Projective Cities Alumni Forum

Date: 19/10/2020
Time: 15:00-18:00
Venue: Zoom, register to attend

Join us for a collective discussion on research by design practices at the intersection between academia, professional practice, activist work and policy making. Projective Cities MPhil in Architecture and Urban Design is inviting distinguished graduates of the programme to share their recent and past work that combines new design trajectories and forms of speculative research, while challenging existing disciplinary boundaries and contributing to emerging multiscalar questions and problematics about the future of cities and the built environment. The forum will discuss individual and shared methodologies, as well as how the programme’s teaching has impacted the future of their practice.

Social Integration Project in Santiago de Chile (Ministry of Housing 2017-2018).

Reinterpretations of the Cité Housing’s Formal and Social Diagrams

The presentation focuses on the analysis and possible reinterpretations of the cité: a typical housing solution for the first half of the 20th century in Santiago de Chile. Through a series of arguments and projects, it is intended to account for the possibilities of using this row housing typology in two novel ways. First, as a means for urban design, including morphological aspects (of spatial and functional proximity) to Santiago’s expansion and densification process. Second, as a mechanism to promote social assemblages and to include domestic programs, aiming at overcoming the limited conception of the minimum dwelling.

ALVARO ARANCIBIA is an architect graduate of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, holding an MPhil in Architecture and Urban Design (Projective Cities Programme) and a PhD in Architectural Design from the Architectural Association. Since 2007 he has been undertaking research and practice on the problem of social housing and urban design in Santiago. As a researcher, he received the AA Graduate Prize for Research: Outstanding Work 2015-2016 for his PhD thesis ‘The Social Re-Signification of Housing: A Design Guide for Santiago de Chile’. As a practitioner, he has participated in a number of housing competitions, among which stands out the first prize in Architecture and Social Integration: Communities of Different Incomes (2008) and first prize in Socially Integrated Density Housing Design, 290 dwellings in Ciudad Parque Bicentenario (2017). In addition, his practice focuses on commissioned private houses, being the CS House nominated for the Mies Van der Rohe Crown Hall Americas Prize – Emerging Architecture (2016). Alvaro’s writings and design proposals have been published internationally and also has lectured in several universities. Most recently: Universidad de La Salle (México), The Royal College of Art, The Bartlett School of Architecture, The Architectural Association (UK), and Pontificia Universidad Católica (Chile).

“Collective Forms in China – Exhibit at Venice Architecture Biennale (2018)” 

Staying with the Unsettling

The talk will share a personal path of design research, meandering through architecture, anthropology and art. From architectural urbanism adopted at the AA Projective Cities, to design ethnography practiced throughout the doctoral study on Chinese rurality at AA PhD by Design and postdoctoral works on community and governance at the RCA, to the idea of structured ambiguity that explores the form of scroll drawing as a synthesis of research and a means of argumentation, then to the deep entanglements between agents of the Earth and planetary feedback loops as an architectural domain, I hope to reflect on my practice as a design researcher that does not dwell on a defined subject matter, but rather as a form of personal enquiry, and indeed struggle, driven by an urge to unsettle the domination of all those constituted as others, which underpins the rather wide ranging themes, i.e. diverse ways of cultural knowing and being, non-canonical histories and socio-spatial models, and alternative cartographic imaginaries. The ultimate questions I seek to explore are: To whom are we responsible and accountable? And what might be the constitutive role of architecture in the production of knowledge, imaginations and practices concerning these responsibilities and accountabilities?

JINGRU CYAN CHENG is currently a design tutor in MA Architecture (ADS7) and postdoctoral research associate at the Royal College of Art. She holds a PhD by Design and an M.Phil Projective Cities from the Architectural Association in London. Cyan’s doctoral work on Chinese rurality, domesticity, and the resistance and care in the practices of rural dissolved households, received a commendation by the RIBA President’s Awards for Research (2018). Her postdoctoral research centres around the idea of the collective, the construct of collective subjectivities, and the socio-spatial design of community. Another line of Cyan’s work, through studio teaching and exhibition practice, looks into the atmosphere as a transformative terrestrial subject that reshapes global and local politics, as well as struggles and conflicts in the climate crisis. Cyan’s work has been exhibited at Critical Zones: Observatories for Earthly Politics (2020-21), Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism (2019), Venice Architecture Biennale (2018) and Beijing Design Week (2016), among others.

Rethinking housing and care cooperatives, from dissertation to practice.

Rethinking Housing and Care Cooperatives in the Netherlands

In recent years, cooperatives and social support networks have come to the centre of attention in search for an alternative response to traditional forms of assistance. Community-led care networks such as Buurtzorg, District Care, and care cooperatives are being developed in the Netherlands as a result of new legislation. Through the administration of the Right to Challenge (2016), the funding of community organisation and the establishment of the cooperative in the Housing Act (2015 and 2020), the Dutch government is framing cooperatives as an urban strategy to develop social initiatives, decentralised care models and affordable housing in order to renew neighbourhoods.
Through an analysis of housing acts, spatial forms and dwelling types the seminar reflects on the role of housing (cooperatives) in relation to healthcare and wellbeing. Moreover, the seminar illustrates how the shift towards decentralised care models has led to new design questions about the use and organisation of the home environment in relation to care work, district services and cluster living. The aim of the seminar is to start an open discussion on how we can challenge and rethink the dwelling as an infrastructural project to organise the provision of support, services and cooperation.

GIANNA BOTTEMA holds a MSc in Architecture from Delft University of Technology and a Taught MPhil (Projective Cities) in Architecture and Urban Design from the Architectural Association in London. Her thesis was focussed on the development of housing and care cooperatives and formed an investigation into decentralised and cooperative care models in the Netherlands. Currently, she is working as an architect on different housing projects and developing the research projects Collective Home Ownership: New Protocols for Architecture, and Vital Home: Dwelling as an Infrastructural Project.

Experimental Cell Partition Walls for the Millbank Penitentiary by Michael Faraday and Abel Blouet.

From Violin to Axes: Falling in love with Robin Evans

Through the cell partition detail, Evans displays architecture’s agency where the designer is questioning what it means to be isolated? It is the moment where architecture pushes back and demands a reckoning in an existing political order. Evans’ writings were my gateway into understanding what architectural agency meant, which was one of the more enduring take-aways from Projective Cities that has underlined the teaching I did in Aarhus and my own research since. I will retrospectively look at some of my own work since 2013, linking it back to some of the important moments in the programme and Evans’ essays that guided me during this journey.

