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Architecture & Social Movements Focus

The Architecture and Social Movements research focus, the first of its kind, proposes to address the important architectural challenges posed by emergent social movements.

'Social movements' is a broad term that attempts to capture a wide range of social collectives that are organised independently of traditional political structures (the party) or that lack adequate political representation. Importantly, social movements are organised around demands that have to do with the built environment, from the Occupy Wall Street’s focus on real estate and foreclosures, to the MST in Brazil addressing land and agrarian reform, the CONAEI in Ecuador focusing on indigenous territorial rights or the platform Barcelona in Comú demanding dignified housing conditions. 

Architecture and Social Movements challenges existing practices around participation and community-based activism. Exploring new institutional frameworks for militant and activist research the program is an alternative to the traditional opposition between bottom-up and top-down approaches. Instead, it proposes to set out an innovative agenda that addresses existing gaps in design research, in particular the current inability to adequately frame spatial challenges that fall between traditional scales of analysis such as the neighbourhood or the nation state. 

The Architecture and Social Movements focus is ideal for graduates and practitioners from a range of disciplines that wish to pursue a practice-based mode of research. Through a series of live-projects, the specialisation aims to develop research methods that are able to catalyse the spatial and creative potentials of social movements. To this end students are expected to collaborate with existing movements and non-governmental organisations.

The research in the specialisation investigates different modes of spatial analysis and visualisation; develops individual analysis of a case-study relevant to understanding the relation between contemporary social movements and architecture; and discusses the methods and politics of architectural research in social contexts. Recognising social movements as manifestations of social innovation, the discussions will be structured around four key axis of research: Collectives, Perspectives, Territories and Institutions.

The final individual thesis will be taught via a live project. Students will be asked to produce a report that addresses the demands of a contemporary social movement from around the world, actively engaging them in the dialogue. Importantly, the construction of the brief should result from the collaboration between student and the partner organisation. The report, with its analytical/projective dimensions, will be the cornerstone of evaluation and of the pedagogical project. The specialisation is orientated towards graduates who want to undertake training in research before proceeding to a PhD or to a career in practice.

Led by Godofredo Pereira.