The Bartlett Development Planning Unit



To commemorate our Anniversary we revisited some of the people, places and moments that have made the DPU what it is today, and explored future challenges for urban development planning and education.

DPU Anniversary Conference: Thinking Across Boundaries: Re-Imagining Planning in the Urban Global South

The DPU hosted an international conference between 2 and 4 July 2014. The conference was attended by over 200 people and featured speakers across 8 sessions. A summary of proceedings can be viewed on the dpu blog, and podcasts of all of the sessions are available to listen to/download.

DPU Anniversary Conference

Thinking Across Boundaries: Re-Imagining Planning in the Urban Global South

Our Anniversary Conference took place between 2 and 4 July 2014. It was one of the highlights of a year of celebrations marking the DPU’s 60 years of education, training, research, consultancy and knowledge sharing in urban and regional development policy and planning in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

Over 200 people attended the conference in total, joining a range of speakers drawn from academia, practice and community organisation. The themes of the conference were:

A future for urban development planning? Thinking across boundaries A future for urban development planning?  Approaches to urban inequality and informality in cities of the global south  Participation and contested practices in urban design and planning: rights, needs and urban imaginaries



Several outputs were launched during or shortly after the event:

If you were not able to join us, or would like to revisit an of the conference sessions, recordings can be listened to or downloaded from our DPU60 podcasts. In the build up to the event we release three videos as part of the mini-series Thinking Across Boundaries: Planning Dilemmas in the Urban Global South, which are outputs from the research project of the same name. To coincide with the start of the event the DPU Reflections Working Paper Series was launched, featuring papers from former DPU staff. Sixty Years of Urban Development: A Short History of the DPU: The booklet was disseminated and is now available to view on Issuu. A series of interviews filmed with former DPU staff - Looking Back, Looking Forward - was on display throughout the event. A poster exhibition, Theses Across Boundaries, presented the work of our current crop of PhD students, and was present throughout the 3 days of the conference.
  • Re-imagining socio-environmental trajectories of change: Radical practices and approaches to environmental planning and governance
  • Forging new relationships in governance and planning: the state, market and society in a post economic crisis world
  • Urban Development and development assistance
  • Gender, intersectionality and socially just futures: Planning in an era of social polarisation
  • Positioning planning learning in an urbanizing world: the challenge of practitioner formation and the co-production of knowledge

Thinking Across Boundaries: Planning dilemmas in the urban global south

Initiated in 2013 with support from UCL Grand Challenges/Sustainable Cities, this project interrogates the continued significance of notion of the ‘urban global south’ and the implications for urban planning theory and practice. It does so through a series of interviews with our peers working across the globe, compiled in two films. The first was launched at a panel discussion in August 2013 at the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) Annual International Conference.

Thinking Across Boundaries

Thinking Across Boundaries: Planning Dilemmas in the Urban Global South

The Development Planning Unit is critically reflecting on a dominant theme in both its own practice and within current development planning and practice. It is engaging in this process by convening a panel discussion, which took place at the Royal Geographical Society Annual Conference in London on 30 August 2013) and commissioning a video featuring the DPU in conversation with key actors in the debate, that can be widely disseminated (see below).

The notion of the ‘urban global south’ has made a rapid career in contemporary debates about urbanisation, development and globalisation. It is also, however, facing increasing scepticism. Are we running the risk of aborting a powerful concept before its capacity to rexoginenate planning debates has been fully explored? If we agree with Ananya Roy that planning is both the ‘face of power and order’ and ‘social struggle’ in urbanisation processes, what possibilities does the notion of the ‘urban global south’ open for thinking and acting upon cities?

