The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Living Heritage

A cultural project encompassing teaching, research, activism, co-creation, community memory, and lived experience conducted within DPU and with partners globally.

Living heritage

11 January 2021

Living heritage is a concept that has come out of critical heritage studies, where scholars noted that ‘heritage’ is a constructed ‘status’ based on exclusion, selection, and particular forms of representation of the past. Heritage construction has often focused on the built form, at the expense of leaving out intangible heritage and everyday life of communities.

Critical heritage studies have pushed for broadening ideas of heritage and in particular understandings of intangible heritage, encouraging recognition of continuity as well as mutability of communities and practices. In exploring living heritage in Latin America and South East Asia we bring together diverse teams, networks, and even temporalities, borrowing from principles of comparative urbanism to decolonize the notion of ‘heritage’ by reframing it as a process grounded in the everyday practices of communities.

Image credit: Dubian Monsalve, Mapa frágil de la esperanza

Yangon Stories. Framing Living Heritage as Tool to Prevent Spatial violence



Yangon Stories aims to frame the potentials of a living heritage approach to informal settlements to challenge existing dynamics of spatial violence in Yangon in order to mobilize more inclusive urban planning practices. This project brings a unique perspective to the intersections of heritage, violence and dignity by linking spatial violence trajectories with situated storytelling about heritage-making. We view forms of contestation and agency of informal dwellers facing evictions and resettlement as counter practices of living heritage.

In this project we aim to:

  • Foster multi-disciplinary and collaborative research designed to transform understanding of the causes, impacts and legacies of spatial violence;
  • Develop relevant collections of archival, oral, ethnographic and other sources, from policymakers, women’s groups, communities, and local leaders;
  • Develop theoretical frameworks and methodological innovations to contribute substantive insights into heritage-making practices as forms of countering violence, informing broader understandings of community-led conflict prevention strategies.

Yangon Stories is a collaborative project between Development Planning Unit: Dr. Catalina Ortiz - PI; Dr. Giovanna AstolfoProf. Camillo Boano; Dr. Elizabeth Rhoads; and local researchers and partner organisations.

Funding: The project is funded by British Academy through its Heritage, Dignity and Violence programme

Main activities

Report launch – March 9 2021

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Kickstart Workshop – February 3-7, 2020

DPU Fellowships 2020

Chauncie Bigler. Framing the Living Heritage Approach for the Periphery:  Constructing Place, Space, and Community in Yangon,  Myanmar

Naiara Yumiko Murakami Dutra da Costa. Building epistemic designs: decolonial cartography as a tool to subvert forced evictions infrastructure


Kolovou Kouri, M. & Sakuma, S. (2021). Community-led housing in Yangon: An assessment of the Mae Myit Thar project

Kolovou Kouri, M., Sakuma, S., Oritz, C., Astolfo, G & Rhoads, E. (2021). Trajectories of spatial violence in Southeast Asian cities. DPU Working Paper Series (207), London. ISSN: 1474-3280

Rhoads, E., Sakuma, S., Ortiz, C. (2021). Violations of the Right to Adequate Housing after the CoupPolicy Paper. 

Rhoads, E. (2020). Property, Citizenship, and Invisible Dispossession in Myanmar's Urban Frontier. Geopolitics.

Astolfo, G. & Boano, C. (2020). ‘Unintended Cities’ and Inoperative Violence. Housing Resistance in Yangon. Planning Theory & Practice. 

Rhoads, E. (2020). ‘Informal (Justice) Brokers: Buying, Selling, and Disputing Property in Yangon'. in Kyed, H.M. (ed.),  Everyday Justice in Myanmar: Informal Resolutions and State Evasion in a Time of Contested Transition. NIAS Studies in Asian Topics; No. 71. NIAS Press. pp.283-313.

Ortiz, C., & Lipietz, B. (eds.). (2020). Grounded Learning: people-centred approaches to housing in Yangon and Yogyakarta. London: University College London. 




On Yangon urbanism, informal settlements, heritage, housing, spatial violence and history

Anonymous. (2021). An Initial Report on Forced Evictions of Squatters in Hlaing Tharyar during the Coup. 

Asian Development Bank, ADB. (2019). Financing Affordable Housing in Yangon.

Boutry, M. (2017). Migrants Seeking out and Living with Floods: A Case Study of Mingalar Kwet Thet Settlement, Yangon, Myanmar. in: C. Middleton, R. Elmhirst & S. Chantavanich (eds.), Living with floods in a mobile Southeast Asia. A political ecology of vulnerability, migration and environmental change. pp. 42–62. New York: Routledge.

Campbell, S. (2019), Of Squatting amid Capitalism on Yangon’s Industrial Periphery. Anthropology Today 35, (6), pp. 7–10.


Patrimonio Vivo: Trajectories and Living Heritage

Patrimonio Vivo, Medellin

How to frame self-built neighborhoods in Medellin as living heritage? What type of socio-spatial strategies can be imagined to respond to urban transformation? This teaching based project focuses on exploring living heritage through four thematic lenses: a) care systems, b) memory, migration and displacement, c) landscapes of recycling, and d) community communication. The main site of inquiry, Moravia, has been the laboratory of spatial interventions and has endured long-term eviction threats. The project wishes to rethink different urban futures for Moravia through a living heritage approach as a way to respond to those threats.

Every year, for four weeks, international students alongside partners and local communities, explore the vast spectrum of political issues working in the multidimensional field of urban development and socio-cultural heritage and investigate specific design strategies and interventions within existing governance structures and processes. In 2020 and 2021, students worked alongside communities in Moravia, Medellin, Colombia.

Team/Learning alliance

Development Planning Unit: Dr. Catalina Ortiz; Dr. Giovanna Astolfo; Marisol Garcia; Moravia Cultural Centre; Moravia Resiste Collective; Cooperative Coonvite.

Funding: DPU  Building and Urban Design in Development Master Programme

Engaging internationally beyond the lockdown- Practising partnership with equivalence across The Bartlett, UCL 2021

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Main activities

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