public works

public works is a London based art and architecture practice whose members and partners have been collaborating in different constellations since 1998.

public works projects include participatory public realm design schemes, interdisciplinary debate and publications. All public works projects address the question how users of public space are engaging with their environment and how design and programmatic strategies can support and facilitate physical, economical and social infrastructures in the public realm, both in urban and rural settings.


London, England

London, England
1-5 Vyner Street, Bethnal Green, London, Greater London, E2 9DG, United Kingdom
51.5342642 , -0.057134

International Village Shop

A new model for interdisciplinary local cultural production and trans-local and online dissemination.

The International Village Shop (IVS) has been shaped as a collective idea and initiative by four partners since 2004:

  • Artists and Architects collective public works (London, UK)
  • Arts Organisation Grizedale Arts, Lawson Park (Cumbria, UK)
  • Artists group Somewhere (Cumbria, UK and London, UK)
  • Artist initiative (Rotterdam, NL)

The IVS is a shared public platform to develop, produce and exchange cultural produce. It involves individuals and organisations from different cultural backgrounds and addresses a variety of audiences, from local non-art to international art audiences.


R-Urban - constructing new cultures of resilience

« The Earth is not a present from our parents. We only borrowed if from our children»

Indian proverb


Why ?

It is perhaps the first time in history that our society develops global awareness and calls for the necessity of collective action to face the challenge of the future: global warming, depletion of fossil fuels and other natural resources, economic recession, population growth, housing and employment crisis, consequential increase of social divide and geo-political conflicts, etc.

The Earth’s population currently consumes two and a half planets. This consumption is mainly located in the urban and suburban areas of the developed countries.  There is an urgent need for efficient new models of ecological living and urban retrofitting.  While governments and organisations seem to take too long to agree and act, many initiatives started at a local scale. 

These initiatives are nevertheless confronted with the difficulty of changing the current economic and social model of society based on increased global consumption. How to construct a socially oriented economy, which does not depend on the global market?  How to initiate progressive practices and sustain ecological lifestyles while acting locally? How to reactivate cultures of collaboration and sharing in a world that promotes individualism and competition?

The R-Urban strategy proposed by atelier d’architecture autogérée explores alternatives to the current models of living, producing and consuming in cities, suburbs and the countryside. It draws on the active involvement of the citizen in creating solidarity networks, closing local cycles between production and consumption, operating changes in lifestyles, acting ecologically at the level of everyday life.


R-Urban proposes a retrofitting of the city through principles following the ecological Rs: Recycle, Reuse, Repair, Re-think, etc.  

R-Urban also aims to explicitly reconnect the Urban with the Rural through new kinds of relations, more complementary and less hierarchical.

As other emerging strategies, it aims to increase the social, urban and cultural Resilience. 
In contrast to ecological resilience,  social, urban and cultural resilience could be adaptive and transformative, inducing change that offers huge potential to rethink assumptions and build new systems.  It is this transformative quality that interests us within the R-Urban approach, which is not only about sustainability but also about change and re-invention. 

In the case of European cities, the resilience capacity should also allow for the preservation of specific democratic and cultural values, local histories and traditions, while adapting to more economic and ecological lifestyles. A city can only become resilient with the active involvement of its inhabitants. To stimulate this commitment, we need tools, knowledge and places to test new practices and citizen initiatives, and to showcase the results and benefits of a resilient transformation of the city.


The R-Urban strategy is built upon coordinated actions at different local scales (domestic, neighbourhood, city, region) and complementarities between five fields of activity: 

residential (co-operative ecological housing)
economy (social and local economy)
agriculture (organic urban agriculture)
culture (local cultural production and trans-local dissemination)
mobility (no fossil fuel dependent transport)

These fields cover the essential aspects that define the contemporary urban condition. Flows, networks and cycles of production - consumption are formed across these fields, closing chains of need and supply as locally as possible, but also in as many and as diversified ways as possible. To overcome the current crisis, we must try, as French philosopher A. Gorz states ‘to produce what we consume and consume what we produce’.   R-Urban interprets this chain of production - consumption broadly, well beyond the material aspect, including the cultural, cognitive and affective dimensions.


