UCL Urban Laboratory

UCL Urban Laboratory
Established 2005 (2005)
Research type Public
Field of research
Urbanism, architecture, city planning, globalisation
Director Dr. Ben Campkin
Location London
Operating agency
University College London
Website ucl.ac.uk/urbanlab

UCL Urban Laboratory is a cross-disciplinary centre for the study of cities and urbanisation worldwide, based at University College London. It carries out research, education and outreach activities both in London and internationally. The Urban Laboratory was established in 2005. UCL Urban Lab co-operates with four UCL departments – The Bartlett; Engineering, Social and Historical Sciences; and Arts and Humanities.[1] The current director is Dr Ben Campkin, who took on the role in 2011 from Professor Matthew Gandy who was the founding director.

The Urban Laboratory runs a number of urban events programmes promoting urbanism, including the annual international peer-reviewed exhibition Cities Methodologies[2] with the Slade School of Fine Art, and Urban Lab Films,[3] a public programme of talks and film screenings on cities. Cities Methodologies has been described by Monocle as a "marketplace of research ideas, [which] bring lots of different approaches to common urban questions together, and for work to be put in juxtaposition."[4]

Since 2013, the Urban Laboratory has been part of the European Union-funded Erasmus Mundus Urban Lab+ international network of Urban Laboratories, an organisation composed of eight international universities in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America.[5] The project seeks to expand and strengthen competence in the realms of architecture, urban planning and other built environment disciplines. Urban Lab is a partner member along with Technical University of Berlin, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, University of Calabria, Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, University of the Witwatersrand, Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong.[6]

In 2012, UCL Urban Laboratory were critical of UCL plans to open a new campus near the site of the Olympic Park in East London on the Carpenters Estate, as detailed in an open letter sent to the university's council.[7] The new campus would have required the demolition of the existing estate and relocation of current residents. The plans detailed in the "UCL Stratford Proposition"[8] attracted considerable press attention[9][10][11] and caused a student-led opposition group from UCL Union to 'occupy' a room in UCL's Bloomsbury campus.[12][13] The main objection of the Urban Laboratory (endorsed by The Bartlett's Development Planning Unit (DPU)) was that the plan constituted a missed opportunity to draw on the expertise of the UCL community and show leadership in developing a sustainable and socially equitable approach to regeneration. Plans for the new campus were dropped in May 2013 following a failure for UCL and Newham Council to agree to terms.[14]


The current director of the Urban Laboratory is urbanist and architectural historian Ben Campkin. He is also a senior lecturer in Architectural History at the Bartlett School of Architecture.[15] He was co-editor of the 2012 book Dirt: New Geographies of Cleanliness and Contamination[16] and writer of the 2013 book Remaking London: Decline and Regeneration in Urban Culture.[17] The latter focuses on gentrification,[18] sink estates[19] and the history of regeneration in five areas of London (Somers Town, Elephant and Castle, Kings Cross, Shoreditch and Hackney Wick).[20]

Former director Matthew Gandy is a geographer and urbanist. He is co-founder of the Urban Salon which links urbanists across London.[21] He has taught geography at UCL since 1997, and before that worked at the University of Sussex between 1992 and 1997.[22]


  1. "UCL Urban Laboratory launch". University College London. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  2. "Cities Methodologies". UCL Urban Laboratory. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  3. "UrbanLab Films". UCL Urban Laboratory. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  4. "UCL Urban Lab creates a market place of research ideas". The Bartlett. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  5. "Welcome to Urban Lab+". Urban Lab+. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  6. "Urban Lab+ Partners". Urban Lab+. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  7. "Urban Laboratory and DPU open letter to UCL Council". UCL Urban Laboratory. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  8. "UCL Stratford Proposition" (PDF). University College London. 11 October 2012. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  9. Minton, Anna (30 November 2012). "Undemocratic developments". Financial Times. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  10. Hatherley, Owen (7 November 2012). "Housing policy, Newham style: let residents make way for a UCL campus". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  11. Webb, Oscar (7 December 2012). "UCL and 'social cleansing'". London Review of Books. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  12. "Press release: UCL students OCCUPY in opposition to management plans to destroy Stratford community, make hundreds homeless". ucl4carpenters. 29 November 2012. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  13. Emily Stiff, and Ashley Cowburn (29 November 2012). "UCL Occupied". Pi Media. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  14. "University College 'Olympic campus' scheme collapses". BBC News Online. 8 May 2013. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  15. "Dr Ben Campkin". UCL IRIS. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  16. "Dirt: New Geographies of Cleanliness and Contamination". I.B. Tauris. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  17. "Remaking London: Decline and Regeneration in Urban Culture". I.B. Tauris. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  18. Coad, Emma Dent (21 October 2013). "Remaking London: Decline and Regeneration in Urban Culture". Building Design. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  19. Hill, Dave (16 January 2014). "Regeneration and the 'sink estate spectacle'". theguardian.com. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  20. Payne, Tom (3 October 2013). "Remaking London: An Interview With Ben Campkin". Urban Times. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  21. "Welcome to Urban Salon". Urban Salon. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
  22. "Starting points". Matthew Gandy. Retrieved 24 January 2014.
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