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Dr Sabrina Puddu


  • Sabrina is a tutor for the MA City Design, School of Architecture, where she teaches design studio and history and theory of city design. 

  • Biography

  • Sabrina is an architect, teacher and researcher. Prior to joining the Royal College of Art, Sabrina has thought design and history and theory at several institutions such as Central Saint Martins, Leeds Beckett University, and the University of Cagliari.

    She received an MA with distinction in Housing and Urbanism from the Architectural Association and a PhD from the University of Cagliari, where she also conducted her post-doctoral research between 2012-15. In 2013 she was a Visiting Research Scholar at GSAPP, Columbia University.

    Her research focuses on the role of major public institutions across the divide of the contemporary urban and rural conditions, with her more recent studies being on the architecture of confinement and the urban and rural territorial logics of prisons and penal colonies.

    Besides teaching and research, Sabrina has worked as external contributor for Domus magazine of architecture and co-directs the practice urbanaarchitettura based between London and Sardinia, Italy.

    Sabrina has co-authored two books and publishes regularly on architectural magazines and journals (Domus, San Rocco, Trans, The Funambulist, Idea Journal, Rassegna di Architettura e Urbanistica, Territorio, C3). She has lectured at various institutions and universities (the Berlage Institute, Université libre de Bruxelles, the Cornell University in Rome, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Italian Institute of Culture in London, Milan Triennale) and presented her work at international conferences (EURA 2011-2013; International Conference for Carceral Geography 2017; EAHN 2018).
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  • Practice

  • Sabrina has worked as architect and urban designer in Italy and the UK for practices specialised in housing projects, masterplanning, and exhibitions/installations. She has worked across different scales and stages of design for both private and public clients and institutions including local and regional governments, councils and housing associations.

    Since 2009 she co-directs with Francesco Zuddas the practice urbanaarchitettura. Besides designing a number of domestic projects, they have developed proposals for international competitions. Among the latter, key projects include Grand Hotel Beaux Art, a reinterpretation of the notion of public space as collective housing in the ruins of a former 19th c. prison (first prize at the competition Think Public Space, Zagreb, Croatia); Ampio Magnifico Collegio, a proposal for an educational institution in Chicago dealing with contemporary clichés of informality, flexibility, immateriality, and inter-disciplinarity (finalist at ChiDesign competition, Chicago Biennal 2016); Quartiere Fiera, masterplan for the renovation of an expo center (honourable mention at the competition Riqualificazione del Quartiere Fieristico, Cagliari 2009); Progetto 9, project for a residential superblock in Belgorod, Russia (competition: Belgorod City Center); Heavenly Mansions, concept design for a roof pavilion that questions the notion of micro-housing in London (competition: Antepavilion 2017, Architectural Foundation, London); The Corpse of Utopia, a proposal for a fictitious university campus on an island in the Venice lagoon  (competition: University Island 2016, YAC); A Clockwork Palace, a collective house project in Seoul (Next Home, 2018).
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  • Publications, exhibitions and other outcomes

  • Publications in peer-review journals

    Puddu, S. (text), & Meloni, G.(photos) (2017) Uncanny beauty. Unveiling a Prison Interior. Idea Journal, December 2017, 102-29.

    Puddu, S. (2017) Under the Blue Vault of the Sky. Territorial Discipline and Agrarian Penal Colonies. Rassegna di Architettura e Urbanistica 150, 100-105.

    Puddu, S. & Zuddas, F. (2013) City and Science Park. The urban experience of [email protected] Territorio, 64, 133-140.

    Publications in other academic and professional journals

    Puddu, S. (2017) On the roofs of community. C3, n.392. <Community>, October 2017, ISSN_2092-5190,130-135.

    Puddu, S. (2016) This is not the square of a rural village. It is a prison. Trans, 28, 82-87.

    Puddu, S. (2016) Conservation Camps. Carceral Labor in California. The Funambulist. Politics of Space and Bodies, 4, 40-45.

    Puddu, S. (Ed.) (2014) Wright comes to New York. Domus 978, 26-30.

    Puddu, S. & Zuddas, F. (2013) Hold the Line. La stabilità della figura lineare. Trans, 23, 68-73.