NAINA GUPTA is an architect with a BArch from India, and a March and a MPhil from the Architectural Association (AA) in London, U.K. Currently she is completing her PhD. at the AA and her research is titled A Curious Constellation: An International Sensibility and Modern Architecture, that departed from her MPhil dissertation titled Palaces Without A People: Constructing a Post-National Forum, which was done at Projective Cities. She has practiced as an architect in India, Singapore, the Netherlands, and Russia. Between 2015-2018 she taught a unit at Aarhus School of Architecture in Denmark.

Barcelona’s Besós Frontline on top of the ringroad. Avilla + Llindar

‘Housing Systems’

In every major city, housing is being disputed as a right and as a commodity within a transformation process that affects its urban fabric as much as its social structure. Architecture and urban design play major roles in these transformations, as they are seen as instruments both by public authorities and developers. With the PC dissertation “The Role of Public Housing in Barcelona” (2018) I analysed the impact of local associations and dwellers both during the design process and once the building is inhabited, reconsidering notion of standards – “what” and “for whom” – and shifting traditional housing design and procurement process by starting it from the domestic space. This lecture will present the continuation of that research after 2018 through public and cooperative housing projects in Barcelona.

RAÜL AVILLA-ROYO  is an architect and researcher. He studied architecture in Barcelona School of Architecture (ETSAB-UPC) and in the Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio (AAM-USI), after which he pursued a Taught MPhil at the Architectural Association (AA). He is currently tutor at MPhil in Architecture and Urban Design (Projective Cities) at the AA and since 2013 he runs his own practice, focused on public and cooperative buildings. He is also PhD candidate at the Royal College of Art in London (RCA) and member of the collective Arquitectos de Cabecera in Barcelona.

From Haringey to the Bronx.

Just Housing

Focusing on two large scale projects in London and New York, the lecture will reflect on Ricardo’s experience working in the early phases of design for affordable, cooperative living schemes in Haringey and the Bronx. The projects span his time as a student researching for his thesis and as a practising architect, both with the aim to conceive just housing.

RICARDO PALMA is an architect who graduated in Architecture and Design from the Instituto Superior de Arquitectura y Diseño (ISAD), Chihuahua and from the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. Ricardo has worked in Mexico City, Copenhagen and New York where he currently resides. His dissertation focused on community-led housing in Haringey, and thereafter he went on to work on an affordable housing project in the Bronx.

Workers’ housing of the former State Agricultural Farm, in Opole Voivodeship, Poland. Source: Archive of the ‘Trouble in Paradise’ exhibition, photo: Wojciech Mazan, 2019. 

Hidden Remains
Architecture of Former Workers Settlements of State Agricultural Farms in Contemporary Poland

Wojciech Mazan is an architect, he graduated with an MPhil in Architecture and Urban Design (Projective Cities) from the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, and with an MSc from the Faculty of Architecture of the Wrocław University of Technology and studied at the Rotterdam Academy of Architecture and Urban Design. In 2017 he co-founded architectural practice PROLOG, which curates Polish Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition preparing the project concerning the countryside of Poland named ‘Trouble in Paradise’. He currently works as an assistant researcher at the Royal College of Arts in London.

Guest Seminar: Charlotte Johnson

Infrastructural Communities

Image from Engineering Comes Home, taken by Kat Austen.

The scale of the climate crisis requires radical rethinking of urban life. As an anthropologist working on the relationship between the built environment and resource consumption, my approach is to focus on everyday practices of care and alternative forms of exchange. I draw on the recent turn to material politics to look in particular how infrastructural connections enable alternative interpretations, forms of value and action.   The drive to retrofit the city with less resource intense living often includes a rescaling of infrastructure as policy makers hope to better align demand with locally available resources. This delineates groups of people who share key parts of the system, such as a secondary electricity substation or a drainage network. These urban neighbours may not know one another or hold values in common and yet their individual actions can be aggregated to provide system-level services. Thinking of these groups as residents who share a material connection that may or may not align with how they identify with location or interest-based groups provides a useful lens for both critique and intervention. In this talk, I discus a number of interdisciplinary projects that have worked with these ‘infrastructural communities’ to understand the possibilities for action on resource consumption through the built environment. 

Charlotte Johnson is a Senior Research Associate in Urban resources & communities, Bartlett School for Environment, Energy & Resources (UCL). She is an anthropologist specialising in urban sustainability, with a focus on decentralised infrastructure and how it can produce transformative social action.  She is currently working with community energy groups trialling Peer-2-Peer electricity markets, and leads community co-design of water infrastructure on the NERC funded Community Water Management for a Liveable London (CAMELLIA) project.

Guest Seminar: Geraldine Dening, Architects for Social Housing.

‘Architects for Social Housing: For a Sustainable Architecture’

The urban conditions that we have been witnessing and responding to in London over the past 5 years are a direct result of the global phenomenon of the privatisation, marketisation and financialisation of housing, the neo-liberalisation of our processes of development, and the consequent decimation and destruction of our urban communities, environments and cultures in favour of short-term financial gain and increasing inequality. Simultaneously, the issue of sustainable cities, or more accurately ‘how we can develop sustainability’, is one of the most urgent issues of our time, and one in which architects and fellow built-environment professionals have both the opportunity and the duty to take a leading role. To be genuinely sustainable, just and equitable development must go far beyond the simplistic notions of the environment characterising so-called ‘green’ architecture. Architectural approaches must not only improve the physical, built and ‘natural’ environments in which we live, but also be socially beneficial and financially viable if we are to call them truly sustainable. Very few architectural treatises on the environment talk about the relationship of the environment to the economy, to the social dimension of the environment, or its relationship to the political sphere. The work of ASH pushes all these constituent contexts to the forefront of the architectural debate.

