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Transdisclipinary Research for Affordable and Sustainable Housing

Posted on 23-09-2021

A roundtable on “Transdisclipinary Research for Affordable and Sustainable Housing” took place on Thursday 23, 2021.  The session was chaired by Flora Samuel, Professor at the University of Reading, UK, and the panel members were:      David Clapham, Professor of Housing and Urban Studies, University of Glasgow    Gilles Debizet, Professor in Urban Planning, University Grenoble Alpes   Doina Petrescu, Professor of Architecture and Design Activism, University of Sheffield   Ashraf Salama, Professor of Architecture, University of Strathclyde    Roundtable Video

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WS1: The First Brick Has Been Cast

Posted on 07-10-2021

Finally, it happened! The long-waited RE-DWELL ITN Lisbon Workshop, organised by ISCTE-UL, took place over three days between 22 and 24 September 2021, where there was a range of structured activities and lectures to keep attendants busy. More than 35 RE-DWELLers attended the event, including ESRs, supervisors, speakers and partners, and all were ready to engage and collaborate with one another and exchange their immense knowledge of affordability and sustainability in housing from a transdisciplinary perspective.   Day one: Getting started As expected, the opening session was well organised and very motivational. It began with the welcoming address, which was followed by an information-exchange session between the ESRs and supervisors in which ideas were exchanged and important concepts discussed. Naturally, posters and abstracts were involved! Myself, Andreas Panagidis and Dr Krzysztof Nawratek teamed up and engaged in very elaborate discussions about our projects. This was where, for the first time, I was able to understand the aims of the other ESRs at a detailed level, and I can now say with confidence that I can see the whole puzzle clearer. It is thrilling to see how our projects work together on the path to delivering affordable and sustainable housing. Although the workshop was quite motivational, the highlights of the day were the introduction of the concept of BIP/ZIP and the tour to Eco Bairro of Boavista. “BIP-ZIP is a non-bureaucratic participatory budgeting model that invites citizens to develop and implement actions themselves in their neighbourhoods, which reinforces the social and territorial cohesion of the Lisbon municipality” (UA, 2018). Essentially, BIP/ZIP is a programme designed to get more citizens’ input into the construction of cities. The tour to Eco Bairro of Boavista marked the end of the first day, with dozens of important questions answered about its planning, design, and the strategies used in achieving these goals. As a picture is worth a thousand words, Figure 1 has been included to explain this information.   Day two: It only gets better A roundtable and the subsequent open debate were the highlights of the second day. A group of experts, researchers and academics (Prof. David Clapham, Prof. Gilles Debizet, Prof. Doina Petrescu and Prof. Ashraf Salama) discussed the meanings, concepts and methods of transdisciplinary research for affordable and sustainable housing from different perspectives. According to Prof. Salama, different backgrounds is one of the reasons behind the current difficulties, as he says, “When we sit with people of different disciplinary backgrounds, the first thing we say is, ‘This is not how we do things,’ and once you say that, you establish… boundaries between us and other people… Transdisciplinarity is the notion of triangulation: looking at affordability, sustainability and lifestyles together” (Salama, 2021). During the second half of the day, several important topics were discussed in a series of lectures delivered by the Casais Group: From the concepts and role of circular economies fostering sustainability and the necessity of digital transformation, to the use of building information modelling (BIM) and the industrialisation of construction leading to effective resource management. During the tour of one of Casais’s projects, we witnessed the transformation that takes place in construction, from the pencil and block through to the use of BIM and modular design principles.   Day three: Ethics is the name of the game The third day marked the end of the workshop. Focused and dynamic lectures were delivered by Prof. Karim Hadjri and Dr Krzysztof Nawratek. Everyone engaged in a hands-on workshop to understand the role of personal qualities and self-management in developing a successful project and, ultimately, a good PhD thesis. Ethics and data management were the hot topics during the session, for which a grounding principle was presented and clarified, which helped to shape our understanding and clarify the ways in which ethical and successful projects can be achieved. And, as usual, the day ended with a tour, this time to Marvila, where the role of innovation in social housing was demonstrated.   Bacalhau à Brás Although this seems like a complicated technical term, it’s a traditional dish made from cod fish that you must try when visiting Lisbon, as I assure you that it is very delicious! So much so that it was the most popular dish at the event. So, on day three and after many dishes of Bacalhau à Brás, our first workshop came to an end. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped in organising or presenting at the event and to thank those who attended this amazing event. See you very soon at Nicosia!       References  SALAMA, A. 2021. Transdisciplinarity Research for Affordable and Sustainable Housing. Research Methodologies and Tools (Rmt1 Course). Lisbon workshop. UA. 2018. BIP-ZIP, Citizen Participation Mechanism [Online]. Lisbon: Urban Alternatives. Available: https://urbanalternatives.org/map/lisbon/bip-zip/ [Accessed October 2021].