The R-Urban strategy could be applied in suburban contexts to deal with the collapse of the modern urban ideals (monotonous urban fabric, obsolete tower blocks, real estate bankruptcy, segregation, social and economic exclusion, land pollution…) and their transformations. Between the urban and the rural, the suburban condition could valorise the potential of both.
R-URBAN strategy could also operate within dense urban contexts, in which the rural is internalised and disseminated through specific practices, economies and lifestyles (i.e. urban agriculture, exchange systems, self-build, waste-recycling, etc.).

Local Mapping

We have started by identifying micro-local practices and interstitial spaces that could immediately be connected and activated (i.e. local skills and ecological practices, active individuals and organisations, underused spaces and urban leftovers, opportunities or gaps in rules and regulations, etc.). Local residents are involved in the setting up and management of the strategy, contributing to its social, environmental and economic sustainability. The project fosters local exchanges and (rural and urban) networks and tests methods of self-management, self-build and self-production.


In order to begin, we have constructed and tested a number of prototypes for urban agriculture (in Paris and Colombes, a suburb in the North West of Paris) and related practices: recycling and cultivating roofs (ECOroof), vertical green walls (aaa office), windows (aaa office), compost toilets (Passage 56), recycling of urban matters and their integration into agricultural soil (Passage 56) etc.

We have also set up social, economic and cultural networks based on existing and emerging local initiatives (AMAP St. Blaise, Jardins d’Audra).

We have conceived and experimented with ecological devices and locally closed cycles: water, energy, waste (Passage 56, Jardins d’Audra). 

We have identified and encouraged local skills necessary to support such initiatives, some of them marginalised or overseen and have invited specialists to contribute to learning and re-skilling processes (workshops Passage 56).

We have elaborated forms of knowledge production and skill exchange (Participative Urban Laboratory-LUP).

These prototypes allowed us to experiment with simple methods of implementation of an ecological approach at the level of everyday life and to generate self-managed collective use and environmental practices. 
Cultural resilience; cultures of resilience

In contrast to other initiatives that deal exclusively with issues of sustainability as technological, environmental or social,  R-Urban states the importance of culture. The future is culturally formed as much as the past is, says Arjun Appadurai, and this is because culture deals with ‘the capacity to aspire’.

Within a resilient condition we need to reach an ‘ecosophic’ stage of culture, which considers mental, environmental and social aspects alike. In this respect, R-Urban operates with an extended notion of culture that includes material and immaterial production, skills, mentalities, habits, patterns of inhabitations, etc…  
But how exactly does this relate to the idea of local? Can a resilient culture be localised? These were the questions that R-Urban brought to the agenda of the Rhyzom network. 

Localisation is a term usually discussed in relation to resilience. Rob Hopkins, the founder of Transition Town network, defines it like this: ‘The concept of localisation suggests that the move away from globalised distribution systems is not a choice but an inevitable change in direction for humanity. The rebuilding of local economies offers a response to the challenges presented by peak oil, as well as a tremendous opportunity to rethink and reinvent local economies’.  However, within the contemporary condition, culture can’t be assigned anymore to a geographic location. If we can localise economy we will never be able to fully localise culture. Cultural resilience negotiates between the necessity of rebuilding local economies and keeping us globally connected.

But how can we still be connected in a resilient way? How to associate and empower resilient practices, skills, mentalities, habits, economies at a bigger scale? Maybe ‘from local to local’, through relational institutions which federate heterogeneous components, both cultural and environmental, amateur and professional, civic and educational… In such way, resilient practices could go beyond the sphere of the local and become trans-local, could operate a re-weaving of scales and issues through the construction of a trans-local mode of functioning.

Living practices, deep locals, cultural and social biodiversity

As many other projects within the Rhyzom network, R-Urban addressed also the idea of a deep local, a multilayered local made out of multiple and heterogenous micro-locals.  Such micro-locals are also expressed at the level of everyday life practices, proximity dynamics, domestic habits, neighbourhood relations. They represent specific cultures of living.

