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Almudena Cano Pineiro

PhD Work

Supports for Community Life: The Potential of Design in Neighbourhood Planning.

Under the widespread perception of a democratic deficit in practices of local governance across European cities, the neighbourhood has become the principal site for experimentation with participatory models of urban regeneration. In the UK, the recent assimilation of ‘Localism’ thinking into mainstream urban policy and planning has opened up an institutionalised channel for citizen engagement in the production of the built environment at the local scale. In particular, Neighbourhood Planning procedures as outlined in the Localism Act 2011, have been presented as a new instrument for local communities to produce the statutory planning documents for their area.

The conceptual and practical implications of Neighbourhood Planning have been widely debated in the fields of urban studies and social science, reanimating academic discussion on appropriate forms of local democracy and community empowerment. Comparatively little consideration has been given to the limitations this participatory framework presents for design activity itself, its methods and the quality and relevance of its spatial outcomes.

With the first wave of Neighbourhood Plans and Forums operating across London, the city provides a wide collection of case studies to demonstrate that current approaches to Neighbourhood Planning require a re-valorisation of designers’ expertise, which is often overshadowed by the practicalities of participation. In the purely instrumental use of experts’ knowledge in the co-design process, urban design could miss out on an opportunity to generate new spatial solutions at local level. In light of this trend, my research seeks to (re)construct a more propositional role of design in Neighbourhood Planning that might better use design professionals beyond their current scope of involvement. This will be tested in a particular neighbourhood in London through an inventory of design tools, types and prototypes that could regenerate the local landscape as both a material artefact and a negotiated social product.


  • PhD


    School of Architecture


    Architecture Research, 2014–2019

  • Almudena Cano Piñeiro is an architect dedicated to urban design, research and teaching. She graduated from the ETSAM Polytechnic University of Madrid in 2012, where she primarily interrogated the role of architecture and design in socio-political practices within the city. Her work on 'Urban Strategies to Regenerate Indian Public Space' has been internationally awarded, widely published in specialised journals and exhibited at the 13th Biennale di Venezia, XII BIEAU, ARCH Moscow NEXT2013 and India-Under-Construction Forum, among others.

    In search of intellectual and practical alliances between academics and practitioners at the service of local communities, Almudena has led live-projects and practice-based learning workshops that linked MA and BA architecture students with private and public actors involved in formal and informal urban regeneration processes in Spain, India, Morocco and the UK. She has collaborated with research teams such as the LAA: Laboratoire d’Architecture et Anthropologie (ENSAParis-La Villete), Cultura del Hábitat (ETSAM-UPM) and RESCALE: RESearch into Cities, Architecture, Landscape, Environment (Kingston University). Almudena has also been a jury panelist, occasional critic, visiting lecturer and studio tutor at numerous institutions in Madrid (ETSAM, UEM, UPSAM) and London (RCA, UEL, UCL, Westminster, Kingston). Almudena has also co-curated architecture exhibitions, talks, competitions and events such as the International Roundtable ‘Representing Irregular Urbanism’ at the ICA-London, ‘Herramientas’ in CentroCentro-Madrid and Archiprix International Madrid 2015 in collaboration with ETSAM-UPM and Archiprix Foundation.

    She has recently been awarded an LDOC Scholarship at the Royal College of Art, funded through the AHRC Centre for Doctoral Training, in order to develop a design-led doctoral research focused on emerging models for public participation in design, planning and policy-making protocols at neighbourhood level.
  • Degrees

  • M.Arch Architecture and Urbanism, Polytechnic University of Madrid, 2012
  • Experience

  • Design studio tutor, Kingston School of Art-Architecture and Landscape, London 2016-17; Project coordinator of ‘Archiprix International Madrid 2015’ and 'Archiprix Spain', both in collaboration with ETSAM-UPM and Archiprix Foundation 2013-15; Architect project leader, Arenas Basabe Palacios, Madrid, 2001-2014; Co-founder, LAnA Design Research Laboratory, Madrid, 2011-13; Architect, Beta.0 Architecture+Landscape, Madrid, 2010-11; Architect, Izaskun Chinchilla Architects, Madrid, 2009-10; Architect and Urban Designer, Brès+Mariolle et Associés, Paris, 2009
  • Exhibitions

  • Exhibition and Interactive Session at the conference ‘Mediations: Art & Design Agency and Participation in Public Space’, Royal College of Art, London, 2016; LDoc Manifesto for 'Research Practices in Art & Design' PhD Exhibition, Goldsmiths’ College, University of London, 2015; ‘Herramientas’, Centro Centro Cibeles, DPA ETSAM, Madrid, 2014; ‘Muestra PFC’, XII Bienal Española de Arcuitectura y Urbanismo, Madrid, 2013; ‘Design as social capital’, India Under Construction, Delhi, 2013; EME3 2013, ‘Topías, utopias becoming real’ Fabra i Coats, Barcelona, 2013; ‘Archiprix International: ARCH MOSCOW NEXT! 2013', Central House of Artist, Moscow, 2013; ‘40000 Hours’, Common Ground, XIII Bienale di Venezia, Venice, 2012; ‘Muestra PFCs’ COAM, Colegio de Arquitectos de Madrid, Madrid, 2012; VIII Bienal de Restauración y Gestión de Patrimonio, Valladolid, 2012; EME3 2011, Collegi d’Arquitectes de Catalunya, Barcelona, 2011
  • Awards

  • Hunter Douglas Award. Archiprix International Moscow, 2013; PFC. XII Bienal Española de Arquitectura y Urbanismo, 2013; Second prize, HIC>book, 2012; Shortlisted, Global Graduates Award, Architectural Review, 2012; ISARCH Awards, 2012; Graduate Architecture Award, 2012; PFC Innovation COAM Award, 2012; Shortlisted, ARPA-PETC Young Researchers, 2012
  • Conferences

  • 'Neighbourhood Planning: el potencial del diseño en espacios de participación institucionalizada', Arquitectonics : mind, land & society, ETSAB, Barcelona, 2018; 'Urban strategies to regenerate Indian public space' Representing Irregular Urbanism International Roundtable, Institute of Contemporary Art , London, 2017; 'Neighbourhood Planning: participation and empowerment in the age of Localism' 53rd International Making Cities Livable Conference at the Pontificia Università Urbaniana,
Vatican City / Rome, 2016
  • Publications

  • Urban Strategies to revitalise Indian Public Space. In O.Carracedo (ed) 'In the same place'
On-site resilient regeneration strategies for informal and low-income neighborhoods in Asia. Singapur: ORO, 2016, pp. 98-125.; Design beyond participation in London: An evaluation of participatory design approaches to Neighbourhood Planning. In D. Opazo (ed) Political Imagination and the City. Santiago de Chile, 2016 pp.192-206; Soportes Urbanos para la Vida Colectiva. Sociedad y Utopía 43, 2014, pp. 293-317; Estudiantes:Almudena Cano [Interview]. Revista UPM 26, 2013 12-14.; Cano, A. and Urizar, P., Le Grand Paris au Grand Public: Mise en scène d’une consultation international et sa reception. In Observatorie du Grand Paris #9, ENSA Paris Belleville, 2016 pp. 6-17