The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Urban Design Otherwise

Urban Design Otherwise offers a space to think together how to enact and foster emancipatory spatial practices.

Urban design otherwise logo graphic

“Thinking otherwise is another way of thinking that runs counter to the great modernist narratives. It locates its own inquiry in the very borders of systems of thought and reaches towards the possibility of non- Eurocentric models of thinking.” (Abdulla, D, 2018 referring to Escobar, A., 2007) 

About Urban Design Otherwise

As designers and urban practitioners we are faced with the ethical imperative of ‘creating and imagining new worlds’. This task has to confront the historical juncture of COVID-19, the climate crises, the upsurge of national regimes are adding pressure to long standing problems such as poverty, structural inequalities and violent colonial legacies. However, urban design has been complicit in the spatial reproduction of injustices.

On the one hand, recalibrating urban design thinking and practice requires on one side, a critical examination of theories, methodologies, and pedagogies. On the other hand, it requires talking, debating, and acknowledging our role in today’s outcomes and expanding and reimagining our discipline “beyond the dominant Western solutionist and anthropocentric model of thought” (Mareis, C. & Paim, P., 2021:12).  

'Urban Design Conversations' is an initiative created by the Building and Urban Design in Development MSc in 2020, and focused on collective reflections with alumni about the agency of urban design to cope with the changing pace and emerging challenges during the initial strike of the pandemic.

In 2021-22, we retitled the series to 'Urban Design Otherwise' and explored the possibilities for shaping reflection on the plurality of urban design questioning how to decolonise our practice to foster spatial, epistemic and racial justice through both scholarship and practice. Following this successful series, we decided to continue the series Urban Design Otherwise for 2022-23 academic year.

The larger aim of this initiative is to keep feeding these reflections in search for “otherwise” ways and forms of transgressions of spatial design practices with both guests and alumni of the Building and Urban Design in Development MSc. The series will embrace the ideas of multiple knowledges, address asymmetries of power, colonial legacies and seek to find alternative ways of revealing the voices of diverse groups that remain largely unrecognised as crucial interlocutors in city making processes.

Urban Design Otherwise (2024 series)

Crisis, design and criticality: thinking frictions and ecologies of climate crisis

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Read more about our event speakers

Linda Schilling Cuellar, Tools to see otherwise

Tools to see otherwise explore new media in searching for the visuality of post-extractive futures. If mineral extractivism is inscrutable since it takes place in remote areas; what can ecological reparations based on economies of environmental remediation look like on those sites? How can science-based speculative futures mobilize political imagination in places where communities have been historically denied by the government any agency over what happens to their landscape? 

About Linda Schilling Cuellar: Linda is an architect from Chile with a master's degree in urban design from GSAPP (Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation) at Columbia University, and is currently a doctoral student at the Center for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths University with the research proposal Landscape Ledgers, a review of environmental impact assessments and its ways of sensing and seeing land. Her work as an academic and co-founder of the office AHORA with Claudio Astudillo focuses on post-extractive landscapes characteristic of our geological epoch. She recently exhibited with AHORA at the Problemas Húmidos, a public programming series organized by Bartlebooth for the Porto Design Biennale. Her work as an academic at the Universidad de Las Américas has been shown at Sensing the Environment, a symposium organized by the Rhode Island School of Design, and on platforms such as Digital Futures. 

Amani Alshaban, Practice beyond the logical framework: criticality in implementing recovery and development projects in fragile context

‘Crisis’ has evolved into a prolonged and multifaceted phenomenon, particularly within conflict-ridden environments. Subsequently, a substantial portion of recovery and developmental initiatives are executed under the umbrella of international cooperation, operating within the framework of aid, recovery, and development. The widespread advocacy for the adoption of the triple nexus—comprising peace, humanitarian, and development—is increasingly integrated into the daily practices of development practitioners. This talk will draw insights from experiences in various regions, including Jordan, Yemen, Iraq, and more recently, Ukraine, this discourse endeavors to scrutinize the obstacles confronting practitioners as they navigate the complexities of what is known as the logical framework and the theory of change during the implementation of donor-driven projects. It also seeks to explore how these challenges can influence methodologies with a view to enhancing participatory approaches, all while acknowledging the dynamic nature of the crisis concept, particularly in the broader urban systems in fragile environments. 