    Puddu, S. & Zuddas, F. (2012) Campus: Order and Exemption. Apple Campus 2, or the mothership has landed in Cupertino. Trans, 21, 58-61.

    Puddu, S., Pau, F., & Zuddas, F. (2012) Argument vs. Concept: the city is not an egg. San Rocco, 4, 2012, 100-104.


    Puddu, S., Tattara, M. & Zuddas, F. (Eds.) (2017) Territori della Conoscenza. Un progetto per Cagliari e la sua università. Macerata: Quodlibet.

    Puddu, S. & Zuddas, F. (2012) Made in Taiwan. Architecture and Urbanism in the Innovation Economy, Trento and Barcelona: LIStLab.

    Chapters in collective volumes

    Puddu, S., Zuddas, F., Pisano P.E. & Roggero F. (2018) A Clockwork Palace. In Stuff Group and Open City Design Institute (Eds.), NEXT HOME Seoul, Seoul: OCDI Press, 276-285.

    Puddu, S. (2015) Colonie penali agricole in Sardegna. Appunti per una comprensione dei principi insediativi. In Peghin, G. & Zini, G. (Eds.), La colonia penale di Porto Conte. Una ricerca per la storia e il restauro dell’architettura moderna in Sardegna, Sassari: Delfino Editore, 69-79.

    Puddu, S. (2011) Il migliore progetto possibile? Polaris. Il Parco Scientifico e Tecnologico della Sardegna. In VV.AA., Ricerche di Architettura, Roma: Gangemi Editore, 42-49.

    Reviews of books and of exhibitions

    Puddu, S. (2018) Staarchitecture. Scenes, Actors, and Spectacles in Contemporary Cities. IJURR, vol. 42.1, January 2018 (book review)

    Puddu, S. (2016) Tony Fretton: Minis. Domusweb,

    Puddu, S. (2015) Halden Prison. Domusweb,

    Puddu, S. (2014) Eisenman, finalmente. Domusweb,

    Puddu, S. (2014) Futurism at the Guggenheim. Domusweb,

    Puddu, S. (2014) Wright in New York. Domusweb,

    Papers presented at conferences

    Puddu, S. (2018) Agrarian Penal Colonies and the Project of Modern Rurality in Italy. Paper presented at the Fifth International Conference, European Architectural History Network, Tallinn, Estonia, 13-16 June 2018.

    Puddu, S. (2017) California Conservation Camps. Paper Presented at 2nd International Conference for Carceral Geography, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK, 11-12 Dec 2017.

    Puddu, S. & Zuddas, F. (2013) Towards a city of innovation: the spatial negotiation between campus and city quarter’. EURA Conference, University of Twente, The Netherlands, 5 July 2013.

    Puddu, S. (2011) Hyper-Collectivisation for the Multitude. Reconsidering the communal as a strategic aspect of knowledge-based production. EURA Conference, Copenhagen, Denmark, 23 June 2011.

    Puddu, S. (2008) Peripheral Intencities. Shanghai’s Kic And Hanoi’s Habiotech Park. Asian Creativity in Culture and Technology Conference, Trondheim, Norway, 12 November 2008.

    Invited lectures

    Puddu, S. & Zuddas, F. (2017) University and the City, Book Presentation at Milano Arch week, Triennale Design Museum, Milan, Italy, 15 June 2017.

    Puddu, S. (2016) Prison Architecture, Lecture at International workshop DÉ/CONSTRUIRE LA PRISON, Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium, 23 March 2016.

    Puddu, S. & Zuddas, F. (2012) Territories of Production. Cornell University in Rome, Italy, 19 April 2012.

    Puddu, S. (2011) Typology: architecture’s response to the challenges of economic shifts. The Berlage Institute, Rotterdam, 9 May 2011.

    Puddu, S. (2011) Architecture in the postfordist economy. Università degli Studi di Pescara, Italy, 18 Oct 2011.

    Organised events

    Puddu, S., Tattara, M. & Zuddas, F. (2018) Knowledge Territories, Book Presentation and round table discussion, organised as part of the London Festival of Architecture, the Italian Institute of Culture, 4 June 2018.