In addition to existing local cultures of living, R-Urban proposes new collective forms of these cultures through reinventing and revitalising proximity relations based on solidarities (i.e. ways of being involved and deciding collectively, sharing spaces and group facilities, rules and principles of co-habitation etc.). Urban life styles in neo-liberal societies have abandoned progressively the different forms of solidarity that were perceived as inadequate and outdated. Though, it is exactly these relations of reciprocity which constitute the fundament of social progress. In his analysis of the connections between the economic and the political (inspired by Tarde’s sociology), Lazzarato describes the civilisation of ‘progress’ as ‘a constantly renewed effort to replace the reciprocal possession by the unilateral possession’.  Or, it is exactly these relations of reciprocity and solidarity that are missing in the urban environment today.

In contrast, the dwelling and the living models proposed by R-Urban are based on solidarity relations and implicitly produce sociability and common values and affective relations. They can allow for further emergence of conditions for the production of locality through authentic cultural phenomena, which are fed by their territorial anchoring and their transversal co-operation 

The ‘locality’ is formed as such through a multiplicity of micro-social and cultural phenomena which are embedded in their territories.  Guattari underlined the role of micro-practices in what he called a heterogenesis process: ‘it is essential that micro-political and micro-social practices, new solidarities organise themselves (…) It is not only that these different levels of practicing haven’t been homogenised  (…) , but that they operate in a heterogenesis process’.  It is this kind of heterogenesis process that can produce and preserve local cultural and social biodiversity which is based on sustainable solidarity.

Transformations have to take place at micro-scale with each individual, with each subjectivity and this is what constructs a culture of resilience and at the same time a resilient culture. As Hopkins puts it: ‘Resilience is not just an outer process: it is also an inner one, of becoming more flexible, robust and skilled’ . The culture of resilience includes processes of reskilling, skills-sharing, building social networks, learning from others, learning from other experiences. These micro-social and micro-cultural practices are most of the time related to lifestyles and individual gestures, they prompt attention to details, to singularities, to the capacity of creativity and innovation that operates at the level of everyday life. R-Urban offers a platform for such practices to gain visibility and feel empowered in their singularity while being connected to others through relations of reciprocity. This is a form of cultural resilience.

Pioneering R-Urban

Currently, R-Urban strategy is tested for a first implementation in Colombes, a city of 30 000 inhabitants in the North West suburbs of Paris. The local council and a number of local organisations ( …) have formed the first R-Urban Agency. Available plots have been identified and connections have started to be established between some of them.

An urban agriculture pole has been initiated at the foot of a high-rise building on a plot negotiated for reversible use with the Poste company which owns the land. A social economy cluster and organic food market will be initiated in connection with the cultivation of plots. A Recycling Unit which will process construction materials and a co-operative housing built from these materials will start next year. Seminaries, debates and workshops disseminate knowledge and skills necessary to the process. A trans-local research centre will disseminate cultures of resilience in the region.  The future is R-Urban!

public works log


public works is delighted to announce that we've been chosen for the GLA's Specialist Assistance Team, to advise on cultural curation and community development. We'll keep you posted with what we assist on!

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public works is delighted to announce that we've been chosen for the GLA's Specialist Assistance Team, to advise on cultural curation and community development. We'll keep you posted with what we assist on!

View article on website


Glad to be part of the last number of German architecture magazine BauNetzWOCHE # 489 - Recycling in the collective: building blocks, fractions and countless hands published by Baunetzwoche

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public works has been awarded the Curry Stone Design Prize as part of 2017 Social design circle.

Very proud to be amongst Rural studio and Project Row Houses under the category: Can we design community engagement?

The Curry Stone Design Prize is awarded each year to honor innovative projects that use design to address pressing social justice issues. Supported by the Curry Stone Foundation, the Prize highlights and rewards projects that improve daily living conditions of people in communities around the world. Projects may provide shelter and clean water or address humanitarian crises impacted by environmental or climate change. The Prize acknowledges work that is considered emerging in the professional and public consciousness.