Geraldine Dening is the co-founder and Director of Architects for Social Housing (ASH), and a qualified architect with her own practice based in London. She is also a senior lecturer at the Leicester School of Architecture, where she lectures on professional practice and ethics, as well as running a design studio. In 2018 Geraldine was named by the Evening Standard newspaper as one of London’s 30 most influential architects. and with ASH co-founder Simon Elmer she is working on a book titled ‘For a Socialist Architecture’. Recent projects with Architects for Social Housing include designs and feasibility studies for additional housing and improvements to 6 council and social housing estates in London threatened with demolition. These include proposals to increase the housing capacity on Central Hill Estate in South London by up to 50% with no demolition, and on West Kensington and Gibbs Green Estate, as part of the community’s application for the Right to Transfer the estate into community ownership. She also devised and co-ordinated Open Garden Estates, a series of events hosted by estates threatened with demolition. As ASH’s lead architect she is also currently working with a number of housing co-operatives to explore new forms of community-led development.

Guest Seminar: Cristina Gamboa, Lacol, Barcelona.

Radical Daily Practices

Lacol, LaBorda, Barcelona.

The lecture will describe the relation between the development process of LaBorda, the first housing cooperative built in Barcelona, and its architectural definition. Once the property is at stake and the focus is on use, the requests for the architecture change. In the case of LaBorda, the housing need motivation was also challenged by the transition towards sustainability, in the broadest way possible: political, social, economic and environmental.

Cristina Gamboa – Lacol arquitectura cooperativa Barcelona

Cristina is a chartered architect and teacher. She Is currently a Studio Master at Projective Cities, MPhil in Architecture and Urban Design. She studied at the Barcelona School of Architecture ETSAB / UPC, and the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning / University of Stuttgart. Cristina is co-founder of Lacol, a cooperative of architects established in 2014 in Barcelona, where she has focused on researching participative approaches to design and developing cooperative housing and housing policies, tested in on-going projects.

Lacol works from architecture towards social transformation, using architecture as a tool to intervene critically in the local environments. The activity is based on a horizontal system of labor, acting alongside society with the motivation and challenge to achieve a transition towards sustainability in the broadest way possible: political, social, economic and environmental. Lacol’s practice embrace Architecture, Urbanism, Housing policies and Participatory processes, blurring the limits of the different disciplines to define a cross-sectional and participative approach. She has focused on researching participative approaches to design and developing cooperative housing and housing policies, tested in on-going projects.

Guest Seminar: Christoph Schmidt, ifau Berlin

Spaces of Negotiation

R50 Co-housing, Berlin. Topping Out ceremony.

Date: 26/05/2020
Time: 10:00-11:30
Venue: AA Lecture Hall Microsoft Team

What if architecture does not solve conflicts or tries to organize them by assignments?

What if architecture enhanced conflicts to activate their inherent potentials for action and negotiation?

Insights into actual projects of the Berlin based architectural group ifau regarding urban housing development processes in Hamburg and Berlin. According to two projects the participatory planning processes are strongly connected with and controlled by the local communities and the political-administrative municipalities. Developments and participatory planning processes for a new mixed residential and non-residential quarter with sub-cultural forms of use providing a mix of live and work units meeting the needs of artists, producers and creative professionals. The starting point for the spatial layout and design is a collaborative and socially mixed concept of use. Moreover, the comparatively low land prices allow the cross financing of co-operative living and studio spaces within the project.

Create situations for conflicts to be negotiated by the users!

ifau – institute for applied urbanism, Berlin

ifau is a Berlin-based working group of architects with a focus on interrelated, interdisciplinary projects in the field of architecture and urban design. Their flexible methodology extends from research projects to interventions in the urban realm. All of their work aims to involve contextual processes, difference and diversity to create space for negotiation in design development. They are particularly interested in process-oriented strategies and participative design methods. They realised several projects for arts institutions. Their works and texts have been published in numerous books and architectural magazines. References include Palais Thinnfeld in Graz, Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory in Utrecht, The Showroom in London, Artists Space and Goethe Institute – Wyoming Building in New York, R50-cohousing, Residential and studio building at the former Berlin flower market (IBeB) in Berlin

Christoph Schmidt is a founding member of ifau (institute for applied urbanism, 1998). He studied architecture at the RWTH Aachen University of Technology and the University College of Portsmouth. He worked as a freelance architect in Cologne and Berlin. He has been teaching architecture as assistant professor at the Technical University of Berlin where his research and taught courses where focused on innovative design methods, process-oriented design strategies and cooperative housing projects. Currently he teaches as professor at the department of urban context design at the Peter Behrens School of Arts in Düsseldorf.

Guest Seminar: Silvia Franceschini

Global Tools 1973-1975

When Education Coincides with Life

Date: 12/05/2020
Time: 10:00-11:30
Venue: AA Lecture Hall Microsoft Team

Silvia Franceschini will critically retrace the experience of Radical Design Global Tools and its multidisciplinary school program “without students or teachers.” The Global Tools was founded in 1973 by groups and figures drawn from Italian Radical Architecture (Archizoom, Superstudio, UFO, Mendini, La Pietra, Pettena, Dalisi, and Sottsass among others), Arte Povera, and Conceptual Art (including Davide Mosconi and Franco Vaccari), and ended in 1975 after three years of intense experimentation. Departing from her book on the subject (co-authored with Valerio Borgonuovo and published by Nero Editions), Franceschini will recontextualize the experience of Global Tools among a vast network of historical references and experiences of critical pedagogy and environmental activism.

Silvia Franceschini is a Curator at Z33 House for Contemporary Art, Design & Architecture in Hasselt (BE) and a visual culture scholar whose work focuses on different critiques of modernity. She is a co-author of Global Tools 1973–1975. When Education Coincides With Life (Nero Publishing, 2018) and editor of Curator Without a System (Sternberg Press, Upcoming). Her selected curatorial projects include the research program The Politics of Affinity. Experiments in Art, Education and the Social Sphere, Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella (2016–18); the participation in the curatorial team of The School of Kyiv—Kyiv Biennial 2015; the exhibition and public program Global Tools 1973–1975: Towards an Ecology of Design, SALT, Istanbul (2014) and the exhibition The Way of Enthusiasts, Venice Biennial 2012. Since 2009 she has been involved in the curation of exhibitions in various institutions including V-A-C Foundation, Moscow—Venice; The Moscow Biennale for Young Art; Futura—Center for Contemporary Art, Prague; and the Centre Pompidou, Paris. Franceschini holds a PhD in Design and Visual Cultures from the Polytechnic University of Milan and she was a research fellow at the Exhibition Research Lab of the Liverpool John Moores University and at the Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design in Moscow. She has lectured at numerous places such as The Sharjah Biennial, The Istanbul Design Biennial, The Triennale Milano, MAXXI Museum and Konstfack University, among others.

