30 March 2021
We caught up with Julia King, a London-based designer and researcher who was selected earlier this year to take part in Reframing Green Spaces Caracas, to hear more about her work and her ambitions for the project.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
I am currently a Research Fellow at LSE Cities where I conduct research and teach, drawing on my background in architecture and often combining research with live built projects. A turning point in my career was when I started a PhD and returned to India where I grew up. My PhD focused on a marginalized community in the outskirts of Delhi where I built a series of physical interventions that explored how residents could be part of the improvements to their built environment. This included designing and implementing a sanitation project which paved the way for a career exploring housing, waste, and infrastructure in the context of rapid urban change. More recently, in the UK, I have started to work with young adults developing methods and processes for them to be active participants in planning and development. I am passionate about the role design can play in making our built environments better, fairer, and more sustainable.
What attracted you to this opportunity?
There was a lot that attracted me. Firstly, the opportunity to work in Venezuela was personally important. My mother’s family are Venezuelan, and it is part of my heritage that I am proud of - although, I must admit, my Spanish is a bit rusty. Having spent a fair amount of my career working in India, and over a decade teaching in universities in the UK, I felt that now was a good time to explore how my work and pedagogy could resonate there. Secondly, I applied during the pandemic, and this felt like a great way to test how to collaborate remotely with a group of incredible architects and connect with students and residents in a meaningful way.
How is it going so far?
It has been amazing! So far, we have explored an area of Caracas that I feel I now know well. We have run a seminar series, which included fantastic speakers discussing subjects ranging from urban biodiversity to working with informal communities on public space projects. For the last seminar, which I had the privilege to curate, I invited speakers from India and the UK to explore the role that design can play in addressing issues of social justice. Most recently, the team in Caracas have been conducting a site appraisal, sharing their study over WhatsApp, as well as recorded walks tracked on Google, which has informed our conversations on the potential physical interventions. This way of working has been challenging, but also exciting, and has been really rewarding so far.
What are you hoping to achieve by the end of the programme?
From the outset, it was clear that we all shared the aim was to create something tangible from come out of this process that speaks to the theme of ‘reframing green spaces’. It is also important that the outcome is sensitive to the difficult times in which we find ourselves, and is sustainable in the sense that it can be maintained without being a drain on local resources. We also want to ensure that the intervention speaks to wider issues of sustainability during the year of COP26 - and this is quite hard to do. This means we need to listen to, and engage with, a range of local stakeholders during a time when physical contact is at a minimum. So, if we pull this off, I will be proud; I have faith in the team that we can do this.