The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Catalina Pollak Williamson

Catalina Pollack
Catalina Pollak Williamson

Title: Critical Play: new tools for radical citizenship
Keywords: participatory citizenship, critical play, spatial practice, engaged urbanism, commoning, public space

I am an architect, artist and urban activist.  I studied architecture at Universidad Católica de Chile (2001), followed by a Masters in Visuals Arts at Universidad de Chile (2007), and a Masters in Architecture and Urbanism at the Architectural Association in London (2010).

My work and research explores cross-disciplinary processes that use participation and play as methodologies to drive urban and social change.  Since 2012, I have run Public Interventions, a collaborative platform for participatory art and design-research projects concerned with the social production of public space, and the development of new temporary practices of commoning to connect and engage communities with their built environment.  These projects have been shared and disseminated through different academic and non-academic platforms, including recent participation in: Who Are We? Art, Migration and the Production of Democracy, Counterpoint Arts/Tate Exchange (2018); Diálogos Impostergables, XX Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism in Chile (2017); Mediations: Art and Design Agency and Participation in Public Space, Royal College of Art (2016); and through the publication of the book Outsider: Public Art and the politics of the English Garden Square (London: common-editions, 2015).

My doctoral research builds from my practice, looking into the opportunities of bridging disciplinary boundaries -from the Social Sciences and the Arts and Humanities- to reconceptualise participatory practices and methodologies as a radical political process. To interrogate this subject, my research brings together two seemingly discrete concepts: the notion of play and the play element in culture, and criticality as a form of enquiry. Through both the construction of a theoretical framework and a design methodology, the research aims to put forward the concept of Critical Play as a relational process that can work towards the development of capabilities and civic agency to produce more engaged, creative and empowered citizens.

As a case study, I have decided to work with Syrian refugees in Turkey using action research processes and tactics of Critical Play to build community resilience between local and migrant communities.

I currently hold a teaching position at the University of East London.

Pollak, Catalina: ‘Phantom Railings’, ARQ #88, Santiago Chile, 2014
Pollak, Catalina: Outsider: Public Art and the Politics of the English Garden Square, common-editions, London, 2015
Website: www.publicinterventions.org