Mon 20 Nov 2017, 6.30–8pm
Cass Research Seminars:
Informal Architecture in African Cities — Paulo Moreira and Matthew Barac


The Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design
London London E1 7TP

Ngei Slum Nairobi

Two speakers, one discussion + knowledge through praxis: Cass Research Seminars are a series of public conversations which enable researchers to test and present their ideas in conversation with peers and a broader audience.

Dr Paulo Moreira is an architect and researcher based in Porto and Lisbon, who recently submitted his PhD at The Cass. Paulo is co-coordinator of the research cluster The Chicala Observatory, based at the Department of Architecture, Agostinho Neto University (Angola).

Chicala is situated among conflicts that have arisen in the urban densification process and their socio-political management. Its particular geographical location, along with its integrity and specific development, historically made the neighbourhood vulnerable to colonial invasions, and more recently to aggressive urbanism and large-scale masterplans. Paulo writes Luanda’s urban history afresh by forging a place for Chicala. Documentation of the characteristics of a neighbourhood on the brink of disappearing required a collaborative methodological approach, and a reflection of how architects can operate in such complex urban settings. Paulo's work is a contribution to understanding Luanda, and to understanding postcolonial African cities in all their depth. 

Dr Matthew Barac leads PG Taught Courses in Architecture at The Cass and is co-leader of the Postgraduate Research Degree programme. He researches the meaning of the city in the global South, situating questions about the role of design in policy-making and urban development. He has a history of professional practice and involvement with Architecture Sans Frontières.

Urban survival in the global South demands a vigilance that combines looking out for danger, maximising connections and keeping up appearances just in order to get by. Both a life skill and a talent for city-living, this navigational agility is both an aptitude and a trap. The everyday task of piloting a course between optimism and despair, between entrepreneurship and criminality, entails reading the mixed signals that the city puts out. When the gap between reading and misreading is slim, the task of coping with everyday survival gives rise to a kind of cleverness always plagued by anxiety about the reversibility of situations. One must always try to be one step ahead in the informal city … and yet there is no way of knowing whether that one step is a step too far.

Any questions about the event? Contact Dr Jane Clossick at for more information.