The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Samia Khan

The Building and Urban Design in Development programme at the Bartlett UCL shaped my perception of the world around me. I joined the program earlier in my career, and I am confident with its foundation through comprehensive teaching methods. 
Our teachers were open-minded, allowing for divergent thinking - as we partook in research across the Global North to South. Regionally, we worked with the local council in Lewisham to understand the urban complexities of land development prospects. 
Fieldwork in Yangon, Myanmar, allowed us to collaborate with multiple stakeholders to build a sustainable participatory process to help improve conditions in the slums. Moreover, in Brescia, Italy, we interviewed refugees waiting for their asylum by assisting in the monitoring of their conditions and proposing methods of migrant integration in the country.  
This inspired my dissertation titled ‘The Vulnerability in Refuge’ where I explored the circuits of human migration across borders where migration was most prevalent at the time [Syrian refugees migrating to Lebanon and Turkey]. The research tied the concept of refugees as Giorgio Agamben’s 'homo-sacer' [1]  in connection with paradigms of ‘biopower’ [2] by understanding the concept in light of Micheal Foucault. It explored the spatio-temporal nature of refugee camps and the complexities of sovereign borders as a control device.  
As an architect, with this masters, I was then involved in large scale urban design projects in the future mega-cities of Saudi Arabia, and other small scale projects in the USA and Europe. The research and critical thinking skills I gained during the BUDD programme helped me tremendously while at Shelter Centre, a humanitarian NGO. I helped draft a technical concept proposal on Post-conflict Engineering in consultation with UNHCR, IOM, and Arup International - working on a pioneering toolkit as an emergency shelter and settlement response in post-conflict settings.  
COVID-19 has brought with it multidimensional challenges, with public health more relevant than ever. And, in response to COVID-19, a colleague from Shelter Centre invited me to join a newly established community response to help build trust and counter misinformation. Now a charity registered in England and Wales, Public Health Pathways, focused on education and helping all generations to design and build healthier societies, I apply my expertise from the Building and Urban Design in Development course. I have led reports, written trend reports, helped develop design-thinking tools, provided graphic design input in a dynamic role where I help global public health issues through the lens of an urban development practitioner. 
Through my masters and dissertation, I am now able to apply my background, engaging on subjects from human migration to urban design and development with international organisations. My recommendation to future BUDDies and urban development practitioners is to remain open. To use their experiences in the programme to develop a resilient mindset where one can dynamically combine knowledge and experience. Finally, to keep the wonderfully inquisitive people they meet during their course close. They will share one another’s curiosity and will grow together through their journey post BUDD.  
“Discourse is not the majestically unfolding manifestation of a thinking, knowing, speaking subject, but, on the contrary, a totality, in which the dispersion of the subject and his discontinuity with himself may be determined. It is a space of exteriority in which a network of distinct sites is deployed.” - Michael Foucault  
[1] https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095943431  
[2] https://criticallegalthinking.com/2017/05/10/michel-foucault-biopolitics-biopower/