On the study of conflict in cities
Wendy Pullan, Director of the Centre for Urban Conflicts Research and former Head of the Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge, England, discussed the history of the MPhil course in history and philosophy and the contributions of the department’s research to contemporary discourse in architecture and urban studies, situating it in relation to the wider context of academic research in the UK and internationally. PhD students are encouraged to consider the role of architecture as part of contemporary ‘world problems’, including climate change, violence, conflict, migration, etc. An interest in and commitment to cities is the common ground for much research in the department. The department’s Martin Centre was one of the first organizations for architectural research, and all research carried out in the department, including that of PhD students, falls under its auspices. In addition to broad and often multidisciplinary collaborations, funded research conducted at the Martin Center regularly partners planning authorities, government agencies, NGOs, and industry.
Since 2002, Pullan has developed the study of urban conflict as a subdiscipline in urban studies. This included a PhD program initiated within her long-term research project "Conflict in Cities and the Contested State." Today, PhD students are able to consider common themes of interest in the UCR while addressing urban geographies from Europe and the Middle East to North America, Russia, and the Far East. Following independent research agendas for their dissertations, students bring multidisciplinary thinking from sociology, geography, anthropology, and politics into their work; at the same time, the research contributions remain grounded in architecture and the city as the key vehicles for interrogation. In situ fieldwork and the processes of observation and mapping are the cornerstones of research, and although design is not an aim, design studio methods are often recognizable in the research. Theoretical ideas play a role but are only one of several concerns that lead to an understanding of architectural sites, divided communities, and urban situations. Pullan answered questions about her two decades of research on cities that suffer high levels of conflict and provided insight into how these problems are critical factors in architecture and urbanism today.