Decolonizing Architecture

decolonizing architecture:
[london festival of architecture 2018]

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Thank you to all who participated and attended Decolonizing Architecture at the London Festival of Architecture, 2018. We are touched, humbled, and newly inspired. Thank you for sharing your personal stories, your thoughtful and engaging work and your valuable time throughout the month of June. 

The [204] Design Collective is working to find the best way to share the themes and discussions that occurred in our event series. We look forward to sharing this with you in the near future.

Culture and empire cannot be separated, as explored by Edward Said, “The power to narrate, or to block other narratives from forming and emerging, it is very important to culture and imperialism, and constitutes one of the main connections between them” (p.xiii). If we see the interactions between humans and space as constructing narratives, the marginalization of ethnic and immigrant communities in cities literally puts these communities in the margins, or in the footnotes of the urban story.

Urbanization is often viewed as an aesthetic shift towards modernism and not as the imposition of a system of organizing space according to colonial rationality. This has led not only to segregated, disconnected, and dysfunctional cities but also to a parochialism within the disciplines of architecture and urban design in general

Decolonizing Architecture led an interdisciplinary introspection into the profession, looking at Architecture through the lens of colonial empires. The history of colonial empires and imperialism has laid the foundations of the design of modern cities, institutions and systems. To decolonize is to break down the power dynamics created by colonialism which are dictated by race, class and gender domination. In order to begin to do this, we must bridge the gap between theory and practice, connecting discourse with application and action.

Throughout the month of June, Decolonizing Architecture engaged with the theme of ‘Identity’ at the London Festival of Architecture 2018, making a call for more diverse and inclusive cities/practice by exposing, deconstructing, and reforming the way we learn, speak and practice Architecture.

The following key topics guided our conversations and workshops:

Architectural Practice and Architectural Discourse
Identifying Colonization and Dismantling Colonization
Indigenous Populations and Colonialism
Mass Migration and Old Empires

The events took place over three days:
June 3rd, 2018 | World Building and Smashing Part I + II
June 17th, 2018 | Narrative and Architecture Part I + II
June 24th, 2018 | Resistance in the City

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JUNE 3RD, 2018

Cheyenne Thomas |
Cheyenne Thomas is an Anishinaabe designer, born and raised in Winnipeg and a proud member of Peguis First Nation. She received her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Design from the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Manitoba. After graduating in 2013, Cheyenne began working on several architectural projects in Indigenous communities across Manitoba with her father. In October, she participated as a panelist in discussing an International Indigenous Design Charter at the World Design Summit in Montreal. In February she attended the inaugural Indigenous Design Conference in New Zealand, where she presented her work along side other international Indigenous designers. Cheyenne is passionate about developing new and innovative approaches to architecture that are driven by community engagement and traditional values. She currently works with Patrick R. Stewart in Vancouver as well as working freelance on Indigenous projects in Winnipeg.

David Thomas |
David Thomas is Anishinaabe, a member of Peguis First Nation in Canada and a graduate of the University of Manitoba Faculty of Architecture. He has participated in numerous Indigenous architecture projects carrying a regional authenticity through to all aspects of his work. He has focused strongly on his roots in Manitoba and Indigenous design throughout his professional practice and education. David recognizes that architecture is not only built form, but relationships that when expressed with an indigenous sensibility creates a sense of purpose and empowerment. He is an exhibitor in UNCEDED Canada’s entry of Indigenous Architects for the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale.

RESOLVE: Akil Scafe-Smith and Gameli Ladzekpo |
RESOLVE is an interdisciplinary design collective that looks towards the synthesis of architecture, engineering, technology and art to address multi-scalar social challenges.

The collective is led by Akil Scafe-Smith, Gameli Ladzekpo, and Seth Scafe-Smith.

Collaboration and co-production is a critical part of RESOLVE’s ethos. For their team, it is the first step towards realising more equitable visions of change and providing platforms for the production of new knowledge and ideas. An integral part of this is working with youth and under-represented groups in society and engaging them in the design processes, framing the city as a resource.

Their three main strands of work are built and community engagement projects, education outreach workshops, and design research.