About Amani Alshaban: Amani is a Jordanian architect and BUDD alumni. With over nine years of professional experience in development planning across grassroots organizations, international non-governmental organizations (INGOs), and donor agencies, she possesses a strong background in both humanitarian and development work, having contributed professionally to regions such as Jordan, Nepal, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Ukraine. Amani's career as an urban practitioner has been shaped by a profound recognition of the intricate nature of urban life. While she embarked on her professional journey as an architect, she ventured into the domain of community-based urban development across the world as a part of her volunteering involvement with Architecture Sans Frontières International. Subsequently, she transitioned from the technical aspects of architecture and urban design to delve into the complexities of urban economics, livelihoods, civil society organizations, and collective action. More recently, she has been actively exploring the significance of data and digital participation in Iraq. Her previous experiences have spanned across the Middle East, collaborating with esteemed organizations such as AVSI Foundation, GIZ, the European Union Delegation to Yemen, iMMAP, and Polish Humanitarian Action. Currently, Amani is dedicated to her role in Ukraine, where she is engaged in emergency shelter and urban recovery efforts, offering support for the restoration of partially damaged residential and civilian infrastructure. 

Urban Design rethought: urgency, methodology and diffractions

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Prof. Matthew Carmona, Urban design governance and the softest of soft powers 

This talk explores the soft powers of urban design governance as operationalised through a range of informal tools used by the public sector.  It discusses findings in a new open-source book (Urban design governance, Soft powers and the European experience) which reveals how such means can offer an effective vehicle to build a culture of place quality and to more consistently deliver high quality design though place-shaping processes.  By way of illustration, the softest of soft initiatives is discussed, the work of the Place Alliance, a university-led research and campaigning platform in the UK. 

About Matthew Carmona: Matthew is Professor of Planning and Urban Design at The Bartlett, UCL. He is an architect/planner with research interests in the fields of urban design governance, the design and management of public space, and the value of urban design. He Chairs the Place Alliance which campaigns for place quality in England and edits www.place-value-wiki.net.  His research can be found at https://matthew-carmona.com.

Noddo, Natalia Child and Nathalia Mosquera,  Contested territories: Autonomy in habitat and territory management: Colombia 

Noddo is an NGO dedicated to promoting the social co-production of habitat through participatory and horizontal processes, aiming to contribute to the well-being and inclusion of vulnerable communities. Our work has been primarily carried out in Colombia, in contested and claimed rural territories affected and shaped by the armed conflict, that for more than 60 years has been ongoing in our country. In these areas indigenous, black and countryside communities face gaps related to land ownership, structural discrimination and limited availability of  health and education services.  Noddo believes that such demands require collective knowledge-building actions that facilitate the creation of tools for autonomous territory management. Our design practice responds to these urgent matters through the implementation of context-specific methodologies that aim for the sustainability of the projects. All of the above is done within a continuous reflexive process that helps us to constantly reposition ourselves in order to validate our role and contribute to the systemic change that we aim to achieve.  

About Natalia Child: Natalia is an architect, urban practitioner and social entrepreneur. She is a BUDD alumna (2019). Prior to founding Noddo NGO, she worked in public policy development and monitoring within the public sector in Colombia, where she was life-changed as she traveled through the country and saw first hand the inequalities embedded in rural communities. During her time at the DPU she dived into researching infrastructures of care, proposing to re-think care as a systemic network, essential for maintaining life and recognising the neglected. With Noddo NGO she has led the formulation of social impact programs on post war contexts, and she is passionate to transform the built environment by working with vulnerable communities in her country, Colombia.  

