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“Give Me Your Hand and I’ll Teach You How To Build”:
Travelling Practices of Participation in Housing, from Albania to the UK

HESLOP, JULIA,HELEN (2017) “Give Me Your Hand and I’ll Teach You How To Build”:
Travelling Practices of Participation in Housing, from Albania to the UK.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC).



In this thesis two stories of participation in housing entwine across space and time. The first involves a migrant community living in an informal, self-constructed neighbourhood called Bathore on the outskirts of Tiranë, Albania, who benefitted from a participatory upgrading programme with a local planning NGO, from 1995-2005. The second involves a group of individuals in housing need who built a prototype house in collaboration with the researcher, entitled ‘Protohome’, which was temporarily sited and open to the public in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, in 2016.

The aim of this research is to locate and test alternative approaches to housing informed by, and embedded in, the conditions of the contemporary UK context: austerity, welfare cuts and caps, rising homelessness, housing precarity and the residualisation of social housing. The research is not simply a design exercise, but seeks approaches to housing which are collaborative, participatory and socially sustainable and which have learning and transformational potential for those in housing need at their centre. Consequently, the research translates learning from Bathore, where the practices and experiences of housing have been formed through conditions of protracted scarcity. Through a critical examination of the settling and house-building process, as well as the participatory strategies used in the upgrading programme, the objective of this research is to mobilise learning from Bathore for the Protohome project.

In doing so, the research draws from post-colonial scholarship, and activates this through the philosophies and practices of Participatory Action Research. Within this translocal learning process, where knowledge is translated between seemingly different contexts, the research seeks to deconstruct preconceptions about who or where holds the ‘authentic’ knowledge with regards to urban development and housing processes. As a result, in the stories presented here, of designing, building and collaborating, knowledge is deeply embedded in place, people and histories, yet this knowledge can be remapped and used to inform an entirely new context. The research thus moves between the particularities of place and more general observations. It is simultaneously located and dislocated. The translocal lens employed thus goes beyond comparison, it actively tests approaches from one location to the other.

Through this translocal learning process the research uncovers how participation in housing may operate as a tool for learning, capacity building and for the creation of new social networks. Yet this is not without the interplay of power. Furthermore this is set within an often obstructive institutional context and an increasingly punitive welfare state, which makes this story complicated and, at times, despondent. However, the research highlights that organised and politicised forms of participation in housing may open up routes for potentially marginalised people to ‘speak to’ and ‘with’ formal institutions of power. In the practical testing of housing approaches on a public-facing live build, the Protohome project not only grounds these conceptual ideas, but also offers an innovative approach to research methodology and dissemination through praxis, which has multi-scalar impacts. On the basis of findings, the thesis tentatively proposes an agenda for ‘participatory housing’, where housing is a route to learning as opposed to an economic product or mere bricks and mortar.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:housing, participatory action research, informal, homelessness, Albania, architecture, translocal, austerity
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Geography, Department of
Thesis Date:2017
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:12 Oct 2017 09:43

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