JUNE 10TH, 2018

Kieran Yates |
Kieran Yates is a London-based Journalist and Broadcaster reporting on culture, news and politics. She currently has a column at Vice called ‘British Values’ and writes regularly for The Guardian, Fader, Dazed and a slew of other publications and was nominated for Culture Writer of the Year in 2016.

Kieran is a regular fixture on BBC News, Woman’s Hour, Front Row and across the BBC discussing arts, culture and news.

She most recently joined 5Live for their Election All Nighter. She was the ex co-presenter of the award winning Guardian Music Weekly podcast, hosted their Festival Season series in 2013 and in 2015 she produced and hosted the Muslim Drag Queens documentary which saw her nominated for Best Investigation by the Asian Media Awards in 2015.

Kieran recently contributed to the critically acclaimed book of essays ‘The Good Immigrant’ in 2017 and is the author of ‘Generation Vexed: What the English riots didn’t tell us about your nation’s youth’ published by Random House in 2011, was part of The Guardian’s ‘My Favourite Album ebook in 2011.

Kieran also edits a fanzine called British Values which looks at culture and immigration in Britain and regularly hosts events and panels discussing issues across music, politics, and news.


JUNE 24TH, 2018

Léopold Lambert |
Léopold Lambert is an architect, writer, editor, and podcaster. He is the founding editor of The Funambulist, a bimestrial print+online magazine dedicated to the politics of space and bodies, bringing spatial perspectives to decolonial, antiracist, queer, and feminist struggles. He is the author of Weaponized Architecture: The Impossibility of Innocence (dpr-barcelona, 2012), Topie Impitoyable: The Politics of the Cloth, the Wall, and the Street (punctum books, 2015), and Bulldozer Politics: The Palestinian Ruin as an Israeli Project (in French only, B2, 2016). His next book is tentatively called States of Emergency: A Short Spatial History of the French Colonial Continuum. 


Rosa-Johan Uddoh |
Rosa Uddoh (b.1993, Croydon) is an artist living and working in London. The aim of her artistic practice is to reach maximum self-esteem. She does this through performances, ceramics, video, writing and sound, exploring spatial agency, collective memory, and radical self-love. She studied Architecture Ba at Cambridge University and is currently studying MA Fine Art Media at Slade School of Fine Art as a Sarabande Foundation scholar. She is a Red Mansion Art Prize winner, and one of the New Contemporaries artists for 2018.


Jamal Mehmood |
Jamal Mehmood is a Pakistani-British writer based in London. He has a collection of poetry published by Burning Eye Books, short fiction in Litro Magazine, and articles and essays published by Media Diversified and Outspoken press respectively. His work has explored themes of nostalgia, family and the second generation immigrant experience. discussing issues across music, politics, and news.


Steam Down: Ahnansé and Brother Portrait |
Ahnansé, better known by his birth name, Wayne Francis is a saxophonist, composer, producer and the founder of Steam Down - a music collective, based in South East London. His music explores the cultural intersection of his Caribbean heritage, British upbringing and African ancestry. An ongoing personal journey, elucidating a past, present and future, formed from the myriad of complexities that arise, in crossing between identities and timelines. His musical development has been tied in with questions of how creativity contributes to the world and society. Is music just for entertainment and enjoyment, or is there capacity for more, within this creative form? Whilst on the journey to answer this question, he set up ‘Steam Down’ - a community-based, weekly music jam.


Brother Portrait is a writer/rhymer/artist - his words falling into form in poetry, prose, travel writing and music. He’s a believer in the importance of cultural production, expression and archiving. Of writing to find and see oneself. Reading, questioning, talking and listening to fill in blanks. Mining personal and community memories to form a full and puzzling picture, presenting the range and diversity in our collective experience. Themes in Brother Portraits work have been and continue to be - memory and objects as vessels; the power in space and place; language; social living; map making and travel, the history of my family and community in Sierra Leone and Diaspora. As well as the pressures and pleasures of day to day life. He seeks opportunities to explore these questions further in coming years though collaboration across artistic mediums. Music will remain a component alongside poetry, prose, performance, theater, dance, film...and anything else that lands in his path.


Special thanks to The London Festival of Architecture, Stour Space, and Sooke Home Hardware.

Special thanks to The London Festival of Architecture, Stour Space, and Sooke Home Hardware.

1. Said, Edward (1993). Culture and Imperialism. New York: Vintage Books
(Random House). p. xiii