About Nathalia Mosquera: Nathalia is an architect, urban designer and social entrepreneur. She is a BUDD alumna (2015). After receiving her Bachelor's degree she participated in the design of several architectural and urban projects. Later she joined the team of architects working to plan, design, and implement the infrastructure strand of the National Early Childhood Development Strategy. After having worked designing and giving line to Bogotá’s park design guide, and as a supervisor of urban/neighborhood development projects, she co-founded Noddo, an NGO that has allowed her to work in Colombian rural areas and lead the research, design and development of co-production of habitat related projects. 

Walking Tour | Migrant Geographies: Radical Urban Imaginaries

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Lead: Laia G. García, BUDD GTA
Guide: David McEwen from Unit 38

While migration speaks to ideas of dispersion or forced relocation, the resultant geographic displacement of any group of people invokes spatial practices that create intimate relationships to place, enhance social connectedness and produce unique ideas of home. Migrant living practices typically empower and support actions of solidarity and interconnectedness as well as the assertions of cultural self and collectivism that tend to travel with people through global manifestations of community. Very often, these practices create friction within existing socio-spatial systems and can result in strong collective actions around identity, politics, and agency in relation to belonging.

This session, in collaboration with the Wards Corner Community Benefit Society and the Seven Sisters Market Traders Association, will host an immersive and interactive city-walk-talk format that will be led by local voices and actors in the spatial making from London’s Latin Village. Through walking, talking, and engaging with the people and places of this dynamic urban center, we will be exposed to a unique juxtaposition of temporality and permanence, of preservation and innovation and understanding as well as response that are present in the migrant geographies of the Latin Village in Seven Sisters. In this session we will join a small local selection of spatial actors from Seven Sisters. 

This session will have a face-to-face format and it is proposed as a city-walk in which BUDD alumni and guests will take the 23-24 cohort of BUDD students to learn about their work with the community of Seven Sisters Market. There will be a +15 places available for external participants. 

Latin Village/Wards Corner Community Plan: The walk will explore alternative ways of designing our cities and neighbourhoods - new urban imaginiaries - design with and for communities! Through stories, personal experiences, memories, and myths we will counter contemporary narratives of development to share the story of the campaign to Save the Latin Village and deliver the Wards Corner Community Plan. The Plan - led by market traders, business owners, residents and local organisations - proposes the community-led refurbishment of the existing buildings to protect the market, introduce new community facilities and amenities, and reinvest profits to seed further projects for the benefit of the community.

A historical overview will introduce the rise of the indoor market and neighbourhood, the growing significance of the area as a cultural hub for the local migrant population, development pressures leading to the threat to demolish the Wards building and surrounding block and, crucially, the design of a plan to deliver a new vision for the area.

The tour will stop off at key locations in the area - including the market and other local businesses – to uncover the wide ranging impact of development and illustrate how Seven Sisters and Wards Corner serves as an important example with which to understand an alternative, people driven vision for the city.

About Unit 38, the Walking Tour’s Partner: Unit 38 are an architectural design collective who specialise in delivering high impact social projects and community wealth building strategies through a co-design and co-research approach. Unit38 are committed to new approaches to architecture and urbanism focused on supporting existing communities to reap the maximal benefit from processes of neighbourhood change. We place a high value on research and we work extensively with interdisciplinary teams, think tanks, academic researchers and local governments to develop proposals.

Our projects have ranged from developing community plans for local markets to affordable housing schemes with cooperative groups, site specific installations and event design and management.

View the photos from the walking tour

Urban Design Otherwise (2023 series)

Towards Anticolonial Design: urgency, methodology and diffractions 

Hosted on 20 January 2023 by Professor Camillo Boano

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Design, in its many scales, may not intend to promote racism and injustice but their naïve idealism and compliance with normative practices manufactures and maintains structural characteristics of racism and coloniality. While discursively innovative, mainstream urban design theory, practice and pedagogy rarely question their role in reinforcing normative relations that shape racialized societies. That is the set of normative and administrative practices of exclusion and oppression that create inequalities the discipline pledges to right. Stemming from critical discourses and specifically decolonial one we aim to ask how to imagine, shape and promote emancipatory practices and forge new narratives to unmake what we know, to look for radical approaches and practices that allows us to understand our responsibility, to create a counter storytelling and nurturing radical hope.

