We were very excited today to welcome participatory planning pioneer Nabeel Hamdi as a new member of our faculty as he initiated his workshop with our students in this week’s first class. Hamdi is a seasoned professional who has worked in participatory design and development since he graduated from the Architectural Association in 1968, from his early award-winning housing projects for the Greater London Council, to his invaluable contributions as professor to top universities including MIT and Oxford Brookes–where he founded the lauded Masters course in Development Practice in 1992–to his consulting work with all the major development agencies and NGOs worldwide.
Already in his opening lecture, which provided students with a brief overview of the history of development, Hamdi gave us plenty of insightful questions and inspiring quotes to ponder over.
As the field of development evolved over the years, Hamdi explained, the architect or urban planner’s role shifted from one of rigour (in design, technology) to social relevance. As professionals, they went from providing modern homes and other buildings to mitigating vulnerability, sustaining livelihoods and providing well-being. In essence, it seems that the work of architects and urban practitioners has gradually ‘dematerialized.’ In light of this, Hamdi reflects:
– How do we go back to making housing meaningful without merely providing it?
– As an urban professional, the question should not be (and no longer is) how much can I do and how quickly can I do it, but what is the least that I can do and how much of it do I need to do to for it to sustain itself?
– It should not be a choice between rigour or relevance, but rather, finding a way of being rigorous in a way that is relevant.
To summarize his thoughts, Hamdi borrowed one of his favorite mottos from the illustrious John Turner:
“What a house does is far more than what it is.”
If you interested in finding out more about Hamdi’s work, make sure to check out his books, which include The Placemakers Guide to Building Community (Routledge, 2010), Small Change (Earthscan, 2004), Housing Without Houses (IT Publications, 1995), Making Micro Plans (IT Publications 1988), Action Planning for Cities (John Wiley and Sons, 1997), Educating for Real (IT Publications 1996) and Urban Futures (IT Publications 2005).
We look forward sharing more with you about Nabeel Hamdi’s workshop as the week progresses!