The degree PhD (Honoris Causa)
PROFESSOR NABEEL HAMDI
Nabeel Hamdi qualified as an architect at the Architectural Association in London 1968. He obtained an AA Diploma with a Certificate of Tropical Architecture. He worked for the Greater London Council between 1969 and 1978, where his award-winning housing pilot projects PSSHAK, Stamford Hill and Adelaide Road, established his reputation in participatory design and planning. These projects have been important precedents for housing students and professionals internationally.
During the period 1981 to 1990 he was Associate Professor of Housing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he was later awarded a Ford International Career Development Professorship.
In 1997 Nabeel, or Nabs as he is fondly called by his ex-students, won the UN-Habitat Scroll of Honour for his work on Community Action Planning, and the Masters course in Development Practice that he founded at Oxford Brookes University in 1992 was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2001. He is currently Professor Emeritus of Housing and Urban Development, Centre for Development and Emergency Practice (CENDEP), at Oxford Brookes University.
Since 1978 till present Nabeel has consulted on participatory action planning and upgrading of slums in cities to all major international development agencies, and to charities and NGOs worldwide. He has acted as principal researcher on housing, urban development, community action planning, training, slum improvement and participatory methods for governments, NGOs and international agencies including the European Union, Malecon 2000 Foundation Ecuador, Palestine Economic Council for Development and Reconstruction, UNCHS, USAID, UNHCR, UNICEF, the World Bank and numerous others.
In addition to the above, he has received awards such as the 2005 Regeneration Award: International Category awarded to the International Development Projects Office, Oxford Brookes University, for its Malecon 2000 Project in Ecuador of which Nabeel was a Principal Advisor. He also received the American Institute of Architects Education Honours Programme in 1989 (significant achievement in formulation, implementation and outcome of Architectural Instruction in Design and Housing), the Ford International Career Development Professorship, Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1983, the Neighbourhood Service Award, Topeka, Kansas in 1979 and the Architectural Design Pick of the Projects in 1974.
He has consulted on housing and community based urban development and slum improvement projects and programmes in Britain, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Chile, USA, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Sudan, Jamaica, Iraq, India, Somalia, Belize, Ecuador, Philippines, Mexico, Belorussia, Peru, South Africa, Syria and Kenya.
He is also a member of the Programmes Committee, CARE UK International, and he is on the Board of Trustees for the International NGO Training and Research Centre (INTRAC). His clients for sponsored research have included the Norwegian Research Council, Economic Development Institute of the World Bank, the British Council, Massachusetts Housing Partnership, Government of Sri Lanka, Swiss Agency for Development Co-operation (SDC), the Rowntree Memorial Trust and others.
His other academic posts and responsibilities are: Visiting Professor – Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, USA; Adjunct Professor, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway; Ove Arup Fellow: University of Cape Town, South Africa; Honorary Professor, Universidad Nacional de San Antonio Abad del Cusco, Peru; Teaching Fellow and Course Leader – Participatory Processes – Building for Development: Development Planning Unit, University College London; PhD External Examiner: Trondheim, Loughbrough, Edinburgh, Cambridge, UCL London as well as Chair, Institute for Development in Extreme Environments (IDEE) at the Eden Project, Cornwall.
Over the years he has been Adjunct Professor, Assistant Professor, then Associate Professor of Housing, Department of Architecture at the MIT. He has acted as External Examiner for the Architectural Association, Bartlett School of Architecture and the Development Planning Unit, University College London. During the period 1980-1981 he was Visiting Associate Professor at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada and from 1978-1980 he was Visiting Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, Kansas State University
He has delivered public lectures, participated in conferences and given short courses in the UK; USA; Canada; Belgium; Holland; Italy; Norway; Germany; Ecuador; Peru; South Africa; Kuwait; Chile; Jordan; Sweden; Zambia; Turkey; Mozambique. In 2005 he presented a keynote lecture at the University of Pretoria for the opening session of the World Congress on Housing.
His major publications have had immense influence on architects concerned with broadening the role and the impact of the profession and giving it a more human face. His concepts have become the standard way of approaching housing and community projects in developing and poverty stricken contexts. He has been able to do this through publications such as Urban Futures (2005), Action Planning for Cities - a Guide to Community Practice, 1997 – with R. Goethert, Making Microplans: a community based process in programming and development (1988) – with R. Goethert as well as various papers in international journals including Architectural Review, Progressive Architecture, Habitat International, Urban Design International etc.
Educating for Real: the Training of Professionals for Development Practice (1996) disputes traditional architectural education and has probably been a source of discomfort for architects trapped in what is sometimes termed the Grand Tradition of Design where architects have worked in isolation, with no participation and have served limited segments of society. Professor Hamdi challenges us to re-think our role as professionals. In Housing without Houses: Flexibility Participation, Enablement (1991) he acknowledges the difficulties of this approach: “Those who pursue housing find themselves without architecture, and those who pursue careers often find themselves without reason.”
Hamdi goes on to elaborate: “… building houses through idealized, centralized, static, technocratic, professionally controlled, and large-in-scale means is not a good way of solving housing problems for the poor majority.” This is a lesson that South Africa still desperately needs to learn.
Hamdi states: “One clear lesson has emerged from history and from the successes and failures of architects’ interventions in housing: most who have made any difference have done so through innovations with organisations, through knowledge of policy and the conditions it places on practice, and through commitment. Few have made any difference experimenting with style, technique or technology. Most who have made gains have done so by understanding the form of building as it fits the form of organisations most suitable for its development, as it fits the form of political and social institutions that give it context. All this has very much to do with the architecture of housing.”
In Small Change: about the art of practice and the limits of planning in cities (2004), Hamdi offers a “code of conduct” for development practitioners which states: work backwards, move forwards, start where you can; recognise your own ignorance; never say can’t; let your imagination wander, reason later; be reflective; embrace serendipity; challenge consensus; look for multipliers; and finally feel good about yourself.
Hamdi’s concepts have had major resonance internationally over the years. In an increasingly complex socio-political and economic environment, Hamdi’s concepts are greatly influencing architects in South Africa and more modestly the approach of the Housing and Urban Environments (H-UE) Research Field at the Department of Architecture, University of Pretoria.