Read more about our event speakers

Khensani Jurczok-de Klerk, Matri-Archi(tecture), Disruptive by Default - Design in Everyday Spatial Practices

What role does architectural practice play in making legible the already existing spatial intelligences embedded in every spatial practices? Everyday spatial practices in various African urban geographies are often referred to as informal with canonical connotations of chaos. This corrupted notion of informality ought to be challenged, as Fred Moten and Stefano Harney in their 2013 book The Undercommons; Fugitive Planning and Black Study, remind us that the informal informs form. The temporal and negotiative character of informal everyday spatial practices in Black urban life is a site of design, where people are constantly reframing archetypes through appropriations premised on need, resistance and joy. This offering will expand on the spatial intelligence of overlooked everyday spatial practices explored in Matri-Archi’s ‘Reflecting Our (Global) South Side’ platform, launched at the invitation of the 2020 Chicago Architecture Biennial ‘The Available City’. As an intersectional collective, Matri-Archi(tecture) uses research and spatial education rooted in the African continent to design spaces and evoke architectural discourses that reflect and archive overlooked cultures. Matri-Archi believes that such cultures can inform spatial environments through everyday practices of routine, occupation, gathering, and negotiation. Reflecting our (Global) South Side offers a space to house everyday interactions and to explore how occupation and reflection can facilitate learning about other cultures.

About Khensani Jurczok-de Klerk: Khensani is an architectural researcher and designer from Johannesburg. She centres practicing intersectionality through research and design by questioning and imagining how efficiency and narratives of the built environment can be more sustainable through ethically social and ecological practices. She is founder of Matri-Archi(tecture) collective based between South Africa and Switzerland, and host of podcast KONTEXT. She teaches at the chair of Affective Architectures at the ETH Zürich, where she co-coordinates the Department of the Ongoing platform. Her independent research has focused on typologies of safe space and learning from everyday spatial practices. Through her multidisciplinary approach, Khensani finds educational value in spatial, written and auditory explorations.

Salma Nassar, UN Habitat, Parallel Narratives from the City

This talk is dialogue to redefine the ‘other’ and ‘otherism’ in the context of Cairo, Egypt; a city that has long been defined as a postcolonial capital, a definition that privileges a certain understanding of the city at the expense of a more indigenous one. The talk will explore the power of redefinition which inevitably breaks confinements of stereotypes and relativism that reposition the invisible to visible. This talk reflects on a personal journey of practice and positionality towards the ‘other’ and the dichotomy of practice. On one fold, the talk will further expand on the obvious definition of the contextual other and breaking it down to ‘human and nonhuman’. It will do so by firstly reflecting on the ‘Cairo Sewer Cover’ project that was led by Salma to uncover one of Cairo’s overlooked nonhuman materialistic entities and its agency in urban design, research and development. Secondly the talk will follow the quest to dissect Egyptian mainstream urban development practices and their interaction between spheres of counter practices that attempt to break systematic inequalities and inequity. By critically looking at Egyptian mega-infrastructure and urban development projects and their role in legitimizing narratives of the stereotypical definition of the ‘other’. The main takeaway of the talk will attempt to break the domination of mainstream narratives and their production of inequalities in lieu of national development projects.

About Salma Nassar: Salma is an architect and urban designer from Cairo, who is a 2017 alumna of the Building and Urban Design in Development MSc at University College London. She is currently working as the Urban Development Programme Associate at the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN Habitat) in Egypt. Her work at UN Habitat had an overarching mandate of providing technical assistance and support to various stakeholders – namely the Egyptian government – to promote the exploitation of innovative tools for a balanced, responsive, and sustainable urban development in Egypt.Growing up in the invincible city Cairo, Salma’s work beyond UN Habitat is multidisciplinary, she is on a constant quest to tackle architecture and urbanism through diverse mediums and narratives. In 2016-19, Salma launched an urban-photography research project that studies Cairo’s most overlooked and despised urban element – the sewer cover. Shedding light on its role in preserving the urban memory of the city while demonstrating counter-narratives to the ‘taught’ mainstream scholarship of history and identity. 

