Rebel Architecture

What is your goal when you design a building? To create something beautiful? To meet the client’s specifications?

Rebel Architecture is a six-part TV documentary about the bravery and conviction of people who skirt the law to design for the public good. The Al Jazeera series profiles “architects who are using design as a form of activism and resistance to tackle the world’s urban, environmental and social crises.”

Rebel Architecture came to our attention through Link Festival, an Australian “anti-conference” about design, technology and social change. Filmmaker Ana Naomi de Sousa is speaking at the conference in Melbourne in February (get tickets here) alongside Cities by Citizens’ Lucinda Hartley and David Week.

The entire series is available to view online – the episode below, about guerrilla architect Santiago Cirugeda, is one of our favourites.

Guerrilla architect

Can Spanish self-build legend Santiago Cirugeda turn an abandoned factory into a vibrant cultural centre?

The series’ website explains, “Santiago Cirugeda is a subversive architect from Seville who has dedicated his career to reclaiming urban spaces for the public…

With his expert knowledge of urban planning legislation, Santiago is not afraid to ‘occupy’, or squat, abandoned space and to use his knowledge of the law to enable community building…

‘What we’re doing here is not a quick-fix for the crisis – this is coming up with a new way of doing things.'”

International Congress on Adaptive Urbanism

Cities by Citizens’ co-founders were interviewed by the International Congress on Adaptive Urbanism (ICAU), which is on this week in Christchurch, New Zealand.

According to the organisers, “Adaptive Urbanism has radical revolutionary potential, but can equally bolster existing power structures. Some use it as a tool for subversion, others to complement more traditional modes of city-building. Adaptive Urbanism seems to be the next frontier where the big questions of human rights, (in)equality and democracy are playing out.”

Adaptive Urbanism Congress

Enjoy some excerpts from their conversations, with the full interviews (and indeed, interviews with all participants at ICAU) linked below.

ICAU: Adaptive urbanism, iterative placemaking, participatory design or…? What would you call it and why?

David Week: Citizen-made cities. Cities in which the citizens act directly to shape their cities, with the support of their government, rather than replaced by government. No bureaucracy. Light management. Open participation. I define it this way because making is the key act, and citizens are the key actor.

ICAU: Tell us about one project, you have been involved in, that fits the way you describe your chosen term above.

Lucinda Hartley: In Cambodia I worked on a slum upgrading project that began as a school, and ended as a footpath. The collaborative process changed the whole brief. The major issue was flooding, this kept the kids from school. Together we built a raised footpath, each household contributing a small section.

ICAU: Where does adaptive urbanism happen?

David: In any “slum” in the developing world, in community-led projects, in acts of guerrilla urbanism, in business improvement districts, on every continent in different ways, during most of history, in the future, in free libraries, wherever city-user shapes city commons.

ICAU: Adaptive urbanism – can it bring real change, or is it just symbolic of utopia? What is the future of city-making?

Lucinda: Currently adaptive urbanism is predominantly a design and activism process, therefore it interrupts only the tail end of the urban formation process: the shaping of space. In order to have real change, changes in design process need to occur in conjunction with new forms of urban governance.

Read David Week and Lucinda Hartley‘s full interviews.

To learn hands-on, come along to Cities by Citizens’ interactive city-making game workshop on Monday 27 October, part of Melbourne Knowledge Week.

Melbourne Knowledge Week

On 27 October 2014, Cities By Citizens explored collaborative city making with an interactive, life size urban planning game workshop, presented by Cities by Citizens as part of Melbourne Knowledge Week 2014.


Using an interactive game methodology, the workshop modeled scenarios for collaborative city making and explore the challenges and opportunities of city governance and community activities.

During this session, participants acquired some  a bundle of new ideas about how to step up and work with others to take charge of their street, their neighbourhood, their city.

Image: The Guardian