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Research interests

Sabrina’s research focuses on the role of major public institutions across the divide of the contemporary urban and rural conditions, with her more recent studies being on the architecture of confinement.

The modern carceral institution – along the controversial trajectory leading from the heroic establishment in the nineteenth and twentieth century to either permanence or dismissal in current times – is interrogated beyond its immediate role of confining, reforming and punishing criminals, and as an agent of normalisation active across both the urban and rural domains.

Sabrina has also studied the dynamics of knowledge-based production and their spatial consequences, with a focus on the role of most relevant public and private institutions (universities, hospitals and science parks) in cities and larger regional contexts. This topic was explored first in her MA thesis (Strategies of Intensification. Workspace and the 3d Neighbourhood – Architectural Association 2008) and then in her PhD Thesis (The Urbanisation of Innovation Environments. Architecture and Urbanism in the Postfordist Economy – Università degli Studi di Cagliari 2011), and developed in the research project Innovation Environments. Strategies for the intensification of emergent networks in low-dense marginal regions (grant 2010-12 for early-career researchers funded by the EU and the Sardinian regional government; principal co-investigator with Dr. Francesco Zuddas).

Current and recent research

‘The project of agrarian penal colonies in modern Italy’ (2012-18)

(started as a 3-year post-doctoral research project and thanks to a fellowship funded by EU Social Fund, Sardinia Regional Government, and the University of Cagliari)

An investigation based on archival and field research on the architecture of penal colonies in Italy and their role in structuring rural landscapes in modernity, across the 19th century liberal monarchy, the fascist regime, the post-war welfare-state republic, and up to the contemporary condition. These peculiar prison complexes were conceived as transitory garrisons of national power in remote rural areas, as they were planned with their future transformation from penal to civil settlements in mind. They had indeed to facilitate the birth and acceptance of a new rural order at the service of a modern agrarian economy, which assumed the complete abandonment by local farmers and shepherds of their secular habits and rights of use of land in order to embrace the notion and rules of absolute ownership that the institution of the cadaster codified in the 19th century. Given these high ambitions, penal colonies developed as a specific settlement type, whose spatial principles registered both their contingent scope as carceral institutions, and the greater geopolitical project of reform - of people and space - in rural Italy.

‘California Conservation Camps. Carceral Labor in Rural California’ (2014-2015)

A study on the spatial conditions and territorial impact of the California Conservation Camps, which included field research in 10 Californian low-to-mid security prisons. Besides acting as an invaluable platform to observe and critique the role of architecture and institutional protocols in shaping human behaviour through the instillation of continuously shifting notions of work ethic, the camps are an instance of how prisons can be used as a strategic response to a national ideology promoting ruralisation and de-urbanisation and to the emergence and strengthening of a burgeoning environmental awareness in rural California.

‘Buoncammino. A Formal Study.’ (2015-16)

(in collaboration with Dr. Giaime Meloni - ENSAVT Marne-La-Vallée)

An investigation on the recent dismissal of 19th century city-prisons in Italy in relation to the recent construction of newer larger prison complexes. Focusing on the case of the prison of Buoncammino in the city of Cagliari, the investigation makes use of photography as a tool of investigation able to destabilise common perceptions and understandings of carceral interiors.

‘Carceral Islands’ (2018)

(in collaboration with Paolo Emilio Pisano)

A future research project about carceral institutions in small islands across the Mediterranean. The project will focus on the phenomenon of their dismissal, which follows a broader (and indeed cyclical) phenomenon of declaring old prisons obsolete and inadequate to up-to-date notions of reform and punishment thus favouring the construction of larger prison complexes. Colonised through the 19th and 20th century, these islands are now mostly abandoned or converted to natural parks, making them easy prey to the tourist industry. Yet, their subjugation to the global phenomenon of penal tourism is still resisted by an enduring shared shame and discomfort at the prospect of turning penal colonies and prisons into resorts or theme parks. The project will interrogate these territories on how and whether the project of architecture – in relation to the inevitable strategies of penal tourism and instrumentalisation of memory – can be an act of decolonisation able to question the very ideas of incarceration.