Within these series of  videos, we would like to question what invoking the ‘urban global south’ involves as a progressive critique of contemporary forms of urbanisation, planning and politics. Calling upon a range of key contributors to this debate, we aim to reproblematise the notion of planning in/for the ‘urban global South’ from an ontological, epistemological and axiological perspective. The panel will explore the following interlinked set of questions:

1.    Why call it the ‘urban global south’?

What is the urban global south? What processes make cities and citizens in certain parts of the world ‘different’? What does such difference entail and how should it be treated theoretically and practically? Are we simply reacting to the perceived inability of terms such as the ‘Third World’, ‘Developing World’ and ‘Industrialising Countries” to capture the urban in the midst of globalisation? Or are we seeking to aprehend something profoundly distinctive about the contemporary geography of urbanisation and development?

 2.    What kind of urban theory is required?

Are those key theoretical perspectives concerned with reproblematising the urban condition, canvassing something intrinsically distinctive about the trajectories of urbanisation and development outside advanced capitalist economies? If so, are they rendering maintream theorisations of the urban obsolete? Do we require a new urban theory or the reworking of existing conceptualisations?

3.    What kind of planning and praxis?

What do current debates on the urban global south imply for planning and praxis? Do they simply denote the need for contextualised approaches? Or do they call for a reconceptualisation of planning? Do they need to be delinked or relinked from Western planning theory? Do they open new avenues for emancipatory action? Why, with what consequences and for whom?

The session convened at the RGS Annual Conference was chaired by Caren Levy (DPU). With inputs from panelists Adriana Allen (DPU), Edesio Fernandes (DPU Associates), Aromar Revi (Indian Institute for Informal Settlements) and Mark Swilling (Sustainability Institute, Stellenbosch University)

Visit http://dputab.wordpress.com/ to learn more about the project and keep up to date with developments as new content is added.

The project is driven by Adriana Allen, Caren Levy, Barbara Lipietz and Colin Marx, with the support of UCL Grand Challenge of Sustainable Cities.

DPU Dialogues in Development

Throughout 2014 there was a series of ‘Dialogues’ between DPU staff and selected international academics and practitioners. All of the events have been recorded and are available to watch or listen to on YouTube (for videos) or Mixcloud (for podcasts).

DPU Dialogues in Development

Throughout 2014 we hosted many events in our 60th Anniversary Dialogues in Development series.

These touched upon different aspects of our work, from the future of urban design and urban economies, to international housing policy and the Sustainable Development Goals. You can view the full list of the year’s events below, and catch up with some of those you may have missed via YouTube (videos) or Mixcloud (podcasts).

We also held a series of events at the World Urban Forum in Medellin, Colombia in April 2014 and an international conference in London in July 2014, for which full podcasts of all of the sessions are also available.

Download a pdf version of our 2014 events programme: 

PDF icondpu60_conference_programme.pdf

Outside In, Inside Out: Launching DPU60
Watch highlights on YouTube | Listen on Mixcloud
29 January 2014
Anticity and the Future of the Public Sphere
Watch on YouTube | Listen on Mixcloud
11 February 2014
Gender in Policy and Planning: Mainstreamed? Manipulated? Or Sidelined?26 March 2014
DPU at the World Urban Forum in Medellin, Colombia5-11 April 2014
Avoid, bury or improve? What to do with the MDGs post 2015
Listen on Mixcloud
12 June 2014
DPU Conference 'Thinking Across Boundaries: Re-Imagining Planning in the Urban Global South'
View DPU60 podcasts
2-4 July 2014
Back to the Future: 60 Years of Housing Policy
Watch on YouTube
6 October 2014
'Cities as Engines of Economic Growth' Revisited
Watch on YouTube
19 November 2014
Challenges in DPU's Next Decade: Closing DPU60
Watch on YouTube
10 December 2014

Looking Back, Looking Forward

This is a series of stand-alone video interviews with past DPU staff and associates. The initial set of interviews with those who have been integral to the history and development of the department - not to mention development planning theory and practice over the years - will reflect on their careers and contributions to planning education and development in the global south. A second set of interviews with current DPU staff is scheduled for October-December in the Anniversary year. The first set of 10 minute-long interviews were launched at the DPU60 conference.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Looking Back, Looking Forward is a DPU 60th anniversary project set up to capture both the organisational history and future challenges of the DPU as seen through the experiences, perceptions and intellectual projects of past and present DPU staff. These stories are told in the context of their individual career trajectories on the one hand, and the dominant urban development policy and planning challenges of their time.

