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Miss Adriana Massidda
  • UCL Teaching Fellow
  • The Bartlett School of Architecture
  • Faculty of the Built Environment

Adriana Laura Massidda completed her PhD at the University of Cambridge (King’s College/Department of Architecture) in 2016. Her thesis, entitled ‘Shantytowns and the Modern City: Examining Urban Poverty in South-Western Buenos Aires (1958-1967)’ is focused on the history of urban informality in Buenos Aires and the interaction between the shantytowns and the State. Adriana is an architect graduated at the University of Buenos Aires in 2006 and has worked in practice in Argentina and in the United Kingdom.

Research Summary

My doctoral research explores the collective spatial practices of shantytown residents in Buenos Aires, their intertwining with State interventions, and the way in which these affect the continuous (re)configuration of the urban territory. I look at shantytowns historically, focusing on a series of case studies located in South-Western Buenos Aires during the period 1958-1967. In my thesis I argue that shantytowns embody a particularly visible instance of processes that take place more broadly in cities, such as the politicisation implied in any act of urban transformation, the contradictions of modernisation as a top-down practice intended to organise the territory which has often ignored bottom-up initiatives, and the dynamics of spatial actions based on people’s needs.

Teaching Summary

My Seminar Series ‘Architectures of Informality’ (Year 3, BSc Architecture & BSc Architectural & Interdisciplinary Studies) explores the ways in which architects have conceptualised informal space, focusing on how such conceptions informed spatial interventions such as collective housing design or infrastructure upgrades. This series introduces students to a range of architectural interventions in informal spaces and to the current discussions on the topic. The students and I work together to analyse a selection of recent projects in order to understand the theoretical perspectives which underpin them.

The informal can be read both as a space of unmet needs and as a space of opportunity. Architects originally regarded informal settlements as ‘enclaves of urban poverty’, focusing on their scarce infrastructure, overcrowding and contaminated environments, and assuming that they needed top-down intervention. Since the 1970s, however, architects have gradually realised the importance of the creativity and energy which are invested by residents in informal spaces, and the positive results they often obtain. The informal has thus been read as a space of grassroots agency, people’s empowerment and collective construction. At present, most architects look to collaborate with residents when approaching informal space while nevertheless acknowledging infrastructural scarcities.

Informal settlements are a key form of urban growth today. In fact, at the global level, informal growth outpaces formal development. Widely discussed and frequently subject to intervention, informal spaces have been a source of inspiration and concern for architects for several decades. But how can we, as architects, make sense of informal settlements and engage more deeply with them?

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