10 years – 10 highlights

Our Master is turning 10 and out of all the amazing moments, memorable events and milestones, we picked a few highlights for you.

New humanitarian shelter and settlements courses in partnership with the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Society (IFRC)Our Partners

Since starting our Master, the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya – UIC Barcelona has signed agreements with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Society (IFRC), UN-Habitat and RMIT University, and started informal partnerships with many more agencies and NGOs for our internship program. As a result, a vast network of professionals was built, who share their expertise with us and advance our curriculum, and many other joint activities and lasting friendships evolved. Many of our alumni went on to collaborate with our partner institutions, and these relationships have been strengthened even further.

Erasmus Mundus Program

Our one-year master program is a second-year mobility option within the prestigious Mundus Urbano Program, jointly offered by four European Universities: Technische Universität Darmstadt (TU-Darmstadt), Universite Pierre Mendes France (UPMF), Universitat Internacional de Catalunya – UIC Barcelona, and Università degli Studi Roma Tor Vergata. The course is supported by the European Union through its Erasmus Mundus program.

Through this collaboration, our Master program is able to offer a rich learning experience and global professional network, including our joint workshops, visits and field trips.

Our field trips

The most exciting time for both students and staff undoubtedly is when we embark on the field trips, where we get to learn about the problems local communities face and collectively develop, with local partners, design strategies to be implemented. The field trips have taken us to such diverse and far-flung places like Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Medellín, Colombia; Thessaloniki, Greece; Chamanga, Ecuador; Mumbai and Kerala, India; and the Tijuana/San Diego border. Where will be next?

Our local workshops

To quote our guest professor Torange Khonsari, “(…) all the issues we are trying to address are happening in Western countries too. We see emergencies in our own communities, which often lack resilience and adequate support systems.”

In the socio-spatial workshops our students undertake hands-on, real-world projects with a local neighborhood around Barcelona. Topics included the regeneration of Ciutat Meridiana;  the improvement of public space in Sant Cosme; the enhancement of the economic and social diversity of Torre Baro, a marginalized, low-income neighborhood; the urban transformation of Santa Coloma de Gramanet; and a collaboration with the Food Bank of Barcelona to improve their operations to help the city’s poorest residents. This year’s workshop explored models for temporary reception centres for Ciutat Refugi, Barcelona’s municipal program launched in 2015 as a response to the refugee crisis.

Our Publications

We have also been busy writing and publishing in the past years. Our first publication Reflections on Development & Cooperation was published in 2011 and discusses very broad contemporary issues of development and its discontents including the economic, social and spatial relationships within the Global North and South. It was followed by Development in Context: Challenges and Sustainable Strategies, which features articles by former students and faculty members like Nathaniel Corum and Reena Tiwari, known for their sustainable urban practices. Reports about our workshops in Thessaloniki and Chamanga will be published soon as well. Stay tuned!

Piso Piloto

The socio-spatial analysis conducted by our students in the Torre Baro workshop –  an assessment of the strategic value of spatial and cultural resources in order to reinforce local identity and community engagement – featured in an exhibition titled Piso Piloto at the Centre of Contemporary Culture in Barcelona in 2015. Piso Piloto focused on reflections around the challenges of housing and its relationship with the public space on a global scale through the selection of two specific contexts, the two cities Barcelona and Medellín. Other cooperatives, architecture studios, artists and other organizations and universities that participated in the exhibition included our own UIC Barcelona School of Architecture and many of our partner institutions.

International Forum of Urbanism (IfoU) – Reframing Urban Resilience Implementation: Aligning Sustainability and Resilience

Last December we co-organizedand participated in  the 11th edition of the annual conference International Forum of Urbanism, which focused on sharing research and knowledge to improve urban resilience implementation and featured dozens of urban academics and experts. It also included a session on post-disaster and post-conflict resilience.

Some of the highlights of the conference, organized by our master’s leadership, were: the keynotes by Timon McPhearson, director of Urban Systems Lab, Adriana Allen, Professor of Development Planning and Urban Sustainability at UCL, Isabelle Anguelovski, Professor at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and one of the guest professors of our course, Chris Zevenbergen, Professor at the Water Engineering Department of IHE Delft, and Gonzalo Lizarralde, professor at the Université de Montréal. The conference was a joint venture between UIC Barcelona School of Architecture, UN-HABITAT and the Urban Resilience Research Network.

Our Development by Design Conferences

In 2014 and 2016, we organized two conference series in collaboration with Roca Gallery Barcelona. The first edition, Development by Design: Dialogues in Architecture, Equity and Development, was conceived by our master program to highlight the role of architects and designers in contexts of poverty, disaster, conflict and rapid urbanization. The aim was to foster the debate on the issues surrounding the practice of architecture and design particularly in the field of development and in the construction of cities in general. Our guests included Nathaniel Corum from Architecture for Humanity, Dan Lewis from UN-Habitat, Susanna Oliver from World Vision and Teddy Cruz from the Center for Urban Ecologies. In the second edition, urban planning expert Clara Izabal talked about Housing Brazil’s Precariat: Movement in Spatial Justice, while Venezuelan Architect Alejandro Haiek spoke about Grassroots Urbanism: New Leadership in Architectural Practice and closed with Eric Cesal, co-host of the Social Design Insights Podcast, and his presentation about Unnatural Disasters and the Future of Resilience.

Our Refugee City Roundtable Discussions

In 2016, we also hosted two round table discussions as part of the International Architecture Congress that took place that year. The events aimed at shedding light on the urban issues surrounding the refugee crisis, how refugee camps can be better designed to protect the health, safety and livelihoods of camp dwellers, and on the challenges of integrating what is now 60% of the world’s refugee population living in cities. Speakers included former students Nerea Amorós, Nasr Chamma and Esther Menduiña, faculty members Verónica Sánchez and Gonzalo Sánchez Terán, Daniel Ledesma from the Red Cross, Enric Roig, an expert in refugee camp accessibility, and Bernadina Borra, an architect and urban designer.

Our Leadership

Seven years ago, Carmen Mendoza, Sandra Bestraten and Raquel Colacios took over the direction of our program and consolidated a team which includes Allison Koornneef, Emilio Hormias, Ana Cañizares and Sigrid Ehrmann, and is complimented by the great staff of the UIC Barcelona School of Architecture. The success of our program, the lasting relationships both staff and students formed and our strong global network would not have been possible without this team’s professionalism, knowledge, generosity and enthusiasm. In a field dominated by men like architecture and urban planning, we are immensely proud of our female leadership and the fact that our master program consistently attracts predominantly female students year after year, most of them architects.

But we all agree that the greatest highlight of our program is you, our students! There are uncountable memorable moments that we could not fit in this article. Which one of them is your favorite? If you are a student or alumni, please share your highlight of the program with us!

See you May 29th for our anniversary celebration!

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