Thandi Loewenson, A Stratigraphy of Lusaka

Lusaka’s ground is full of holes. Here, sites in the city where something – or something different – should be abound, denying the clarity and certainty in the present that a physical encounter with the past brings. Instead of reading these holes as absence and vacuum, I seek here to engage in a close reading of the contours of these openings and to determine the matter which fills the voids. Digging into the Earth is in itself a kind of time travel in which layers of the past, present and future are disturbed in the process. Here, what has been no longer is (as it was) and is now something other, something new and something in the process of being remade through an enormous pressure and force of which those of us who trip on the surface rarely have any clue. Fittingly then, this talk moves somewhat anarchically through time: we are at once in the long now of geological formation; in the 70s, in newly independent Zambia; and a few decades later during the economic, social and epistemic violence of structural adjustment, then austerity; while also meandering down Cairo Road in the passenger seat of a taxi in 2018. Somehow, we are also in 2021 having just buried Kenneth Kaunda, president of Zambia from 1964–91 and, in the words of the writer and critic Percy Zvomuya, ‘the last surviving symbol of the era of high nationalism in Southern Africa’. In the process of this talk-as-excavation, we will encounter histories of capital, colonialism’s presence and, for those willing to look closely enough, the possibility of urban worlds otherwise in our midst. 

About Thandi Loewenson: Thandi (b.1989, Harare) is an architectural designer/researcher who mobilises design, fiction and performance to stoke embers of emancipatory political thought and fires of collective action, and to feel for the contours of other, possible worlds.  Using fiction as a design tool and tactic, and operating in the overlapping realms of the weird, the tender, the earthly and the airborne, Thandi engages in projects which provoke questioning of the status-quo, whilst working with communities, policy makers, artists and architects towards acting on those provocations. Thandi is a Senior Tutor at the Royal College of Art, a contributor to the Regional Network on Equity in East and Southern Africa, a co-founder of architectural collectives BREAK//LINE and Fiction Feeling Frame and a co-curator of Race, Space & Architecture. In 2023, Thandi will be the inaugural Black Digital South Artist in Residence at the Centre for Race, Gender and Class at the University of Johannesburg.

Crisis, Design and Criticality: Thinking frictions and ecologies of climate emergency

Hosted on 27 January 2023 by Professor Camillo Boano

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Marina Otero Verzier, Compulsive Desires: On the entangled realities of lithium extraction and the limitless quest for energy

This session analyzes how energy dreams and epistemologies, constructed on cravings for productivity and profit, connect the landscapes of resource extraction, transoceanic fibre optic cables, data centres, automated factories – spaces that epitomize the 'Cartesian enclosure' – and by extension, the technologies, and spaces of everyday life. It addresses how destructive habits of extracting, procuring, and consuming energy follow predictions that assume the inevitability of growth. Estimates that, even in the face of climate catastrophe, render the need for more energy inevitable and rely on finding new fixes rather than embracing other forms of living. Focusing on the cases of lithium extraction in Atacama (Chile) and Covas do Barroso (Portugal), the text addresses the struggles sustained by indigenous and local communities for their lives, sovereignty, and rights.  Battles that emphasize how, in what has been described as "green colonialism,” the development of the ‘green energy futures’ comes too often in detriment of those rendered disposable in the name of progress.

About Marina Otero Verzier: Marina is Head of the Social Design Masters at Design Academy Eindhoven. In 2022 she received the Harvard GSD's Wheelwright Prize for a project on the future of data storage. From 2015 to 2022, she was the Director of Research at Het Nieuwe Instituut, where she led initiatives focused on labor, extraction, and mental health from an architectural and post-anthropocentric perspective. She has co-edited Lithium: States of Exhaustion (2021),  More-than-Human (2020), Architecture of Appropriation (2019), Work, Body, Leisure (2018), and After Belonging (2016), among others. 