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A two day symposium at Tate Exchange as part of the Civic University Thursday 6th of April, 12pm - 6pm, THE CIVIC
Friday 7th of April, 12pm - 6pm, EDUCATION

Tate Exchange - 5th Floor
Switch House - Tate Modern

Under the title of 'The Civic University' public works, a Tate Exchange Associate, is exploring situated modes of education, both as a critique of existing university models, and as a new model where knowledges are produced by and disseminated to the civil society. It takes its point of departure from Jean-Claude Passerine's publication Les Héritiers published in 1964 denouncing the institutions role in the reproduction of unequal social structures in the content they teach, the modes of access to education and their methods of teaching. This inequality was reinforced by the coalition government raising tuition fees, the demand of a linear path towards the job market and the move away from big government to 'the big society', whilst offering no clear financial strategy of support. This changing landscape demands a closer look at the role the civil society plays in the production of knowledge and the politics of collaborative city making. The Art of Being Civic will bring together activists, artists, academics and architects to discuss pedagogies that enable civil societies actions towards social collective change. It will address how knowledge can play a role in civic activism claiming rights over the city, and act as a critical platform. The first symposium day will explore the role of civil society in relation to contemporary city making, while the second day will focus on pedagogy and education, understanding how and by whom knowledge is produced, who sanctions it and how it is distributed and accumulated.

Tickets for this symposium are free but limited due to capacity.
To book your tickets click here - please note you'll need a ticket for each day.

The Civic University and The Art of being Civic Symposium is supported by UMA School of Architecture in Umeå, Sweden, as part of their ongoing research into alternative models for community engaged city making.



12:00pm Prof Ana Betancour - Head of school of Architecture at Umea University - Sweden
Both practitioner and Academic Prof Betancour was director of the Masters programme of Architecture and Urban Design, Chalmers - Sweden, and the Head of Exhibitions and Public Events at The Swedish Museum of Architecture.
12:15pm public works - The Civic University
public works is an interdisciplinary practice across fields of art, architecture and urbanism. public works will introduce the initiative and research project: The Civic University

12:50pm - 1:10pm Iain MacKenzie - Resistance within Totalising Institutions.
Iain is co-director of the Centre for Critical Thought at the University of Kent and teaches on the MA in Politics, Art and Resistance.
1:10pm - 1:30pm Nils Norman - The School of Walls and Space.
Nils is an artist living in London and Professor at the Royal Danish Academy of Art and Design, Copenhagen, Denmark, where he leads the School of Walls and Space.
1:30pm - 1:50pm Franck Magennis - The power and politics of equality in Deptford.
A radical egalitarian and Deptford citizen, Franck is involved with HAGL ('Housing Action Greenwich & Lewisham'), Deptford Cinema, the Deptford People Project, the Deptford Debates, and most recently the London Learning Cooperative.
1:50pm - 2:10pm Malaika Cunningham - Art as Political Engagement.
Malaika is a theatre practitioner and PhD candidate based at the University of Leeds working on the arts and culture research strand at CUSP.
20mins panel discussion
2:30pm - 2:45pm BREAK

2:45pm - 2:55pm Adam Kaasa - Designing Politics? Decolonising an urban ideas challenge.
Adam is director of Theatrum Mundi an interdisciplinary scholar who specialises in the politics of the city, foregrounding the role of architecture and design.
2:55pm - 3:15pm Dr Julia King - Infrastructure as a (civic) property and not a thing.
Julia is an architectural designer, researcher and lecturer based out of LSE Cities.
3:15pm - 3:30pm Assembly SE8 - Lessons from the community garden. Conflicts, complexities and co-operation. Assembly are a collective based in Deptford who work intimately with local communities and place around art, activism, design and landscape.
15mins panel discussion

3:50pm - 4:10pm Joost Beunderman - Creating fertile ground for the civic economy.
Joost is a director of the London-based design and strategy practice 00, where he leads on a wide range of research and strategy projects.
4:10pm - 4:30pm Anthea Masey - Community Resources for Loughborough Junction.
Anthea is a community activist in Loughborough Junction and Chair of the Loughborough Junction Action Group.
4:30pm - 4:50pm Ana Margarida Fernandes Esteves - Solidarity Economy as a Padagogy of Participatory Democracy. Ana is a researcher, activist, writer and documentary filmmaker. She holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in Sociology from Brown University, as well as an M.Sc. in European Studies from the London School of Economics.
15mins panel discussion
6pm END


