Sidra Ahmed reflects on the words of acclaimed writer and T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize winner Roger Robinson, who delivered UCL Urban Laboratory’s annual Cities Imaginaries lecture on 20 May.

Screenshot from the Cities Imaginaries lecture on 20 May 2021

“Brixton was always a place for me where I could exist comfortably. Even when I wasn’t staying there, it was always the destination,” Roger Robinson remarked on his 30 year relationship with the south London neighbourhood at the start of this year’s Cities Imaginaries lecture.

It was the place he would visit to celebrate friends’ birthdays at Atlantic Road’s The Lounge and have dinner at The Crypt in St Matthews Church…


Clare Melhuish was invited to reflect on ‘how we should value trees’ in the penultimate Tree Rings webinar of this year’s Urban Trees Festival, co-ordinated by CPRE London (Saturday 22nd May, 1–2pm, chaired by Peter Fiennes). The panel, including Dr Irene Becci (UCL IAS; University of Lausanne) and Simon Needle (Birmingham City Council), was asked to consider how our value systems affect the way we treat trees and the wider natural world, and whether we value trees for their intrinsic or their utilitarian value.

As an anthropologist and an urbanist, rather than a philosopher, my contribution to this discussion is…


On 26 March 2021, in the middle of the UK’s third national lockdown, UCL Urban Laboratory and the Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction hosted an interdisciplinary group of speakers to draw together diverse perspectives on the ongoing COVID emergency. Researcher Melissa Weihmayer reflects on what was said.

Part 1 — ‘Scrutinising infrastructures of risk and recovery across uneven urban landscapes’ — Clockwise from top left: Simon Marvin (Uni. of Sheffield), Austin Zeiderman (LSE), Mehrnaz Ghojeh (C40 Cities) and Clare Melhuish (Chair, UCL Urban Laboratory). Video available here.

Catch-phrases like the “new normal” crowds out meaningful discussions of the ways that social science research can mitigate the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even rarer are challenges to attempts to synthesize and distill a full year’s worth of dramatic change into easily processed soundbites. …


A new issue of Candide: the Journal for Architectural Knowledge, invites reflection on the use of visual methods in urban research, and the dialogue between researcher and contributing interlocutors in such practices. It brings together a selection of essays combining text and image in various ways, by urban researchers and practitioners from a number of disciplines. It is reviewed here by Nathaniel Télémaque, visual arts practitioner, doctoral candidate at UCL (Geography), and PGTA on Urban Lab’s Histories of Global London module Spring 2021 (MA Architectural and Historic Urban Environments).

CANDIDE: Journal for Architectural Knowledge, no 12, January 2021. Editors Axel…


On the day London was due to go to the polls to elect a Mayor and new Assembly, researcher Chi Nguyen asks what becomes of the London Plan in a post-Covid 19 era.

The London Plan. The Spatial Development Strategy for Greater London. Draft for Consultation. December 2017. (Credit: Chi Nguyen)

7th May would have marked election day in London, with polls open for Mayor and the Assembly, the sixth such occasion in the twenty years since the position was created and Greater London Authority (GLA) formed. …


As countless studies have demonstrated, cities are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Indeed, many of the world’s cities are at risk of becoming ‘unmoored’, whether literally sunk beneath rising sea waters or tidal rivers or forced to relocate entirely. Such possible urban futures challenge our imaginations to think through the physical, social and cultural consequences of climate change. Paul Dobraszczyk reports from our recent symposium that aimed to challenge and expand the narrow range of possibilities that currently characterise approaches to the subject.

From the series ‘Tellurian Relics: Surrealist Thames-side Piers’ by architect Shaun Murray. View of the pier from Clove Hitch Quay in a northwesterly direction at Battersea Reach, on the River Thames in London (2017)

On 25 May, UCL Urban Laboratory hosted the day-long symposium Unmoored Cities at the…


Creative City discourse tends to rely heavily on paradigmatic examples of culture-led urban change that establish particular parameters for what the creative city can offer and achieve. Jordan Rowe reflects on the spatial implications of the recent UCU strike at UCL, and how it may help us to extend, reshape and challenge our understandings of what the creative city is — or could be.

For fourteen days in early 2018, UCU members at many UK universities went on strike. As part of the industrial action at UCL, proactive union members and supportive students organised an extensive programme of social, educational…


Once the main pivot for passenger connection between France and England, Folkestone is a town on the littoral ‘edge’ of the country, with an urbanism that connects equally with land and sea. What does the future hold for this town now re-engaging with its remarkable histories, asks Irene Manzini Ceinar.

‘DIY 11: Weather Project’ led by Katie Etheridge and Simon Persighetti on Folkestone Harbour Arm during the 2014 edition of the Folkestone Fringe

“As the first place where passengers arriving from Calais and Boulogne would pass through when setting foot on British soil, the Folkestone Customs House in the 19th century was a grand and impressive building, an epicentre of activity on the harbour” - The Decorators

On the south east coast of…


What are the lessons we can learn from the urban revival of Lavani a dance form from Maharashtra in Western India that often explores themes of female sexuality? Dr Lisa Björkman (University of Louisville) reports on a visit to UCL Urban Laboratory by Mumbai-based filmmaker and writer Savitri Medhatul and Bhushan Korgaonkar for a one-week festival celebrating and exploring Lavani organised by Dr Andrew Harris (UCL Geography).

Written by Dr Lisa Björkman

Savitri Medhatul and Bhushan Korgaonkar presenting at UCL

In their seminar as part of the “Lessons from Lavani” week of events at UCL, Savitri Medhatul and Bhushan Korgaonkar laid out the peculiar and intriguing puzzle that initially inspired them to turn their research attention to Lavani. Women who dance Lavani, they explained, tend to be characterized in either one of two ways: on the one hand, popular discourse portrays Lavani dancers as money-minded manipulators, instrumentally and unscrupulously enlisting the sensuality of their dance in seducing impressionable men and destroying respectable families. A second characterization, by contrast, has Lavani women themselves as exploited —…


Call for expressions of interest

Max Colson, a former UCL Urban Laboratory artist in residence, is conducting a month-long residency at arebyte gallery in London. This will consider what shape Ebenezer Howard’s original Garden City plan would take if built from scratch on the outskirts of London today.

The ‘formation’ of this new satellite town on the outer periphery of London, located between the pro-Remain centre and the outer Leave boroughs, will consider how historic town-planning templates and architectural designs might be modified by contemporary political attitudes, housing legislation and new technology. …

UCL Urban Laboratory

Crossdisciplinary centre for critical and creative urban thinking, teaching, research and practice at UCL | www.ucl.ac.uk/urban-lab

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