Ola Uduku: Aid by Design?

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Architecture by its nature is intricately involved in infrastructure provision related to housing education and other development needs. Our design of this architecture differs. In the West, social architecture has a long and illustrious history, with exemplary projects to be found throughout Europe and, increasingly, Latin America. In most of the Global South, however, architecture is more binary — either for the rich or for the poor. Much of this social infrastructure provision is given as "aid," usually via various forms of international NGO assistance. In this lecture, I hope to explore our understanding of "aid," in its literal form and also within a more philosophical-contextual format. I seek to question ideas and views of aid and how this particularly impacts design decisions and projects in the Global South, focusing specifically on both immediate forms of aid, usually forms of emergency shelter produced after natural or man-made catastrophes, to more amorphous forms of "aid" that NGOs, governments, and large multinational corporations dispense in different infrastructure forms to recipients. Can architecture really be altruistic and can aid ever fully be noncontingent, particularly within the collapsing certainties of a post-pandemic world? This lecture explores these and other issues that the discussion hopes to raise.  


Ola Uduku is the Roscoe Chair and Head of the Liverpool School of Architecture at the University of Liverpool. Prior to that, she was a Research Professor in Architecture at the Manchester School of Architecture (2017–2021). From 2011 to 2017, she has been Reader in Architecture and Dean for Africa at Edinburgh University. Her research specialisms are in modern architecture in West Africa, the history of educational architecture in Africa, and contemporary issues related to social infrastructure provision for minority communities in the "West" and "South." She is an advocate of equity in all its forms in the workplace, particularly in the architectural profession. She promotes the documentation and recording of modernist buildings and landscapes (DOMOCOMO) in Africa, and is President of the African Studies Association UK. She is currently working on a project called Aid By Design, in which the issues discussed and presented in this lecture form the basis of a forthcoming book.

Introduction by Samia Henni

The lecture is organized by the Urban Humanities Working Group (Lawrence Chua, Samia Henni, Ruth Lo, and Lisa Trivedi) and sponsored by the CNY Humanities Corridor, the Department of Architecture, and the Department of City and Regional Planning, Cornell University.


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