Guest Seminar: Nerma Cridge

Post-Socialist City and Its Negative Casts

Pyongyang Mural.

Date: 10/03/2020
Time: 10:00-13:00
Venue: 37 Bedford Square, 1st Floor, Front Room.

This lecture will compare cities from two communist countries which at first glance, could be seen as the exact opposite from one another. Ex-Yugoslavia which tends to be seen as the most open and least communist, will be juxtaposed with the most defiantly secretive and closed country in the world – North Korea.

Taking Lebbeus Woods’ Sarajevo project in 1993 which dealt with Yugoslavia’s tragic disintegration as a point of departure, we will explore the history, secrets and speculation behind some of the most intriguing architecture in ex-Yugoslavia – including numerous gigantic abstract monuments and hidden military structures.

Counter-posed will be the still officially communist figurative monuments of Pyongyang. The premise behind taking two such different regimes is that by looking at the margins, important traits of the communist architecture as a whole, could be uncovered. Pyongyang’s figurative monuments offer no ambiguity, instead we are confronted with very clear literal meaning. One of the many contradictions of its monumental architecture built on a massive scale with incredible speed, is that even when newly completed most structures appear already out-dated.

There has been a recent surge of interest in both countries lead by photographers. This lecture will seek to redress this imbalance between the large quantities of visual information, which often comes with little explanation of the meaning, history or context.

The concluding parts will seek to define further what could be behind our insatiable yearning for this type of imagery, and argue that, at least in part, it could be attributed to collective nostalgia towards more naïve, simple and innocent times. Towards times when communism appeared to function and even inspire architecture with a true social purpose and responsibility.

Nerma Prnjavorac Cridge grew up in Sarajevo and completed her education in architecture at Birmingham, the Bartlett and the Architectural Association. Since qualifying, she worked for a number of distinguished practitioners including Thomas Heatherwick and art2architecture. Her first monograph Drawing the Unbuildable, based on her PhD thesis at the Architectural Association (supervised by dr Marina Lathouri and Mark Cousins) on the Soviet avant-garde, was published by Routledge in 2015. Nerma currently teaches at the  AA as well as running her small art and design practice Drawing Agency. Forthcoming publications include Restless: Drawn by Zaha Hadid, in Routledge Companion on Women in Architecture edited by Anna Sokolina, and The Politics of Abstraction, Nerma’s second monograph.

Guest Seminar: Jingru Cyan Cheng

Home: A Project of Rural China

Date: 03/03/2020
Time: 10:00-13:00
Venue: 37 Bedford Square, 1st Floor, Front Room.

Jingru (Cyan) Cheng obtained both PhD by Design (2018) and M.Phil Projective Cities (2014) at the Architectural Association (AA) and was the co-director of AA Wuhan Visiting School 2015-17. She is currently a postdoctoral research associate at the Royal College of Art. Her research interests lie in the intersections between disciplines, especially shared ideas and methods by architecture, anthropology and sociology, with a focus on socio-spatial models in China. Employing the design research method, her PhD thesis focuses on rurality as a spatial question at levels of territory, settlement and household. Cyan’s research on Care and Rebellion: The Dissolved Household in Contemporary Rural China received a commendation from RIBA President’s Awards for Research 2018. 

The Yard in Liu Brothers’ Family House, Shigushan Village, 2016 (Photo & Collage by Jingru Cyan Cheng).

Guest Seminar: Teresa Stoppani, Braden Engel.

Archipelagos of Noises: exploring convolutions of city as island and city as theatre

Date: 21/01/2020
Time: 14:00-16:00
Venue: 38 Bedford Street, Ground Floor Front.

Image credit: Sohei Nishino, i-Land,

This guest seminar will be co-led by Teresa Stoppani, author of Paradigm Islands: Manhattan and Venice(Routledge, 2010) and Unorthodox Ways to Think the City (Routledge, 2018), and Braden Engel who recently completed his PhD on Colin Rowe’s historiography and pedagogy, with an expert reinterpretation of Rowe’s seminal Collage City
Presentations and discussions will consider the possibility of the city as an island ‘in relation’ with shifting and ambiguous edges to the point of incremental saturation and endless interiority, in convergence with the possibility of the city as theatre, and vice versa, theatre as city, that address questions of construction and curation. The idea of city as island is instrumental to the condition of openness and remote networks, which ‘make archipelago’ of island narratives that, far from closed and isolated, are always ‘full of noises’ (William Shakespeare, The Tempest, III. II. 140-41). From political utopia to continental geophilosophy, complex urban archipelagos are formed through convulsing nomotop, as mythical impossibility, or as personal or sci-fi constructions. These will be linked to moments in Colin Rowe’s unpublished lecture at Cornell University that critically explored the city, from design process to lived experience, as a collective theatre that transgress possibilities of the tragic, the satiric, and the comic. 

Teresa Stoppani is an architect, architectural theorist and critic based in London, where she lectures in History and Theory Studies at the Architectural Association in London. She studied architecture in Venice and Florence, and has taught architectural design and theory in Italy (IUAV Venice), Australia (UT Sydney, RMIT Melbourne) and the UK (Architectural Association, Greenwich, Brighton, Leeds Beckett). Teresa’s research explores the relationship between architecture theory and the design process in the urban environment, and the influence on the specifically architectural of other spatial and critical practices. Teresa is the author of Paradigm Islands: Manhattan and Venice(Routledge, 2010) and of Unorthodox Ways to Think the City (Routledge, 2018), and editor, with Giorgio Ponzo and George Themistokleous, of This Thing Called Theory(Routledge 2016). She is the instigator of the architecture research collective ThisThingCalledTheory, and an editor of (RIBA/Routledge). She is currently working on her next book Architecture Dust.

Braden R. Engel (BS Philosophy and MArch, North Dakota St; MA Histories & Theories, Architectural Association) has been teaching architecture and design history and theory courses for ten years between London and California. He is currently Undergraduate History + Theory Coordinator at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Braden’s writing has been published in Architecture and Culture, The Journal of Architecture, AA Files, the Journal of Art Historiography, PLAT, and Planning Perspectives.

BOOK LAUNCH: Neeraj Bhatia (The Open Workshop), hosted by Projective Cities and Diploma Unit 7.

