ARC 500 Genealogies of the City: A Comparative Study of London’s Urban Lineage

ARC 500 Genealogies of the City: A Comparative Study of London’s Urban Lineage

The course explores the formation of London in relation to the development of planning and architecture in three European cities from the 17th century onwards: Lisbon, Paris and Barcelona. The theoretical framework of genealogy includes notions of biopolitics, political economy, and architecture, to tackle the complex history of the urban condition, understood both as a living entity and as material witness to the transformations of society.

London offers a unique window to understand the advent of modernity, and the heterogeneous nature of the processes involved in city planning. With the boundary between urban and rural increasingly blurred over time, urbanization has been described nowadays as a global condition. How to read the phenomenon that we still call the city? The city itself is the living evidence of successive settlement patterns and modes of life, the ‘inscribed surface of events’, in the words of Michel Foucault. Against the stable narratives of traditional history, Foucault proposed genealogy as a method: a ‘dissecting device’, a tool to expose the differences and singularities that shaped the evolution of urban fabric.


João Prates Ruivo is an architect living and working in London, educated in Lisbon. After working in Rotterdam with Theo Deutinger and at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, João moved to Athens in 2009 to start his own practice, FORA Arquitectos. Currently he teaches at Syracuse University in London and at the School of Architecture in Liverpool University. Since 2014 João is an MPhil/PhD candidate at the Center for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths University of London, and is developing a research project about soil politics and settlement histories in the context of colonization.