Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Small Change - Nabeel Hamdi

Nabeel Hamdi qualified as an architect at the Architectural Association in London 1968. He worked for the Greater London Council between 1969 and 1978, where his award-winning housing projects established his reputation in participatory design and planning. 1981 to 1990 he was Associate Professor of Housing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he was later awarded a Ford International Career Development Professorship.

In 1997 Nabeel won the UN-Habitat Scroll of Honour for his work on Community Action Planning. He founded the Masters course in Development Practice at Oxford Brookes University in 1992 which was awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2001. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Pretoria, South Africa in 2008. He is currently Professor Emeritus of Housing and Urban Development at Oxford Brookes University and teaching fellow at The Development Planning Unit, University College, London. He has been an Arup Fellow at the University of Cape Town and is adjunct professor at the National University of Technology, Trondhiem, Norway. (source: http://architecture.brookes.ac.uk/staff/nabeelhamdi.html)

Hamdi's 2004 book, Small Change, has been highly influential in describing the role that informality plays in urban life. It sets out a way of thinking on cities that gives precedence to small-scale, incremental change over large-scale projects. He shows how the trickle-down effect advocated by conservatives everywhere does not produce the sort of large-scale changes that are predicted. It is instead the trickle-up effect of self-organised systems that produce the biggest changes. He uses examples from cities in the global South, writing of how the smallest change such as the installation of a bus-stop that results in a group of people waiting, induces a whole host of small-scale economies such as people selling food or drinks, or the provision of street lighting around which children gather to complete their homework due to the lack of electricity at home, means that sweet and book sellers appear in the area hawking their wares.Hamdi's own practice has always used the tactic of small-scale change at grass-roots level, whether in his early housing work with the Greater London Council that tested ideas on participatory design and planning, or his later work as consultant to various governmental and UN agencies. His work epitomises an approach that looks for ways to use his skills as an architect to bolster or augment already existing structures, rather than starting ab initio. It is a way of working with the given, making small changes, giving time and giving agency to those involved rather than leading the process from the outside. (source: www.spatialagency.net/database/nabeel.hamdi)

These are principles that inform much of AirSpace's ethos and inspired the idea for the open curatorial call for the upcoming exhibition Small Change. On November 30th, Nabeel will be coming to AirSpace to speak at The Artist Soup Kitchen : Small Change.

Nabeel talking here about "The Placemaker's Guide to Building Communities"

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