In this frame, staff are asked to reflect on their careers and contributions to planning education, the development of the DPU and development practice in the global south. In this phase of the project, the output is a series of stand-alone video interviews with former DPU staff and associates. In the next phase, a second set of interviews with current DPU staff is scheduled for 2015 - look out for these in the future!

Patrick Wakely
DPU Staff: 1968-76 & 1982-2008
Watch the Patrick Wakely interview on Youtube

Nigel Harris
DPU Staff: 1973-1998
Watch the Nigel Harris interview on Youtube

Ronaldo Ramirez
DPU Staff: 1974-1999
Watch the Ronaldo Ramirez interview on Youtube

Desmond McNeill
DPU Staff: 1976-84
Watch the Desmond McNeill interview on Youtube

Sheilah Meikle
DPU Staff: 1990-2005
Watch the Sheilah Meikle interview on Youtube

Caroline Moser
DPU Staff: 1978-86
Watch the Caroline Moser interview on Youtube

Michael Mattingly
DPU Staff: 1977-2004
Watch the Michael Mattingly interview on Youtube

Babar Mumtaz
DPU Staff: 1974-2005
Watch the Babar Mumtaz interview on Youtube

Michael Safier
DPU Staff: 1970-2006
Watch the Michael Safier Interview on YouTube


Sixty Years of Urban Development: A Short History of the Development Planning Unit

Building on the booklet produced by Emeritus Professor Patrick Wakely for DPU’s 50th Anniversary, we are producing a new booklet to celebrate our 60th year. Sixty Years of Urban Development: A Short History of the Development Planning Unit adds to the 50th Anniversary booklet, reporting on the chronological progress of the DPU from 1954 to 2014, the principal intellectual and conceptual ideas that have influenced the DPU’s activities in the field of urban development, and the major international events and declarations which DPU has been a part of and to which it has responded. The booklet was disseminated at our DPU60 Conference and is now available view (archive.org).

DPU Reflections Working Paper Series

The DPU will produce a DPU60 Reflections Working Paper Series with papers by DPU-Associates covering a range of topics that have been and continue to be central to the DPU’s education, research and consultancy preoccupations. DPU Reflections Working Paper Series was launched at the DPU60 conference in July 2014.

Reflections Working Papers Series

In 2014 the DPU celebrated 60 years of education, training, research, consultancy and knowledge sharing in urban and regional development policy and planning in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. DPU’s focus on urban development and planning in what is now often referred to as ‘the global south’ was unique in the UK and abroad at the time of its establishment at the Architectural Association in 1954, as well as when it moved in 1971 from the AA to UCL.

DPU colleagues then actively contributed to a dynamic post-colonial history of development debates, planning practices and planning education, helping to forge alternative, socially just innovations in the emergent field of urban development planning. It is the legacy of this unique urban agenda that the DPU60 Reflections Working Papers Series seeks to collate.

The series has been developed in partnership with DPU Associates, a network which brings together former DPU colleagues who maintain a close relationship with current DPU teaching, research and consultancy. In line with the overarching theme of the DPU60 Anniversary celebrations – Looking Back, Looking Forward – the series seeks to cover a range of topics that have been and continue to be central to the DPU’s work, from the vantage point of some of the key historical actors in the debate.

You might also be interested in the Looking Back, Looking Forward interview series, which feature several of the authors of the papers below.

DPU Reflections

#166. Nexus: New approaches to resourcing cities
01 July 2014

#162. From master plans to city development strategies
01 July 2014

#167. Knowledge, politics and development policy: Reflections over four decades
Author: Desmond McNeill

#164. Affordable housing: Chimera or oxymoron?
Author: Babar Mumtaz

#165. Gender planning and development: Revisiting, deconstructing and reflecting

#163. Urban public housing strategies in developing countries: whence and whither paradigms, policies, programmes and projects