New Investigations in Collective Form

Date: 09/12/2019
Time: 18:30
Venue: 36 Bedford Square, Front Members Room.

More than fifty years have passed since the publication of Fumihiko Maki’s seminal text, Investigations in Collective Form, which argued for collective form as an organizing device to address the increasingly fragmented city and public realm. Today, we continue to face urban challenges – from economic inequality to a progressively fragile natural environment – that, in order to be addressed, require us to come together in a moment when what we collectively value is increasingly difficult to locate. Working within the fluctuating and indeterminate conditions of the urban realm, its public sphere, and its ecological context, this publication examines how collectivity can be formed today. Neeraj Bhatia (the principle of founder of The Open Workshop) will discuss a group of design experiments presented in his book, New Investigations in Collective Form, testing how architecture can empower the diverse voices that make up the public realm and the environments in which they exist.

The book launch will be followed by a conversation with Maria S. Giudici, Pier Vittorio Aureli, Eva Franch i Gilabert, Hamed Khosravi, and Platon Issaias.

for more information, visit:

Guest Seminar: Gianna Bottema, EDIT Collective, Julian Siravo.

Radical Care

Date: 01/11/2019
Time: 14:00-16:00
Venue: 38 Bedford Street, Ground Floor Front.

Caption: Gianna Bottema, Housing & Care Cooperatives in the Netherlands: Spatial Diagrams of Cluster Living, detail, 2019.

Gianna Bottema studied architecture at Delft University of Technology and ETH Zurich. After her Master’s degree in Delft she pursued a Taught MPhil (Projective Cities) at the Architectural Association which was focused on the emergence of housing and care cooperatives in the Netherlands. Currently she is working on the research project Collective Home Ownership: New Protocols for Architecture in collaboration with the municipality of Amsterdam.

Caption: EDIT Collective, Act 1, GDP, 2019.

EDIT is an all-female design collective. Formed about a year ago, from RCA graduates, the group shares common interests in issues of social equality, gender biases, environmental activism and the creation of equitable institutional forms. At the Oslo Architecture Triennale 2019, EDIT presented ‘Honey, I’m Home’, a project that explores the domestic realm as a space of performance, in which objects and furniture are props that further enforce heteronormative habits. In an attempt to disrupt these domestic rituals, the project suggests the alteration of the domestic props. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP), for example, is a fictional, provocative prototype for collectivising domestic labour. As an alternative to the capitalist assumption that housework is most efficient when performed individually, the GDP is a device best used by three people. The collective’s aim is to challenge some of our archetypal spaces and structures by suggesting more equitable scenarios.

Caption: Julian Siravo, Stavros Oikonomidis, Care Centres in Vanencia, 2019.

Julian Siravo is an architect and urban designer working in the policy and think tank world. Originally from Rome, Italy, he is a graduate of both the Bartlett and the Royal College of Art. Julian is part of Common Wealth think tank and head of urban research at Autonomy, where he focuses on the spatial implications of new welfare and employment policies, on ageing populations and sustainable forms of leisure.

Guest Seminar: Michal Murawski

Perverting the Power Vertical:

Shapes and Styles of Subversion in the (Trans-Socialist) Global East

Date: 24/04/2019
Time: 10:00-13:00
Venue: 4 Morwell Street, First Floor Back, Projective Cities Studio.

This talk draws its core ethnographic material from fieldwork on architectural aesthetics and contemporary art in Warsaw and Moscow. It deploys the notion of the Power Vertical – a term used by political scientists to refer to Vladimir Putin’s brand of post-Soviet authoritarian governance – as a conceptual pivot. What are the aesthetics of the Power Vertical? Are they resolutely upright and ostentatious, like Moscow’s proliferating neo-Stalinist skyscrapers and turbo-charged Victory Day Parades? Or are they happy-go-lucky, dissipate and chaotic, like Putin’s villainous trickster wink (or Trump’s insomniac Twitter sessions)? Moreover, in the era of resurgent populisms, re-militarization and the oligarchization of capital, are the styles, shapes and affects of the Power Vertical making a mark on the planetary political-aesthetic New Normal?

While seeking to make sense of the Power Vertical, this paper also looks beyond it, exploring the heterodox shapes, styles and ideologies populating the “Global East” – a loosely-sketched zone encompassing the (post-)socialist world and its transnational entanglements. Moreover, it probes ways in which scholars can collaborate with artists, architects and activists from across the Global East: not only to analyse the Power Vertical (not only to take the Power Vertical seriously), but also to develop tactics, strategies and imaginaries to ridicule, trick, twist, undercut, queer, resist and pervert it.

With this in mind, this paper also seeks to highlight the powerful (and subversive) legacies of Actually-existing State Socialism (AeSS) – and its multiple “still-socialist” (Murawski 2018) afterlives – in the Global East and beyond; and it sketches some ideas towards a concept of trans-socialism: a radical and intersectional mode of socialist aesthetics, urbanism and political economy. Trans-socialism theorizes AeSS’s many actual and imagined migrations through space and time (beyond the “socialist block”, as well as beyond the notorious expiry date of 1989-1991); and it mines the Global East for progressive dimensions of the AeSS legacy – in the realms of urbanism, aesthetics, class, gender, race and ecology – which can be re-harnessed to exert a defamiliarizing and destabilizing effect on our late capitalist present and future.

Michał Murawski is an anthropologist of architecture and art based at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London, where he is Lecturer in Critical Area Studies. His book, The Palace Complex: A Stalinist Skyscraper, Capitalist Warsaw and a City Transfixed, was published by Indiana University Press in 2019; and, in Polish, by the Museum of Warsaw in 2015. During 2017-2018, while a Visiting Scholar at the Vysokovsky Graduate School of Urbanism at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, he carried out fieldwork for a new book project on architectural aesthetics and politics in Putin-era Moscow. With Jane Rendell, he co-edited A Century of the Social Condenser, 1917- 2017, a special issue of The Journal of Architecture (2017), and he has published in scholarly and media outlets including Third Text: Critical Studies in Contemporary Art and Culture, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Anthropology Today, Social Text, Laboratorium, Focaal, The Calvert Journal, Strelka Magazine, Forbes and The Architectural Review. In 2018, he co-curated the exhibition Portal Zaryadye – featuring 18 new works by Russian artists exploring the relationship between architecture, politics and ecology in contemporary Russia – at the State Shchusev Museum of Architecture in Moscow.