12:00pm Prof Hans Adolfsson - Vice Chancellor at Umea University - Sweden
Prof Adlofsson had positions such as Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Stockholm University as well as Dean for the Chemistry Section at the Faculty of Science. He also headed several organic chemistry faculties and working committees.
12:15pm Prof Ana Betancour - Head of school of Architecture at Umea University - Sweden
Both practitioner and Academic Prof Betancour was director of the Masters programme of Architecture and Urban Design, Chalmers - Sweden, and the Head of Exhibitions and Public Events at The Swedish Museum of Architecture.
12:30 public works - The Civic University
public works is an interdisciplinary practice across fields of art, architecture and urbanism. public works will introduce the initiative and research project: The Civic University

12:50pm - 1:10pm Robert Mull - The Free World - Investigations in education , The Free Unit and the Global Practice Programme. Prof Robert Mull is currently developing the Global Practice Programme with international educational, NGO and institutional partners including the Civic University.
1:10pm - 1:30pm Lesley Lokko - In It Together
Leslie is associate Professor and Head of the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa.
15mins panel discussion

1:50pm - 2:10pm AAA Paris - Commons based civic learning.
Constantin Petcou is an architect whose work stresses the intersection between architecture, urbanism and semiotics. Doina Petrescu is Professor of Architecture and Design Activism at the University of Sheffield. Both are co-founders of atelier d'architecture autogérée (aaa).
2:10pm - 2:30pm Willem Halffman - The University as a Commons.
Willem is senior lecturer in Science & Technology Studies at Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
15mins panel discussion
2:50pm -3:10pm BREAK

3:15pm - 3:35pm Ed Fidoe - Education needs a revolution.
Ed is an education reformer and advisor. He co-founded School 21 and leads the 21 Trust.
3:35pm - 3:55pm Torange Khonsari - From live project to situated practice.
Torange is co- founder of practice public works and senior lecturer at London Metropolitan University and UMA School of Architecture in Sweden.
20mins panel discussion

4:30pm - 4:50pm Marco Clauson - Neighbourhood Academy.
As the co-initiator of Berlin's urban garden, Prinzessinnengarten at Moritzplatz in Berlin-Kreuzberg, Marco runs various agricultural, environmental and participatory urban projects and programs.
4:50pm - 5:10pm Maurice Carlin - Islington Mill, Manchester.
Maurice is the recipient of the inaugural Visual Artist Fellowship (2016/17) from The Clore Leadership Programme. He is an artist and director of leading UK independent arts organisation, Islington Mill.
5:10pm - 5:30pm Grant Smith - Home Ed in the City.
Grant is an artist and writer with a broadly ecological practice at SoundCamp and
15mins panel discussion

The Civic University is a pedagogical experiment that tests alternative modes of knowledge transfer at work in civic city making, challenging traditional urban teaching and disciplinary restriction. The Civic University manoeuvres across disciplines that complement one another, implementing new ways of knowing and acting. Teaching and learning at the Civic University is symbiotic; by situating its curriculum within live projects in the city, it can mutually provide a support structure back to the local communities, the sites they occupy and for the individuals enrolled.

The Civic University draws together a network of local and international 'civic classrooms' - physical rooms situated within specific areas in a city - where knowledge about hands on city making is produced and disseminated on various sites such as social housing estates, high streets, community gardens, parks and other urban sites currently under threat. There are four 'Civic classrooms' already set up across London with the aim to grow to other sites, forming new partnerships and supporting existing neighbourhood initiatives. The emerging curriculum is driven by the needs and desires of local citizens as its base.

The Civic University builds on a rich tradition of artist lead schools and academies, re-imagining educational models. It will reflect on such traditions, recognising itself as part of a larger movement towards more democratic forms of knowledge production. To map out this history, a growing 'Archive of Alternative Schools and Academies' will be launched during our stay at Tate Exchange.

The Civic University is facilitated by public works in collaboration with the initiatives, R-Urban, The Old Tidemill Gardens, Interact Roman Road, Loughborough Farm and their associated local groups and networks.

It is an ongoing collaboration with Professor Robert Mull and his initiative Global Practice Programme.

In its current form the Civic University draws from the students work produced as part of Architecture and Activism, the Civic University Live Project at the Sheffield School of Architecture (SSOA), as well as the ECODA research project on co-designing resilience.

Facebook: @CivicUniversity
Twitter: @TateExchange

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website by dorian moore @ the useful arts organisation