Space, place and people: Monsoon Assemblages launches!

MONASS project launch

Monsoon Assemblages (MONASS) was officially launched on Tuesday evening at an event hosted by the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment (FABE) at the University of Westminster. The launch was a joint celebration of two grant funded research projects: Monsoon Assemblages and Public Space and the Role of the Architect in London and Sao Paulo. There was a great turnout of around 120 people comprising of staff, students (including members of DS18), project partners, researchers from a range of institutions and members of the project advisory panel.

The evening started with introductions and a welcoming address by the Head of Department, Dr Harry Charrington. Following this Professor David Dernie, the Dean of FABE, gave an overview of both projects outlining their interconnections, relevance and importance to the Faculty.

Public space and the role of the architect in London and Sao Paulo was presented by the Principle Investigator, Professor Susannah Hagan. The project compares architectural modernism in London and Sao Paulo as a way of reflecting on contemporary public spaces and the changing role of the architect. Susannah’s engaging presentation covered the research framework, the project members and some initial findings. You can find out more by visiting the website:

Unfortunately, Susannah’s presentation was interrupted by a fire alarm. After a brief delay, during which people were evacuated from the building, everyone returned to their seats. The interlude certainly seemed to build people’s anticipation!

We were privileged to be joined by the University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Geoff Petts, who situated the projects within the University’s Research Strategy. Apparently his initial reaction when reading the project proposals was: “Space, place and people? This is geography! What are architects doing?” As a hydrologist working at the interface of geomorphology, ecology and hydrology he reflected on a recent trip to Australia during which the country experienced the wettest week on record. Professor Petts stressed the need for a new paradigm that enables humans and environment to work together and highlighted the importance of social science approaches. The Vice Chancellor’s speech was a perfect lead-in to Monsoon Assemblages.

Professor Lindsay Bremner introduced the project, the team and the three focal cities: Chennai, Delhi and Dhaka. The concept and research approach were further elucidated through a description of Chennai, our first city, and an IT corridor constructed on a monsoon-fed coastal marshland, our first field site. The project explores, and invites people to consider, what it might mean to think about the monsoon as something to co-design with. How might design be transformed if no longer thought of as an exclusive capacity of human agency, but something shared with the material energies of the earth system?

View Lindsay’s presentation here:

View a video of the launch event here:

Following the presentations there was ample opportunity for discussion and networking. As a new member of the Faculty it was a great way to meet new people and put faces to names. All in all the event was a resounding success. From the perspective of one of the audience members: “everybody was gripped by both presentations and there was a real buzz afterwards over the drinks”. Our thanks to all those who attended.

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