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Urban Design Otherwise

urban design otherwise

“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) 

Urban Design Otherwise offers a space to think together how to enact and foster emancipatory  spatial practices. As designers and urban professionals we are faced with the mission of ‘creating and imagining new worlds’. This mission has to confront the historical juncture of COVID19, 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 privilege.  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, 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).  
 
Following the 2020 BUDD initiative “Urban Design Conversations” that focus 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. The 21-22 series explores the possibilities for shaping a plural urban design that question how to decolonise our practice to foster spatial, epistemic and racial justice through both scholarship and practice. We invite to discuss with outstanding guests that have transgressed the practice of spatial design and how to think urban design otherwise. These other ways need to envision a field that embraces multiple knowledges, addresses asymmetries of power, colonial legacies and finds alternative ways of revealing the voices of the different groups that are not always recognised as crucial interlocutors in city making processes. 
   
To explore some of the pivotal elements to think urban design otherwise this series will focus on three topics: 
1. 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.
 
Loudreading guides to the Post-Colonial Method 
By Cruz García and Nathalie Frankowski
WAI Architecture Think Tank
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.
 

View webpage
 

2.  Re-earthing Urban Design: Radical theories and practices 

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Px6gZuFFyU4

 

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.

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
BUDD Alumnus, Lecturer at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú

Re-earthing the commons
By Martina Mina
BUDD Alumna, Community Build Manager at Global Generation

Chair: Dr Natalia Villamizar Duarte / Laia Garcia

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3. Diasporic Designs: voices from the south(s) 

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 will host 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 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 South(s) of London’s diasporic geographies.
 
In this session we will join a small local selection of spatial actors from Elephant and Castle as well as Brixton:

Elephant and Castle 

In collaboration with Latin Elephant Charity
Host persons TBC 

Latin Elephant is 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.


Brixton 

In collaboration with Resolve Collective

RESOLVE is 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, principle 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 today

Leads: Laia Garcia Jhono Bennett

View webpage

This year the urban design conversation series continues the critical debates initiated by the BUDD programme 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.