Critical Futures is an overarching programme that draws in a number of research agendas supported by AMPS: housing, health, cities, heritage, communities and sustainability. In each of these areas we support the research of academics focused on issues such as affordable housing, accessible design, healthy cities, architectural conservation, cultural heritage, urban growth, community design, social justice and environmental sustainability. Reflecting the interdisciplinary focus of the AMPS approach we seek to interconnect research groups and projects in each of these areas.
Housing – Critical Futures responds to a global ‘crisis’ in affordable housing provision. It examines dichotomies such as the chronic shortage of affordable housing in London, the displacement of long-standing communities in urbanising China and civil unrest around housing in São Paulo. Health – Critical Futures engages with global issues such as healthy cities, walkable neighbourhoods, accessible design, design for life, COVID-19 and public spaces, ‘sick building’ research and more. Cities – Critical Futures reflects the UN World Urbanization Prospects reflecting concerns about growing urbanisation, informal development, urban sprawl, regeneration and the future of post-industrial cities across Europe and North America.
Heritage – Critical Futures sits at the intersection of concerns for the preservation of the built environment and an interest in how to support cultural heritage, whether related to the arts or communities. It supports research into gentrification, cultural identity, indigenous communities and the conservation and preservation of art and architectural histories of various kinds – both tangible and intangible. Communities – Critical Futures has brought together sociologists, community activists and supporters of participatory design to examine issues such as gentrification, inclusionary planning, community design and citizen agency in the planning and process in places as diverse as New York and Kigali. Sustainability – Critical Futures facilitates research into the plethora of issues commented to climate change, whether it be sea-level rise, resilient cities, strategic retreat, the carbon footprint of urban living or sustainable communities.
The Critical Futures programme sees these issues as interrelated, and draws in scholars and activists in each area to mutually support interconnected strands of research. To that end it explores links between urbanisation and sustainability. For example, it supports research into the relation between the United States, as the world’s most resource consuming nation, and its status as the most urbanised. It considers the connections between public health and cities through the prism of the World Health Organisation’s definition of the ‘urban health threat’: a three-fold phenomenon of infectious diseases, noncommunicable diseases and violence/injury from, amongst other things, road traffic.
It considers the links between housing and health through examples such as Mumbai, where the biggest health risk faced by the city pre-COVID was identified as overcrowded housing. In the same vein, it critiques urban growth, regeneration and global cities in the light of gentrification, social justice and agendas broadly categorised under the aegis of the ‘right to the city’. Finally, in focusing on cultural heritage as both tangible and intangible, it is interested in communities, conservation and the role of digital technologies in diverse definitions of heritage, overlapping as a result with themes explored more fully in our Mediated City work. Explicitly supporting researchers in each of its areas and, more explicitly still, facilitating the exchange of ideas between them, the Critical Futures programme examines present ‘critical’ issues, their historical origins and their future solutions.
AMPS has worked with universities in over twenty countries on these interdisciplinary issues, organising symposia and conferences both online and on-site in the Czech Republic, Spain, Cyprus, Australia, the UK, the US and the Middle East. Examples include:
Prague-Heritages, Czech Republic; Cities in a Changing World: Questions of Culture, Climate and Design, New York; Rapid Cities – Responsive Architectures, Dubai; The City and Complexity, London; Alternatives to the Present, Arizona, Housed by Choice – Housed by Force, Cyprus; Health: The Design, Planning and Politics of How and Where We Live, Bristol, Environments by Design, Virtual; Future Housing: Global Cities and Regional Problems, Melbourne.
To support these research areas AMPS has developed a series of Special Issues of its journal. It has also produced multiple conference proceedings, held screening and debate events, disseminated the films and presentations of its collaborators. It has also established several book series that have led to multiple edited volumes and monographs. Examples include:
Urban Histories in Practice: Morphologies & Memory. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. 2021; The Unexplained. Critical Practices in Architecture and Place Making. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. 2020;
Designing for Health & Wellbeing: Home, City, Society. Vernon Press. 2019; Global Dimensions in Housing: Approaches in Design and Theory from Europe to the Pacific Rim. Libri. 2018; From Conflict to Inclusion in Housing – Interaction of Communities, Residents and Activists. UCL Press, 2017; Reflections on Society, Architecture and Politics: Social and Cultural Tectonics in the 21st Century. Routledge, 2017; Housing Solutions Through Design. Libri Publishing. 2016; Housing the Future – Alternative Approaches for Tomorrow. Libri Publishing, 2015
This programme has involved a multitude of collaborations at conferences, on publications and in logistical support for its full range of activities. As is typical of AMPS, these collaborations cross disciplinary boundaries. Examples include:
The UN Habitat Programme, The Royal Institute of British Architects, The Commission of Architecture and the Built Environment, The Faculty of Public Health, UCL Press, Libri Publishing, Vernon Press, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Atelier Herman Hertzberger, The National Housing Federation, the Pubic Health Film Society, the homelessness charity Shelter, Habitat for Humanity and multiple universities internationally.