Author: M.Alsaeed (ESR5)

Workshops

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Unmethodical foreplay

Posted on 05-10-2021

“Theories become clear and “reasonable” only after incoherent parts of them have been used for a long time. Such unreasonable, nonsensical, unmethodical foreplay thus turns out to be an unavoidable precondition of clarity and of empirical success”. (Feyerabend, 2010: 11)   Invaded by mass tourism, divided by social and economic inequalities, it is easy to forget that at one point, Lisbon was the San Francisco of Europe. In fact, the Portuguese were the first European traders to reach India and held the monopoly of trade with Japan during the 16th century. Indo-Portuguese art, such as the sculpture depicted on the left is a window into a prior phase of global exchanges, one motivated by discoveries, commercial expansion and European colonisation. Today, syncretic artistic expressions drawing from Hinduism and Catholicism allow historians to re-trace a complicated past.   However, what does this tell us of research on housing affordability and sustainability? This sculpture is an example of an earlier form of world complexity, readable, in this case, through art forms and religious dogmas. It is a concrete embodiment that confounds paradigms that place top-bottom, North-South, European vs other, critical-rational divisions over our current world. In short, it muddies the clear waters of preconceived frameworks that place Christianity in a White-European context.    It is in the muddy waters that theorising gains importance. To borrow from Feyerabend, we need to fight against the method, any method. In urban studies, preconceived ontologies, conceptualisations of the world, stifle research creating what Tonkiss (2011) calls Template Urbanism. The danger of template urbanism is becoming reified, a set of common tropes that act as places for encounter but simply fall flat when confronted with social realities.   Flows of ideas and commodities, the creation of intercontinental networks, and ever-increasing complexity were a reality in the regional world of the 18th century. In the 21st, visiting Lisbon, we’ve seen informal settlements in the “Global North”, the consequences of a fascist regime that, like its Spanish counterpart, created a country of homeowners, all of that even before neoliberalism went mainstream with Thatcher and Reagan. This doesn’t fit into the one framework. These phenomena demand engagement with theories and disciplines of their own, not a one-size-fits-all approach.   Maybe just on this particular point, both sides of the spectrum in urban research, critical researchers (Brenner et al., 2011) and urban data scientists (Kandt & Batty, 2021) see theorising as key in producing meaningful research. Empiricism in the urban environment is frown upon because of its naïveté, it refuses to engage with the messiness Feyerabend talks about. On the contrary, we ought to engage with messiness to find the theoretical tools allowing us to produce meaningful scientific outputs.    References Brenner, N., Madden, D. J., & Wachsmuth, D. (2011). "Assemblage urbanism and the challenges of critical urban theory." City, 15:2, 225-240 https://doi.org/10.1080/13604813.2011.568717 Kandt, J., & Batty, M. (2021). "cities, big data and urban policy: Towards urban analytics for the long run." Cities, 109. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cities.2020.102992 Tonkiss, F. (2011). "City analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action. Template urbanism Four points about assemblage" in City analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action.  15(5), 584–588. https://doi.org/10.1080/13604813.2011.60902

Author: A.Fernandez (ESR12)

Workshops

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We might think we are helping, but [Through Sustainability Lens] we might not!

Posted on 05-10-2021

Countless examples can reflect this title, right?   But today, I will write about a story of a woman living in a deprived area in Portugal.   Joana Pestana Lages, who is an architect and urban researcher in ISCTE, shared this story with us in the latest Lisbon Workshop. The story might sound simple and common, but [Through Sustainability Lens] it is mind-stimulating. Along with other inspiring guests’ speeches, this story deep inside me reemphasized my research goal to design social housing based on occupants’ needs and different lifestyles. In addition, to continuously communicate these needs to architects in practice. At the end of the day, the final product - [The House] - where people live, grow, cook, eat, rest, read, sing, play, cry, celebrate, heal and [recently work!] is designed by architects.   However, housing studies are commonly dominated by economists, as discussed in the workshop roundtable. That’s why our Re-Dwell transdisciplinary research is bringing economics, politics, and architecture to work together to tackle the ongoing housing issues in Europe.     So, just one minute ago in my introduction, I mentioned two things that we need to question:   The first one: Did it only happen [recently] that people work from home?   The second one: Do architects design all houses?   The answer to both questions is No.     No, for many reasons that differ depending on location, politics, finance, occupation, personal preferences, etc. In this blog, I will look through the lens of self-produced places ‘Slums’ where the story happens and where it is [The Time and People] who design and build! No architects, engineers, or contractors … These were some of the words Joana Lages referred to before telling us the story. The story of a woman from Cape Verde who lived in a deprived area in Lisbon for many years. In her small house with a simple slow-paced lifestyle, she washes and reuses plastic wastes and knits it into plastic bags. She plants and raises food animals, securing work, revenue, and food from only one place [Her House]. Her life condition might be judged as insecure, informal, and particularly unhealthy when raising animals in a densely peopled area. Though from another perspective, it is more sustainable than many of us living in adequate residential areas. For instance, she uses minimum energy and transportation and produces minimum waste. In this regard, Joana Lages raised a very interesting question: What would happen to this woman if she had to move to an apartment in a building which is, from our perspective, better for her? We would be ruining her lifestyle, her work, her income, and we would be creating her new financial obligations to pay for energy and transportation, etc.   We need to be aware that it is not just a house that costs a certain amount of money. It is not just a group of people to be re-allocated from one place to another. It is people’s lives.    It is a global issue. For instance, in Europe, there are more than 30 million slum dwellers. No one can deny the urgency of the various efforts and strategies used to tackle this issue or to upgrade substandard areas to incorporate their communities in the city gradually. But before doing so, it is important to listen! And to bear in mind an inclusive and participatory approach to tackle this. We need to think: how can we give these communities a secure space to speak, care and express their needs? How should we listen to find creative solutions that respond to these various and challenging parameters?   It is not going to be easy, but it is possible.       References   https://www.dinamiacet.iscte-iul.pt/research-team/Joana-Pestana-Lages?lang=en   https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190208-tackling-slums-by-making-them-better-places-to-live-in   https://www.dw.com/en/inside-europes-slums/a-18011677   https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2013/05/21/185763979/african-cities-test-the-limits-of-living-with-livestock?t=1633387048627