Caption: Zofia Kulik, Human Motif, 1989. Foto-dywan 240cm x 480cm (24 panels 80 x 60cm).




Date: 26/04/2019
Time: 13:30-18:00
Venue: 36 Bedford Square, AA Lecture Hall.

The event brings together researchers, architects and artists to explore the use of media and representation of space as a form of multiscalar investigation, from architecture to the territory and the urban. From analogue tools to advanced computation, speakers will discuss key projects from their practice that use media beyond the pure representation of architecture but instead as a systematic form of enquiry.

This is the first of a series of public events by the MPhil Projective Cities to foster a transversal conversation and a creative dialogue across different parts and research in the AA.

Organisers: Sam Jacoby, Platon Issaias
Keynote speakers: David Burns, Eva le Roi
Participants: Gili Merin, Samaneh Moafi, Jingru (Cyan) Chen, Hamed Khosravi, Xristina Argyros, Maria S. Giudici, Clara Oloriz, Christina Varvia. 

more information about the event and speakers bios at:

Caption: Eva Le Roi, Canal St-Martin. ink on paper, 37 x 56 cm.

David Burns, Tufi 1, 2018.

Guest Seminar: Cristina Gamboa Masdevall

Radical Daily Practices

Date: 27/02/2019
Time: 13:00-17:00
Venue: 4 Morwell Street, Second Floor, Housing and Urbanism Studio Space.

The lecture will describe the relation between the development process of LaBorda, the first housing cooperative built in Barcelona, and its architectural definition. Once the property is at stake and the focus is on use, the requests for the architecture change. In the case of La Borda, the housing need motivation was also challenged by the transition towards sustainability, in the broadest way possible: political, social, economic and environmental.

Cristina Gamboa Masdevall is a chartered architect and teacher. She studied at the Barcelona School of Architecture ETSAB / UPC, and the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning / University of Stuttgart. Cristina is co-founder of Lacol, a cooperative of architects established in 2014 in Barcelona, where she has focused on researching participative approaches to design and developing cooperative housing and housing policies, tested in on-going projects.

Guest Seminar: Jingru Cyan Cheng

Home: A Project for Rural China

Date: 22/02/2019
Time: 10:00-13:00
Venue: 4 Morwell Street, First Floor, Projective Cities Studio Space.

Jingru (Cyan) Cheng obtained both PhD by Design (2018) and M.Phil Projective Cities (2014) at the Architectural Association (AA) and was the co-director of AA Wuhan Visiting School 2015-17. She is currently a postdoctoral research associate at the Royal College of Art. Her research interests lie in the intersections between disciplines, especially shared ideas and methods by architecture, anthropology and sociology, with a focus on socio-spatial models in China. Employing the design research method, her PhD thesis focuses on rurality as a spatial question at levels of territory, settlement and household. Cyan’s research on Care and Rebellion: The Dissolved Household in Contemporary Rural China received a commendation from RIBA President’s Awards for Research 2018. 

Caption: The Yard in Liu Brothers’ Family House, Shigushan Village, 2016 (Photo & Collage by Jingru Cyan Cheng). 

Guest Seminar: Elia Zenghelis

Date: 06/02/2019
Time: 10:00-13:00
Venue: 32 Bedford Square, First Floor Back.

Elia Zenghelis studied and taught at the AA from 1956 to 1987. Co-founder of OMA with Rem Koolhaas in 1975 and partner until 1987, when he established Gigantes Zenghelis Architects in Athens. He has taught Advanced Studio at Yale School of Architecture from 2013 to the present. Recipient of the Annie Spink Award for excellence in education in 2000.

Caption: Elia Zenghelis, Zoe Zenghelis. Hotel Sphinx Project, New York, New York (Axonometric), 1975-76. Synthetic Polymer paint and ink on paper, (46.7 x 55.9 cm). MoMA.  

Future Homes for London: Alternate Models

Organised by the Royal College of Art, St Ann’s Redevelopment Trust, Haringey, The Architecture Foundation, Baylight Foundation and Projective Cities

Dates: Friday 13th and Saturday 14th April 2018
Venue: Lecture Theatre One, Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, London SW7 2EU (entrance via Jay Mews)        

The objective of these series of events over two days is to pull apart and question alternate models of affordable and community-led housing projects for the UK. Using global exemplars – from Swiss projects based on nineteenth century co-operative legal structures such as Kraftwerk I and Mehr als Wohnen in Zurich, new Spanish co-operatives addressing community ageing (La Borda), to the Nightingale structure developed within the specific legal and financial constraints of Australian law – this event will ask what, within the context of the UK, is possible? What works and why, and how do we learn from other places, recognizing the specificity of our legal jurisdiction, financial structures, and cultural limitations?

Future Homes for London: Alternate Models will discuss: case studies and precedents; the consequences of different legal frameworks; co-operative models and land tenure systems in relationship to participation, ongoing management, and governance; the financing of housing projects – patient capital and the perception of risk; procurement structures; and the role of architecture, especially in negotiating difference productively through design.

Participants will hear from those developing, building, designing, leading and living in new projects globally and learn from their experience of delivering alternate housing.

Day 1: Global Precedents of Community-led and -owned Housing

Date: 13th April 2018

Often policy makers and developers see ‘community led’ as no more than glorified consultation, or as a way to navigate the planning process. Communities often talk of ‘community led’, but really mean full community control of housing and amenities. This can include the design process, full ownership of the property on completion, who lives in the development, rental and sales prices fixed in perpetuity by covenants in ownership contracts, and ongoing management. To make it more than just a place where people live, can community groups actively build communities as well as housing – where we might replace the term housing with the notion of civil society? This is not uncommon in other parts of the world. Why do we continue to wait for someone’s permission to do it here in the UK?

Common to many of the international projects that will be discussed is the role of the design process in the negotiation of difference amongst co-operative members and the coming into form of the project. Here, co-operative members navigating competing desires and ambitions for a project are innovating the shared spaces and amenities of multi-residential housing projects, moving away from the usual one two and three bedroom apartments sent to market by developers. These are projects either led by architects, or that involve co-op members who are architects.

The series of presentations are from architects and housing activists operating globally. They will deal with processes, give stories and accounts of specific projects, and speak about experiments in new, shared amenity at the scale of the building block and the dwelling unit.

