UCR 2019




Rewriting Critical Architectural and Urban Histories
of Nationalism, Colonialism, and Modernity

Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge

28 September 2019


The Conflicted, Narratives, Future Trajectories symposium seeks to bring together doctoral students and recent graduates to discuss various established and emerging directions in research on cities, and to reconsider the notions of nationalism, imperialism, colonialism, and modernity towards new trajectories of research in architectural and urban history.


Following the research framework of the Centre for Urban Conflicts Research (UCR), based in the Department of Architecture at the University of Cambridge, the symposium hopes to act as a platform for elaborating future directions for architectural research as a critical field of enquiry that can both bridge the contemporary crises facing architectural history & theory and redefine the role of architecture within urban studies.


In light of recent global migration crises, rising populism, and the ensuing realisation of the precariousness of the nation-state, rethinking the legacies of imperialism and colonialism on the shaping of both spaces and identities has become ever more critical. Within this reality, nationalism and modernity emerge as historical and homogenising concepts that can no longer adequately describe the contemporary conditions of postcolonial contexts; their limits reveal the legacies of imperialism and colonialism as present, enduring, and central to on-going conflicts.


The symposium aims to consider the following questions:  


  • Can an expanded definition of actors and power structures, beyond the ‘nation’ and the ‘state,’ begin to describe more accurately the shaping of cities, buildings, and territories?

  • How does rewriting the legacies of colonial architecture and urbanism in the present challenge accepted definitions of colonial, regional, or modern urbanism?

  • What can architectural history and historiography tell us not only about past processes and hierarchies of power, but also their present forms and consequences for the future?

  • How does architecture’s disciplinary knowledge, including drawing, mapping, and other visual methods of research, clarify hidden histories of colonialism and imperialism?

  • How can historical methods from outside the architectural discipline, including archival and textual analysis, add to the study of architecture and urbanism in such contexts?


The aim is to foster a collective discussion on these themes and to elaborate new approaches to the writing of critical architectural histories that can trace new paths to the present and the future. 




Prof. Mark Crinson, Birkbeck, University of London

Roundtable Session:

Dr. Tania Sengupta, The Bartlett UCL

Dr. Lukasz Stanek, University of Manchester

Dr. Sharone Tomer, Virginia Tech

Dr. Yael Padan, The Bartlett UCL


Prof. Wendy Pullan, UCR, University of Cambridge

Dr. Maximilian Sternberg, UCR, University of Cambridge 

Dr. Mark Campbell, Royal College of Art

Dr. Emily Makas, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Doctoral Students:

Nadi Abusaada, University of Cambridge 

Lenastina Andersson, KTH Sweden

Christopher Cowell, Columbia University

Killian Doherty, The Bartlett UCL

Yasmina El Chami, University of Cambridge

Hannah Rose Feniak, NYU

Oxana Gourinovitch, TU Berlin

Jasper Ludewig, University of Sydney

Mohona Reza, University of Edinburgh

Eva Schreiner, Columbia University

Rixt Woudstra, MIT



              9.00: Registration

              9.20: Opening Remarks

  9.30 - 10.30: Keynote: Prof. Mark Crinson, Birkbeck (London)

10.45 - 12.15: Panel 1: Nationalism, Urban Institutions, Colonial Governance

                       Rixt Woudstra, Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Designing the “Multi-Racial” City: 

                       Leonard Thornton-White’s 1948 Plan for Nairobi

                       Nadi Abusaada, University of Cambridge: Locating Arab Urbanism in Colonial Palestine

                       Mohona Reza, University of Edinburgh: Bengali Nationalism in the Modern Architectural

                       Inception of Bangladesh, 1947-1971

                       Lenastina Andersson, KTH Royal Institute of Technology: Who Builds a National  Museum? 

                       Tracing Microhistories of Materials and Labour in Processes of Change        

12.15 - 13.30: Lunch


13.30 - 15.00: Panel 2: Private Actors, Transnational Networks

                       Hannah Rose Feniak, New York University: From Modernization to Materialization: 

                       Writing Barad into Architectural Theory

                       Jasper Ludewig, University of Sydney: “A State Within A State”: White Australia, German

                       Missionary Architecture and Aboriginal Citizenship in Turn-of-the-Century Queensland         

                       Yasmina El Chami, University of Cambridge: Constructing Beirut: Missionary Education and

                       the Project of the City in 19th-Century Lebanon

                       Oxana Gourinovitch, Technische Universität Berlin: Soviet Modernism and Negotiation of

                       National Representations on the International Stage

15.15 - 16.30: Panel 3: Topography, Infrastructure, Colonial Planning

                       Eva Schreiner, Columbia University: Materials of Finance, Techniques of Empire: Deutsche

                       Bank and the German Imperial Project in the Ottoman Empire, 1888-1919                 

                       Christopher Cowell, Columbia University: The Cutting of India: Sanitaria and Settler


                       Killian Doherty, The Bartlett UCLRe-rendering Rwandan Urbanism

17.00 - 18.15: Roundtable: Rethinking Methods, Future Trajectories

                      Tania Sengupta, The Bartlett UCL:

                      Reading the Colonial Periphery: the Field and/as the Archive

                      Sharóne Tomer, Virginia Tech:

                      Specters and Agents

                      Łukasz Stanek, University of Manchester

                      Architecture’s Worldmaking

                      Yael Padan, The Bartlett UCL:

                      Conflicted Ethics and the Co-production of Urban Knowledge in Postcolonial Cities 

18.15 - 18.30: Concluding Remarks



The Symposium will take place in the Department of Architecture, Scroope Terrace, Cambridge CB2 1PX. 

Online registrations have now closed. Limited registration will be available at the door. 


This symposium is organised by PhD candidates based in the Department of Architecture at the University of Cambridge, and is organised with the support of the School of Arts & Humanities and the Department of Architecture.


Yasmina El Chami is a Cambridge Trust Scholar and 2nd year PhD Candidate in the Centre for Urban Conflicts Research, supervised by Prof. Wendy Pullan. Her dissertation looks at the construction of missionary educational institutions in nineteenth-century Lebanon, examining their role in the urbanisation of Beirut. 

Nadi Abusaada is a Cambridge Trust Scholar and 2nd Year PhD Candidate in the Centre for Urban Conflicts Research, supervised by Prof. Wendy Pullan. His research looks at the bureaucratic and civic spatial practices in Palestine during the late Ottoman and British Mandate period, focussing on the role of the local Arab population.


Please direct all comments or enquiries to: conflictednarratives@gmail.com

© 2019 | Centre for Urban Conflicts Research | Department of Architecture | University of Cambridge

1 Scroope Terrace, Cambridge CB2 1PX



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