5:30pm EST March 1

Adi Kumar: Design Cities for People, and Not for Profit

Adi Kumar
Loeb Fellow, Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD)

Design Cities for People, and Not for Profit: Design as a Tool for Activism, Justice and Resistance

Over the four decades most cities and urban areas across the globe have become increasingly segregated. Studies in the U.S. indicated that 80% of urban areas are more segregated now than in 1990’s highlighting that this segregation is clearly embedded in poorer neighborhoods and communities of color1 . These spatial manifestations of poverty and inequality have informed heated, and often polarized debates, on affordable and adequate housing, migration, access to well-located land, increasing homelessness, deteriorating public transit and infrastructure. Large private developments driven by profit, rather than by needs of people, have dramatically increased spatial segregation. Market based economics have also been effective in reducing “housing as a human right” to an economic asset for generational wealth, exclusion and speculative practice.

In this talk, Kumar will explore how architects, planners and built environment professionals are critical to reframing and shaping these polarized debates. Kumar will explore tools to shape urban development using participatory methods of planning, building broad consensus and breaking normative rules of design. Drawing on personal experiences in post disaster reconstruction in India, post conflict reconstruction of refugee camps, developing models for slum upgrading, advocating for affordable housing, the lecture will focus on empirical practices of coproduction, activism, negotiation and resistance to realize just cities.