9:30 Welcome by Adrian Lahoud (Dean, School of Architecture, RCA)
9:35 Introduction by Tony Wood (StART)
9:45 Introduction to Day 1 Tarsha Finney (RCA)
10:00-13.00: International Case Studies Part 1
    – Cristina Gamboa (Lacol), La Borda, Barcelona
    – Jeremy McLeod (Breathe Architecture), The Commons, Melbourne
    – Silvia Carpaneto (Carpaneto Schöningh Architekten), Coop Housing, Berlin (tbc)
    – Christoph Schmidt (ifau), R50, Berlin (tbc)
    – Christian Roth (Zanderroth Architekten), BIGyard, Berlin (tbc)
    – Claudia Thiesen (Mehr Als Wohnen), Kraftwerk I, Zurich
13:00-14:00 Lunch break
14.00-15.30:  International Case Studies Part 2
     – Jeremy McLeod: The Nightingale Principle, Melbourne.
    – Paul Karakusevic: Camden/New York
16.00-18.00: Panel Discussion 
    Discussion of participation, conflict, negotiation, and constituting community. 
    Clarifying relationships and terms between community and housing development and national contexts.
– Tony Wood (StART)
– Paul Karakusevic (Karakusevic Carson Architects)
– Catherine Harrington (Director, National CLT Network)
– Jeremy McLeod
– Claudia Thiesen
– Cristina Gamboa
– Stephen Hill (National CLT Network and UK Cohousing Network)
Chaired by Tarsha Finney (RCA)

Day 2: The UK Context: Community Control and Financing of Housing

Date: Saturday 14th April 2018

Until recently the general narrative has been ‘the market will provide’ when it comes to house building but this strategy is a failure for most people. Recently, the delivery of genuinely affordable and community-led housing has risen up the political agenda and raises a series of questions: What is genuinely affordable and who should housing be owned and managed by? What constitutes and legitimises a community to take control of housing projects? How are alternate models of housing to be scaled up to match the UK housing demand and what financing and procurement models are needed? Can public and private capital work with community organisations and philanthropy to achieve this?

The second day will be framed by StART, a group of local residents and workers who have initiated a community-led and transparent process for a 800-unit housing development in Haringey that puts local people in control, with the aim to provide genuinely affordable housing.

10:00: Welcome by Adrian Lahoud (Dean, School of Architecture, RCA)
10.05: Introduction by Tony Wood (StART)
10:15-12:45: Community Control: What Could It Look Like?
    – Vanessa Rickett (StART)
    – Sphen Hill (National CLT Network and UK Cohousing Network)
    – Dinah Roake (Atlas, Homes and Communities Agency)
    Chaired by Adrian Lahoud (RCA)
12:45-13:30: Lunch
13:30-16:00: How Do We Fund Affordable Housing?
    – Marlene Barrett (StART)                       
    – Stephen Hill  (Director, C20 futureplanners) tbc
    – Frances Northrop (Consultant, NEF/Co-ops UK Community Economic Development Programme)
    – Pete Gladwell (Head of Public Sector Partnerships, Legal & General Investment Management)  
    Chaired by Paul Karakusevic (Karakusevic Carson Architects)
16:30-18:30 The Future of Community-led Housing
    Hosted by The Architecture Foundation
    – Annabel Kennedy (StART)
    – Chris Brown (Executive Chair, igloo Regeneration)
    – Jeremy McLeod (Breathe Architecture)
    – Claudia Thiesen (Mehr Als Wohnen)
    – Cristina Gamboa (Lacol)
    Chaired by Phineas Harper (Architecture Foundation)

Graduate School Prize for Research

Congratulations to Alvaro Arancibia, former Projective Cities student, for winning the inaugural AA Graduate School Prize for Research for his PhD Thesis ‘The Social Re-Signification of Housing: A Design Guide for Santiago de Chile (2017). The PhD developed from his MPhil studies in Projective Cities.  

AAPC Guest Seminar: Charles Rice

Date: 24/01/2017
Time: 14:00
Venue: 32FFB

Charles Rice joined Projective Cities for a seminar on his new book Interior Urbanism: Architecture, John Portman and Downtown America

Vast interior spaces have become ubiquitous in the contemporary city. The soaring atriums and concourses of mega-hotels, shopping malls and transport interchanges define an increasingly normal experience of being ‘inside’ in a city. Yet such spaces are also subject to intense criticism and claims that they can destroy the quality of a city’s authentic life ‘on the outside’.

Interior Urbanism explores the roots of this contemporary tension between inside and outside, identifying and analysing the concept of interior urbanism and tracing its history back to the works of John Portman and Associates in 1960s and 70s America. Portman – increasingly recognised as an influential yet understudied figure – was responsible for projects such as Peachtree Center in Atlanta and the Los Angeles Bonaventure Hotel, developments that employed vast internal atriums to define a world of possibilities not just for hotels and commercial spaces, but for the future of the American downtown amid the upheavals of the 1960s and 70s.

The book analyses Portman’s architecture in order to reconsider major contexts of debate in architecture and urbanism in this period, including the massive expansion of a commercial imperative in architecture, shifts in the governance and development of cities amid social and economic instability, the rise of postmodernism and critical urban studies, and the defence of the street and public space amid the continual upheavals of urban development.

In this way the book reconsiders the American city at a crucial time in its development, identifying lessons for how we consider the forces at work, and the spaces produced, in cities in the present.

John Portman and Associates, Peachtree Center, Atlanta, 1961–2009. Diagram showing major interior spaces, vertical cores and pedestrian connections. Darker shaded areas indicate skybridges above streets. Drawing by Alina McConnochie.

