Thandi Loewenson (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.
Thandi holds a PhD in Architectural Design from The Bartlett, UCL, through which she developed a form of architectural practice – weird and tender – to excavate and contest the extractive agendas driving the urban development of Lusaka. Central to this research was a live project, investigating how insertions of the other worldly and the downright weird – inspired by the Zambian Space Program – could support the City Council and the Chunga Waste Recycler’s Association to produce a ‘Weird-Tender’ recognising them as partners of the state.
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, unions, artists and architects towards acting on those provocations.
Thandi is a co-founder of the architectural collective BREAK//LINE – an ‘act of creative solidarity’ which ‘resists definition with intent’ – formed at The Bartlett in 2018 to oppose the trespass of capital, the indifference towards inequality and the myriad frontiers of oppression present in architectural education and practice today. Thandi is also a contributor to EQUINET, the Regional Network on Equity in Health in East and Southern Africa, a co-founder of the Fiction, Feeling, Frame research collective at the Royal College of Art, and a co-curator, with Huda Tayob and Suzi Hall, of the open-access curriculum project Race, Space & Architecture. In 2023, Thandi is the inaugural Black Digital South Artist in Residence at the Centre for Race, Gender and Class at the University of Johannesburg.
Thandi’s practice – weird and tender – develops architectural interpretations of the ‘weird’ which are made ‘tender’ through care afforded to their deployment. From unearthing to the unearthly, through research investigating the spatial politics of architecture, procurement and Outer Space, Thandi’s work links theories of extraction, property and racialised subjectivities towards understanding and undoing the entangled exclusionary dynamics at play in each.
This work involves archival research, fiction and creative writing, design, drawing and situated and participatory performance informed by rituals, and theatre of the oppressed. To date, outputs range from policy documents, films, drawings, performances and curated exhibitions to the excavation of a spaceship from a city landfill.
UCL Graduate Research Scholarship
International Journal of Urban and Regional Research Foundation Writing up Grant
Sir Bannister Fletcher Medal, UCL
Publications, exhibitions, other outcomes
Selected Exhibitions and Publications
Never Look at the Sun, Collaboration with Baloji, nowness, 2019.
A Weird-Tender, Tender submitted to Lusaka City Council, collaboratively produced with Acting Director of Public Health for Lusaka City Council, Edgar Mulwanda, and the Chunga Waste Recycler’s Association, 2019.
Daring to Dream with Eyes Wide Open: review of Baloji’s Zombies, Review of African Political Economy, 2019.
In Permanent Readiness for the Marvelous, co-edited with Thom Callan-Riley (2019), with and after Suzanne Césaire (1941).
Confessionals, Group Performance, The Bartlett School of Architecture, 2019.
Deportation Discs: a public hearing: Curated exhibition in collaboration with Luke de Noronha and Miranda Critchley, The Bartlett School of Architecture, London, 2018.
Spooky Action at a Distance, Group exhibition at ‘Futura Free: A Sensing’, 198 Gallery, London, 2016.
Tender and Weird: Interventions into Urban Landscapes of Extraction, PhD Research Projects Exhibition, The Bartlett School of Architecture, London, 2018.
Break//Line: A One Day Happening, Happening and curated exhibition at The Bartlett School of Architecture, London, 2018.
Selected Conferences, Invited Talks and Performances
Dust FM: A Guide to (Static) Mixtape Assembly, Workshop and Performance with David Roberts, Cairo, Harare, London and Johannesburg via zoom, 2020.
The ‘wiliness of foxes’, Invited talk at ‘Race, Space and Architecture Curriculum Launch,’ Institute of Advanced Studies, UCL & LSE, London, 2019.
Fiction as a form of combat: field manoeuvres in the realms of the weird and the tender, Invited talk, The Graduate School of Architecture, Johannesburg, 2018.
Fiction as a form of combat: not yet, now now, Invited talk, Aarhus School of Architecture, Aarhus, 2018.
Tender and Weird: Interventions into Urban Landscapes of Extraction, Conference Presentation, PhD Research Projects Conference, The Bartlett School of Architecture, London, 2018.
An excavation in Mailo, Lusaka, Performance in Collaboration with the Chunga Waste Recyclers Association of Zambia, Lusaka, 2018.
Digging down and dreaming up: stories from 3 cities on the fringe, Invited performance at ‘Unmoored Cities: Radical Urban Futures and Climate Catastrophes’, Bartlett School of Architecture, London, 2018.
Tender and Weird, Invited performance at Narrative | Making | Space, Royal Academy, London, 2017.
A Sermon, Performance at ‘Creative Resistance: Architecture, Art, Writing, a Life’, Institute of Advanced Studies, UCL, London, 2017.
Lusaka: A Mining City, 300km from the Mines, Paper presentation, Mining in comparative perspective: trends, transformations and theories, Ghent, 2017
Here and There, Film and spoken word performance at ‘Judgement Calls: Ethical Dilemmas in Art and Architectural Research’, The Bartlett School of Architecture, London, 2016.
- Visiting Professor, Aarhus School of Architecture, Denmark
- Visiting Hybrid, Graduate School of Architecture, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
- Researcher, Regional Network on Equity in Health in East and Southern Africa (EQUINET)
- Co-Foundress, BREAK//LINE