The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Nicola Antaki

Year of entry: 2012


Nicola is an architect specialising in learning and engagement practices. Her PhD Architectural Design is placed between the Bartlett School of Architecture and the Development Planning Unit at UCL. Currently she works as an architect at London practice We Made That.

Nicola studied Architecture at Oxford Brookes University, The Royal College of Art and then UCL. She worked for a number of years at practice Cottrell and Vermeulen Architecture, where she designed sustainable learning spaces, and taught architecture at Nottingham University, co-running an undergraduate design unit.

Nicola lived in Mumbai from 2011 to 2017 during which time she carried out her practice-led research. She collaborates regularly with Mumbai urban farming initiative Fresh & Local, co-creating places with communities to grow food and improve health in the urban realm through gardens. She co-founded biennial FOCUS Photography Festival Mumbai in 2013, a festival that aims to democratise the city through public art interventions and exhibitions as well as within traditional gallery contexts.


Critical Design Pedagogy: Learning Architecture with the Muktangan School Community


Education, Critical Pedagogy, Co-design, Informality, Craft, India, Mumbai


This practice-led research explores how architecture can be considered a ‘third teacher’[1], investigating how children can be involved in (re)designing their environment in a bid to democratise the city and develop practices of global citizenship. How can the architectural design process be a contemporary critical pedagogical tool, for axiological and spatial-political thinking? The research interrogates the spatial interplays between learning and pedagogy in simultaneously global and local, informal and formal, school and home community contexts through the production of co-designed interventions.

This research has been in collaboration with NGO Muktangan since 2012, a Mumbai public school that runs a constructivist oriented pedagogy, and caters for low-income families. Drawing on the critical pedagogical practices and theories of John Dewey, Paulo Freire, Celestin Freinet, and Mahatma Gandhi, a yearly series of workshops with a class of primary school children formed an experiential, practical, reflective and continuous live project to observe, map, assess critically, and then transform learning environments through design and local craft; using practices of photography, drawing, brainstorming, interviewing, writing, role play, agency, discussion, and presentation the children became involved in the fabrication/transformation of their school and home environment, informal settlement Mariamma Nagar. The children designed objects for their classroom, a map of their settlement which was transformed into a tapestry by local embroiderers, and designed a family of prototypes responding to issues they highlighted in the settlement that were made by local craftspeople.

My research methods aim to challenge the current disconnect between interdisciplinary practice and research, in the areas of pedagogy and architecture, and aim to demonstrate the value of collective design at school and craft as a local modifier, for the making of a more democratic learning city, and to influence the built environment, pedagogy and policy-making.


Dr Yeoryia Manolopoulou
Dr Camillo Boano

[1] Loris Malaguzzi founder of Reggio Emilia School in Italy coined the term architecture as a ‘third teacher’ after adults and other children.