AAPC Guest Seminar: Tom Avermaete

Date: 27/4/2016
Time: 14:00
Venue: 37 FFF

The Infrastructure of Bare Life: Architectural Perspectives for and from the Global South


Michel Ecochard, The 8×8 Grid of Housing, Morocco, 1950s

“a continuous network of centers and lines of communication [in which] all parts of the settlement and all lines of communication will be interwoven into a meaningful organism.”[1]

This is how the Greek architect Constantinos Doxiadis described his city of the future. In 1972, Doxiadis published photographs of a spider’s web before and after the animal had been drugged with amphetamines. The distorted organization of the doped spider was equated with a map showing “the chaos of networks” in the urban Detroit area.[2] On the basis of this visual analogy Doxiadis argues that the role of the architect is no longer limited to a simple ‘form giver’ but also includes that of a coordinator of various infrastructural networks: “We must coordinate all of our Networks now. All networks, from roads to telephones.”[3] Doxiadis’ project for Detroit consequently is a negotiation between the existing chaotic arrangement and a well-structured regional geometry of underground infrastructural networks of transportation and utilities. His proposal for the Detroit area echoes earlier planning experiences in Africa and the Middle East, where Doxiadis established a profound expertise on the role of an architecture of infrastructure for future urban development.

This seminar is based on a double point of departure. First, it argues that much of the conceptions of infrastructure that we hold in architectural discourse remain largely based on Western experiences and categories. The majority of the reflections on the architecture-infrastructure nexus are firmly located in the urban experience of North America and Western Europe. They are part of a canonical tradition where new approaches are produced in the crucible of a few ‘great’ cities: historical cities such as Paris, Berlin and Vienna and modern metropoli such as New York and Chicago – cities inevitably located in Euro-America. However, this paper holds that it is time to rethink the list of ‘great’ cities. Urban development already lays elsewhere: in the megalopoli of the global South, in cities such as Karachi, Dakar and Casablanca. Can the experiences with infrastructure in these cities reconfigure the heartland of architectural and urban thinking?

Second, this seminar claims that the architectural thinking on infrastructure gained an unprecedented impetus in the decades after the Second World War. In the context of the international debates about development the notion of infrastructure became a label for the technical-political systems that were required for growth and modernization. This new understanding of infrastructure, during the so-called ‘development decade’, had also a profound impact on the discourse and practice of architects. I argue that the debates about development aid shifted attention from a technical concern with infrastructure towards one framed more in terms of the integrative capacities. Infrastructure came to be understood as the integrator of social, economical and cultural factors, but also of formal and constructive considerations. Moreover, housing and houses came to be looked upon as the most fundamental infrastructure off all; an “infrastructure of bare life”. The development decade saw the emergence of an understanding of the house as an infrastructural dispositive, with multiple social, cultural, economic and political meanings attached to it.

The seminar will look into the approaches to this ‘infrastructure of bare life’ in the work of three protagonists of this development decade. First, the German architect and planner Otto Koenigsberger, who wrote retrospectively for the Ford Foundation the book Infrastructure Problems of the Cities of Developing Countries.[4] Second, the French architect and urban planner Michel Ecochard, who developed with his approach of the ‘trame urbaine’ a way to minimally coordinate different infrastructural layers of the city in the figure of the house and applied this in various contexts in the Global South.[5] Third, the Greek architect and planner Constantinos Doxiadis, who conceived of infrastructure networks of housing as a ‘firm foundation’ for the multiple new towns he designed for the Middle East and Africa and who afterwards applied his approach in many places in the Global North –amongst others in a threefold study of Detroit that he developed for the Detroit Edison Company between 1964 and 1972.[6]

This seminar argues that the experiences of these three protagonists in the Global South offer a fertile basis to reconsider some of the prime characteristics and potentials of infrastructure in the domain of architecture. The discourse and practice of Koenigsberger, Ecochard and Doxiadis suggest an alternative threefold definition which conceives of infrastructure as:

  • a guide of urban growth, which is not a container but an active enabler of urban development;
  • a social armature, which regulates the balance between collective interest and self-reliance in the built environment;
  • a ‘commons’, understood as a resource to the city and its citizens that is co-produced and reproduced on an everyday basis.

In conclusion this seminar argues that these definitions have forged historically a particular conception of the relation between architecture and infrastructure, at the verge of questioning the limits between both. These conceptions for and from the Global South might offer today a fresh alley to rethink the possible characteristics and roles of the ‘infrastructure of bare life’.

[1] C. A. Doxiadis, Ecumenopolis: Towards a Universal Settlement, Document R-GA 305 (Athens: Athens Technological Institute, June 1963), 116.
[2] C. A. Doxiadis, “The Two-Headed Eagle: From the Past to the Future of Human Settlements,” Ekistics 33 (May 1972): 406–20.
[3] C. A. Doxiadis, “The Two-Headed Eagle,” 418.
[4] O. H. Koenigsberger, Infrastructure Problems of the Cities of Developing Countries (New York: International Urbanization Survey, Ford Foundation, 1971)
[5] M. Ecochard, Le Problème Des Plans Directeurs D’urbanisme Au Sénégal: Documents Présentés Au Conseil National De L’urbanisme, Dakar, Le 7 Octobre 1963 (Dakar: Secretariat d’Etat au plan et au développement, Aménagement du territoire, 1963
[6] C. A. Doxiadis. Emergence and Growth of an Urban Region: the Developing Urban Detroit Area; a Study. 1. Analysis (Detroit, Mich: Detroit Edison, 1966); C. A. Doxiadis. Emergence and Growth of an Urban Region: the Developing Urban Detroit Area; a Study. 2. Future Alternatives (Detroit, Mich: Detroit Edison, 1966) and C. A. Doxiadis. Emergence and Growth of an Urban Region: the Developing Urban Detroit Area; a Study. 3. A Concept for Future Development (Detroit, Mich: Detroit Edison, 1966).

Tom Avermaete is full professor of architecture at Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands. He has a special research interest in the public realm and the architecture of the city in Western and non-Western contexts. With the chair of Methods and Analysis he focuses on the changing roles, approaches and tools of architects. His research examines precedents -design attitudes, methods and instruments- with the explicit ambition to construct a critical base of design knowledge and to influence contemporary architectural thinking and practice.

Avermaete is the author of Another Modern: the Post-War Architecture and Urbanism of Candilis-Josic-Woods (2005), The Balcony (with Koolhaas, 2014) and Casablanca -Chandigarh: Reports on Modernity (with Casciato, 2014). He is a co-editor of Architectural Positions (with Havik and Teerds, 2009), Colonial Modern (with von Osten and Karakayali, 2010), Structuralism Reloaded (with Vrachliotis, 2011), Making a New World (with Heynickx, 2012), Architecture of the Welfare State (with Swenarton and Van den Heuvel, Routledge, 2014) and Casablanca-Chandigarh: Reports on Modernization (with Casciato, Park Books, 2015).