Critical Neighbourhoods

At time when architectural and urban studies are moving towards seeking to accept and understand informal neighbourhoods rather than ignoring or eradicating them, the need for experiments on the ground is becoming increasingly urgent. In recente years, a growing number of architects and spatial practitioners have begun to act on their commitment to the idea that these settlements are here to stay and require selective intervention. Critical Neighbourhoods – The Architecture of Contested Communities analyses recent studies and practical actions in three different continents (Africa, America and Asia). The volume is edited by Paulo Moreira, with contributions by Elisa Silva, Julia King, Mattew Barac, and Ines Weizman, and a preface by AbdouMaliq Simone.

The project allowed to situate our research on a specific geographical location – Chicala, Luanda, Angola – within the broader debate surrounding the tensions and conflicts between architecture, self-built space, and urban policies. During the research and writing process for the book, discussions with contributors by Julia King, Elisa Silva, Matthew Barac, Ines Weizman and AbdouMaliq Simone (author of the preface) enabled an academic and intellectual dialogue to emerge around the role of architects in precarious neighbourhoods and communities.

This project has contributed to challenging the conventional relationship between architectural practice and research, and between academic and sociopolitical structures. The different experiences recounted in the book explore how architects can design interventions in the public space, implement interdisciplinary educational and cultural programmes, organise celebrations, create art initiatives, carry out participatory cartography exercises, organise exhibitions, encourage door-to-door waste collection, and activate abandoned buildings for community use, among other activities.

The dissemination phase allowed us to share our reflections and include a much wider audience in a rich professional and cultural exchange. Significant efforts have been made to promote and share this work with audiences who are interested in the topic and deal with it in their daily lives.

These subjects would also benefit from greater dissemination among academic, professional and cultural institutions to enable them to find their rightful place in contemporary architectural debate.