Nada Elfeituri, Rebuilding the Post-Conflict City in the Wake of Global Crises

The city of Benghazi is entering its sixth year of recovery and reconstruction, following a years-long conflict which led to mass displacement, an economic crisis and widespread destruction of the building environment. The reconstruction process has been slow and haphazard, lacking real leadership or a coherent vision of the reconstructed city. This has partially been caused by the wider national political crisis facing the country, which has led to unstable governance and constantly shifting power dynamics.

However, in recent years, it is the impact of international factors which have hindered long-term recovery of the city. The Covid-19 pandemic, the Ukraine-Russia conflict and a looming climate crisis have put pressure on resources and kept the city in a continuous state of emergency. Public officials are attempting to address issues such as the rising cost of living and the effects of extreme weather conditions in a city that still bears the scars of war. This talk will explore the global factors influencing Benghazi today and their effects on its reconstruction. It will look at the tensions fostered between global narratives and local needs, and the role that both state and non-state actors are playing in both mitigating and exacerbating the intersecting crises.

About Nada Elfeituri: Nada is an architect, urban designer and writer from Benghazi, Libya. She completed her MSc in Building and Urban Design in Development at UCL’s Development Planning Unit on a Chevening Scholarship, where her thesis explored the role played by non-state actors in urban development, in the context of state fragility. Nada work focuses community-led development, urban public policy and post-conflict reconstruction, and has implemented a number of projects in Libya, Myanmar, the United Kingdom and Canada. She has written for publications such as MERIP, Your Middle East and Failed Architecture (forthcoming). She is an executive committee member of the Libyan Institute of Architects and a Public Practice Alumna.

Urban Design Otherwise (2022 series)

Towards Anticolonial Design: A methodological approach to activist practice

Design, in its many scales, may not intend to promote racism but their naïve idealism and compliance with normative practices manufactures and maintains structural characteristics of racism and coloniality. While discursively innovative, mainstream urban design theory, practice and pedagogy rarely question their role in reinforcing normative relations that shape racialized societies. That is the set of normative and administrative practices of exclusion and oppression that create inequalities the discipline pledges to right.  What are possibilities of emancipatory practices? For new narratives to emerge we need to unmake what we know, to look for radical approaches and practices that allows us to understand our responsibility, to create a counter storytelling and nurturing radical hope.

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Loudreading guides to the Post-Colonial Method 
By Cruz García and Nathalie Frankowski
WAI Architecture Think Tank is a planetary studio practicing by questioning the political, historical, and material legacy and imperatives of architecture and urbanism. Founded in Brussels during the financial crisis of 2008 by Puerto Rican architect, artist, curator, educator, author and theorist Cruz Garcia and French architect, artist, curator, educator, author and poet Nathalie Frankowski, WAI is one of their several platforms of public engagement that include Beijing-based anti-profit art space Intelligentsia Gallery, and the free and alternative education platform and trade-school LOUDREADERS. Based on the emancipating and persecuted alternative practice of education performed by lectores like Luisa Capetillo in the tobacco factories in the Caribbean, LOUDREADERS is a free and accessible pedagogical platform and trade school that engages with architectural education as a form of mutual aid and critical solidarity in the age of Covid-19. 

The Funambulist: A toolbox for reflecting on the struggles, solidarity, and the built environment

By Léopold Lambert

Editor-in-Chief, The Funambulist
The Funambulist is a 12-year-old online platform, an 8-year-old podcast, and a 6-year-old print and online magazine published every two months. Its subtitle, "Politics of Space and Bodies" provides an editorial line through which the various political struggles of the world (in particular the anticolonial ones) are approached through a spatial lens. Our hope is to provide a useful platform where activist/academic/practitioner voices can meet and build solidarities across geographical scales. This presentation will however focus as much on the politics of production of the magazine as on the politics of contents themselves.

