalances of power reflected in them.

Join Maria Venegas Raba, an architectural historian, PhD student in transnational histories of Latin-American modernist architecture and lecturer (teaching) in the Architectural & Interdisciplinary Studies BSc at The Bartlett School of Architecture and Dr Jos Boys, a senior lecturer in Environments for Learning in the Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction and co-founder of Matrix and The DisOrdinary Architecture Project for a fascinating conversation about accessibility, de-colonialism and equity within architecture.

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Episode 3: Blocked by Design

In episode three, we're exploring accessibility within the built environment. We want to know: why aren't we more aware, more conscious, more active in trying to fully consider accessibility when we create new spaces? And what are the ways in which we need to shift our thinking to ensure spaces are accessible to everyone? 

Tune in to hear Christoph speak with Zoe Partington, an award-winning contemporary artist, creative consultant, and co-founder of the DisOrdinary Architecture Project and Dr Barbara Penner, Professor of Architectural Humanities at The Bartlett School of Architecture about their work in this area and how Urban Design can be radically reworked to become more inclusive.

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Episode 4: Bright Lights, Big City

We’re looking towards the light in episode four. We wanted to understand more about the thought processes behind lighting spaces and the considerations that need to be made when designing with light. With this in mind, we reached out to two experts on light from The UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering.

Join host Christoph for a fascinating discussion on the different kinds of light: from healthy light, safe light, indoor light, outdoor light, public light, all the way to the future of light with Dr Jemima Unwin Teji, lecturer and programme lead for the Light and Lighting MSc and Lorna Flores-Villa, Industrial Designer and PhD student.

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Episode 5: Making Space for Young People in Design

Learn how The Bartlett is working to create a new generation of designers and architects who feel empowered to build a better world. 

So far in this series, we’ve talked a lot about the limitations of space and how to make the built environment better, fairer, and more accessible to everyone and much of that conversation has centred around getting more voices involved in the design process, opening up architecture to a more diverse community. 

Join host Christoph for episode five in conversation with The Bartlett's Senior Outreach Officer, Kemi Hassan, alongside Matthew Springett and Fiona MacDonald of Matt + Fiona, a social enterprise that gets young people involved in the development of their built environment and empowers them to have their say.

Throughout the episode, we discuss Design Unlimited, an exciting outreach project for London state schools with a focus on KS3 students in years 7 – 9 and find out more about how The Bartlett is working in partnership to create a new generation of designers and architects who feel empowered to build a better world.

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Season One

Episode 1: Taking up Space
We wanted to know how spaces can be designed to best serve the people who need them, and what happens when spaces are designed to shut people out or divide them.
For our first episode, host Christoph is joined by Lo Marshall, urban geographer and Research Fellow at the UCL Urban Laboratory and Bartlett School of Architecture and Dr Grant Mills, Associate Professor in the Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management, to explore space and how communities create it.
Lo and Grant discuss their work around redesigning spaces and understanding the communities that live in them, from late-night drag venues to state of the art modern hospitals.

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Episode 2: Looking backwards to look forwards

In Episode 2, we want to know how research that explores the past can help us to better understand the present, and maybe even predict the future. 

Approaching the past through uniquely innovative methods, host Christoph speaks to three researchers at The Bartlett: Professor Mike Batty, Emeritus Professor of Planning and Chair of The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Dr Katherine Curran, Associate Professor at the UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage, and Dr Judy Stephenson, Associate Professor in economics and finance of the built environment at The Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management about how they study and interrogate the past to help us solve the problems we face today. 

From digital data and mapping to the heritage of plastics to the history of labour markets and construction in England, we're trying to answer the question: how can we use the history of materials and the history of people to build a better future?

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Episode 3: Space and the City

Does public space have a future?

In Episode 3, host Christoph speaks to Dr Maria Kamargianni, Associate Professor of Transport and Energy in the Bartlett School of Environment, Energy and Resources and Head of MaaSLab, Dr Lucy Natarajan, Lecturer (teaching) from the Bartlett School of Planning, and Dr Leah Lovett, artist and Research Fellow at the Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis to explore how the creation and use of public space is changing.

The past year has dramatically shifted how we access public space. From COVID-19 restrictions to concerns around how we police and regulate public spaces, this episode explores public space as a contested space, and what’s at stake for the future use, meaning and function of public spaces in the city.

Episode 4: After the crisis, should London slow down?

In Episode 4, we're talking about slowness, and specifically, what slowness means in the context of a city or a space.

Slowness is something we've been particularly interested in during the pandemic, which seems to have slowed some parts of the world right down whilst speeding the rest up.

To help us think about slowness, host Christoph speaks to Pedro Gil, an architect and Senior Teaching Fellow at the Bartlett School of Architecture and Dr Elsa Arcaute, Associate Professor in the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA). 

Listen in to hear their thoughts on slowness and questions around privileged slowness, vicarious slowness, involuntary slowness, and speed as a form of power.

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Episode 5: How should we heat our homes?

In Episode 5, we want to know: how will we heat our homes in the future?

And who better to answer this question than two researchers from the UCL Energy Institute, a world-leading initiative, delivering learning, research, and policy support on the challenges of Climate Change and energy security.

Join host Christoph in conversation with Dr Jenny Crawley, Research Fellow in Energy and Buildings, and Dr Jez Wingfield, Senior Technician in Physical Building Performance to learn about the different possibilities for a more sustainable future in the UK and what barriers lie in the way. 

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Episode 6: How do you dissolve an industry fairly?

In the final episode of Building Better series one, we continue our exploration of the design considerations of tackling climate change.

In Episode 5, we discussed how we might heat our homes in the future. Now, we want to take a step back and consider things on a larger scale. Instead of talking about building the future, we’re going to be thinking about breaking things down.

Join host Christoph alongside Professor Jacqueline Glass, Chair in Construction Management in the Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction and Vice Dean of Research at The Bartlett, and Dr Rokia Raslan, an Associate Professor in the Bartlett School of Environment Energy & Resources and Vice Dean for Innovation here at the Bartlett as they explore the unintended consequences of switching to more sustainable building practices and find out how we can best mitigate them by asking “how do you dissolve an industry fairly?”

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