Author: A.Elghandour (ESR4)

Workshops, Reflections

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Lisbon Workshop: Roundtable

Published on 15-09-2021

On Thursday 23, roundtable on Transdisclipinary Research for Affordable and Sustainable Housing, starting at 10:00 (CET -1).  Free access to the online session. The field of housing research is characterised by siloed thinking with little debate across disciplines. The aim of this event is to consider the way in which housing is approached from different disciplinary perspectives and to think about ways in which multi-, cross- and transdisciplinary research has been carried out so far in Europe and the UK.  How can research on housing address the global challenges of climate change and of social inequalities and in the same time engage with concrete practice in architecture, engineering, planning and public policy? A historical approach to housing research and its “disciplines” will help engage this timely debate.     This event will be chaired by Flora Samuel, Professor at the University of Reading, UK. Panel members will be:    David Clapham, Professor of Housing and Urban Studies, University of Glasgow   Gilles Debizet, Professor in Urban Planning, University Grenoble Alpes  Doina Petrescu, Professor of Architecture and Design Activism, University of Sheffield  Ashraf Salama, Professor of Architecture, University of Strathclyde
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Lisbon Workshop

Published on 14-09-2021

The first RE-DWELL workshop will take place in Lisbon on September 22, 23 and 24, organized by ISCTE-UL will take place in Lisbon. The aim of the workshop is to follow up the development of ESR research by fostering networking between individual research projects and by conducting training activities related to the ongoing structured courses (RMT1 and TS1). Invited speakers from professional practice, academia and local government will address topics related to "Design, planning and construction of affordable and sustainable housing" from multiple perspectives. The lectures will be followed by group discussions and complemented by site visits. A roundtable to discuss transdisciplinary research for affordable and sustainable housing will be open to the public via an online session on Thursday 23 at 10:00 (CET -1).    See the workshop programme here.
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Network Training Activities Started

Published on 30-07-2021

On July 16, the activities of the training network began with the first session of two courses: Transferable Skills (TS1) and  Research Methods and Tools (RMT1). The objective of TS1 is to strengthen self-management and communication, and to raise awareness of ethics, data protection and intellectual property rights. RMT1 is dedicated to introduce the notion of transdisciplinary research. These first sessions were delivered on-line and consisted of short introductions to the topics, followed by tasks carried out in teams. The work will continue in the next training activities, which will be delivered on-line and also on-site, in sessions included in the programmes of the Lisbon Workshop (October 22, 23 and 24, 2021) and the Nicosia Summer School (November 15-19, 2021). In parallel, the results of the training will feed the individual research projects and contribute to establishing connections between them.
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Consortium

The combined knowledge provided by experts from the different fields and domains will contribute to create a transdisciplinary research framework in which early-stage career researchers (ESRs) will develop their individual projects on affordable and sustainable housing.

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9 European countries. Spain, France, UK, Croatia, Hungary, Cyprus, Netherlands, Portugal and Belgium.

10 higher-education institutions. The universities are represented by experts from several disciplines related to housing: architecture and planning, building and construction, sociology, economy, and law.

12 non-academic partner organisations. Partner organisations include construction companies, private and public developers, local administrations, research and advocacy groups, housing associations, social and international organizations.

RE-DWELL
in a nutshell

a transdisciplinary and holistic approach about housing which cuts across disciplinary boundaries and fields

a consortium of 22 organizations covering a range of academic disciplines and professional fields working on housing

a comprehensive training programme, with network specific courses complemented with training in the PhD programmes of the host universities

a blended learning environment to integrate onsite and online activities distributed across institutions

3 Workshops in Lisbon, Budapest and Zagreb; 3 Summer Schools in Nicosia, Valencia and Reading; and 2 international conferences in Grenoble and Barcelona

25 academic supervisors and co-supervisors supporting the individual research projects

a wide range of outreach activities to engage communities and professional organizations in the research and in the exploitation of research outputs