Re-earthing Urban Design: Radical theories and practices 

The impacts of climate change on cities and societies is an important part of current debates on urban issues. These impacts are inevitable, and if society as a whole does not act, the frequency and severity of the impacts will increase. While the commitment to action has a strong focus on technology and individual social behaviour, it disregards the fact that the current crisis is the result of colonial modes of production and modern living that have downplayed the importance of systemic modes of living eroding our relation with the earth and the environment. From most disciplines, design has been at the service of humanity’s exploitation of the environment. To shift the role of design it is imperative to first acknowledge and understand its own complicity with the current crisis and second, to recognize the multiplicity of others, human and not, with whom we share this space called earth. Re-earthing design requires disruptive innovations to break existing systems of thought and practice and engagement with existing knowledge and practices that offer alternatives for decolonial futures that foster radical interdependencies in the production of space.

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Landscapes for Care: Exploring food systems in the city
By Claudia Rojas Bernal
Professor Universidad de la Costa, Colombia

On re-earthing tools and pedagogies
By Alejandro Torero Gamero
Alumnus of the Building and Urban Design in Development MSc, Lecturer at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú

Re-earthing the commons
By Martina Mina
Alumna of the Building and Urban Design in Development MSc, Community Build Manager at Global Generation

Chair: Dr Natalia Villamizar Duarte / Laia Garcia

Diasporic Designs: Voices from the South(s)

Led by Laia Garcia and Jhono Bennett 

While diaspora speaks to ideas of dispersion or forced relocation, the resultant geographic displacement of any group of people invokes spatial practices that create intimate relationships to place, enhance social connectedness and produce unique ideas of home. Diasporic living practices typically empower and support actions of solidarity and interconnectedness as well as the assertions of cultural self and collectivism that tend to travel with people through global manifestations of community. Very often, these practices create friction within existing socio-spatial systems and can result in strong collective actions around identity, politics, and agency in relation to belonging.

This session hosted an immersive and interactive city-walk-talk format that will be led by local voices and actors in spatial making from London’s South(s). Through walking, talking, and engaging with the people and places of this dynamic urban center, we were exposed to a unique juxtaposition of temporality and permanence, of preservation and innovation and understanding as well as response that are present in the South(s) of London’s diasporic geographies.

Read more about the spatial actors from Elephant and Castle as well as Brixton:

Elephant and Castle 

In collaboration with Latin Elephant Charity, a charity that promotes alternative and innovative ways of engaging and incorporating migrants and ethnic groups in processes of urban change in London. Latin Elephant facilitates channels of communication between retailers, councils, local organisations, developers and other stakeholders in urban developments and regeneration initiatives. Latin Elephant organises activities with the aim of bringing different communities together and increasing awareness and use of public spaces where Latin Americans are often underrepresented.


In collaboration with Resolve Collective, an interdisciplinary design collective that combines architecture, engineering, technology and art to address social challenges. Resolve has delivered numerous projects, workshops, publications, and talks in the UK and across Europe, all of which look toward realising just and equitable visions of change in our built environment. Much of their work aims to provide platforms for the production of new knowledge and ideas, whilst collaborating and organising to help build resilience in our communities. An integral part of this way of working means designing with and for young people and under-represented groups in society. 

Special guest: Sumayya Vally, Principal of Counterspace Studio

Counterspace is the 2020 Serpentine Pavillion designers, and is a Johannesburg-based collaborative architectural studio and is committed to developing design expression particularly for the continent – through design research, publishing, pedagogy, built things, buildings and other forms of architecture. The 2020 pavilion’s design is based on past and present places of meeting, organising and belonging across several London neighbourhoods significant to diasporic and cross-cultural communities, including Brixton, Hoxton, Tower Hamlets, Edgware Road, Barking and Dagenham and Peckham, among others. Responding to the historical erasure and scarcity of informal community spaces across the city, the Pavilion references and pays homage to existing and erased places that have held communities over time and continue to do so todayThis year the urban design conversation series continues the critical debates initiated by the of the Building and Urban Design in Development MSc that urge urban design as a discipline and practice to engage with multiples knowledges, to address asymmetries of power, colonial legacies and to find alternative ways of revealing the voices of the different groups that are not always recognise as legitim interlocutors within urban change processes. 

Urban Design Conversations (2021 series)

Urban Design Conversation 1: Critical engagement

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Urban Design Conversation 2: Displacement Urbanism

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Urban Design Conversation 3: Housing justice

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