Dissent by Design is a research collective that investigates ways architects and other spatial professionals grapple with contentious social and environmental problems. In our projects, we use ethnographic and architectural methods. On the one hand, we aim to address the depoliticization of design. On the other hand, we seek to theorize design's complicity in social problems.
Our research areas include: (a) ethnographies of radical activism and social movement formation in the design professions; (b) transdisciplinary research on white hegemony and the racialization of space; (c) the politics of contentious social problems in community-engaged design.
We are based at and around the Program in Environmental Design at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Woman, Life, Freedom Participatory Collage. In this project, we are constructing a large-format collage of the women-led revolutionary movement taking place in Iran. We are developing a digital platform for public participation in building a library of collage elements. Our group will build the collage on critical and speculative spatial analysis. Stay tuned for more.
Climate Vulnerability and Incarceration. This is part of a larger interdisciplinary effort of investigating ways the design and engineering of prisons exacerbate incarcerated people's vulnerability to climate hazards. We produced an exhibit, "You Couldn't Hide From It" exhibit at CU Boulder in conjunction with the UN Right Here, Right Now summit on climate change and human rights.
Participatory urban derive. In this project we develop a methodology to engage communities in challenging anti-Asian racism through critical engagement in racialized landscapes.
White Space. A study of racism of institutional spaces. We are documenting, analyzing, and interpreting university campus architecture as spaces of white hegemony. (Supported in part by the National Science Foundation and CU Boulder Program in Environmental Design.)
Participatory Antiracist Design. In this collaboration with a local community institution, we work with community members to document and visualize spaces of whiteness and racism. (Supported by the CU Boulder Office of Outreach and Engagement.)
Colorblind Racism in Architecture. We designed and installed an exhibit on colorblind racist frames (building on the work of sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva and others) at the Environmental Design Gallery at the University of Colorado Boulder. This project evolved into a set of provocations posted to instagram via @dissentxdesign.
Political Engagement. In this four year ethnography of politically active designers and organizations, we studies racial, labor, and gender equity and justice activism in architecture and allied professions in the AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) industries. (Supported by the National Science Foundation.)
Vigilantism. In this collaboration with Germane Barnes (University of Miami, Studio Barnes) and Iker Gil (MAS Context), we edited a special issue of MAS Context devoted to conceptualizing and theorizing architectures of vigilantism. (Supported in part by the National Science Foundation.)
We're a team of undergraduate, graduate, staff, and faculty researchers and designers at the University of Colorado Boulder's Program in Environmental Design. Our backgrounds span architecture, ethnic studies, planning, geography, and sociology. At any given time, we have an active group of about four or five members. This list includes current and past members of the collective.
Annie Geoghegan (undergraduate, Environmental Design, University of Colorado Boulder, 2024) is landscape designer who is interested in the ways that design can blur borders between different disciplines while creating powerful narratives. She is passionate about community engagement and most recently completed a studio in Medellín, Colombia working alongside community members in informal settlements.
Marian Prather (undergraduate, Environmental Design, 2023) is a product design student graduating spring 2023. They are interested in inclusive design with an emphasis on sustainability. Marian's most recent project was upcycling old climbing rope into durable shoulder bags. They are excited to keep exploring eco friendly design after graduation.
Ben Nevis Barron (PhD Candidate, Geography, University of Colorado Boulder) is a human geographer specializing in carceral geography, feminist geography, and critical geographies of gender, race, and class. He studies the intersections of incarceration and climate change. His dissertation is a study of Colorado's State Wildland Inmate Fire Team (SWIFT), a program that trains and deploys incarcerated men as wildland firefighters.
Erika Andrade (undergraduate, Environmental Design, University of Colorado Boulder, 2022) is an architectural designer whose work dives into the relationship between the user experience of space and race/racism. Her research on campus design tackles that relationship as well as her designs. She is a leader in Environmental Design Diverse Scholars and the American Institute of Architecture Students, and she hopes to bridge those roles with her work towards design advocacy.
Jorge Quiñones (undergraduate, Environmental Design, University of Colorado Boulder, 2022) is a designer who wants to explore the implications of political space in architecture. He is involved with Environmental Design Diverse Scholars (EDDS) and the art history program.
Carlos Carbajal (undergraduate, Environmental Design, University of Colorado Boulder, 2022) is an architectural designer who’s experience being a first generation student led him to work with academic organizations such as Environmental Design Diverse Scholars (EDDS), Student Government, and The Rural Project to explore the relationship between design and activism.
Ana Quiñones Colon (BS, University of Colorado Boulder, 2020) is an architectural designer and community community engagement specialist with Boulder County. Her experiences growing up have led her to critically think and engage in conversations about the intersections of art/design and social injustices and how we can address them through our work. She works with the Spatial Justice Design Collective at CU Boulder through speculative design concepts and exhibit making.
Ann Dang (BS, University of Colorado Boulder, 2019) is an architectural designer who is going to Washington University in St. Louis to pursue a masters in Architecture. She works with the Spatial Justice Design Collective to produce exhibits and creative works tackling race and gender inequities in architecture.
Roberto De Mata (MA, University of Denver, 2019) is a higher education professional dedicated to supporting & uplifting underrepresented design students. He is an advocate on critical matters of equity, inclusion, and representation to faculty and administration.
Joris Gjata (PhD, University of Virginia, 2017) is an economic sociologist doing research at the intersection of regulation, organizations, professions, and innovation. She highlights how the design and implementation of rules affects inequality and is shaped by power and culture. www.jorisgjata.com
Skye Niles (PhD student, University of Colorado Boulder)
Matthew Rowe (PhD, University of California Berkeley, 2018) is a cultural sociologist dedicated to understanding the personal experience of meaning-making within structured social participation. Through this lens, he studies careers, identity narratives, and community attachment.
Shawhin Roudbari (PhD, University of California Berkeley, 2013) is an assistant professor in Environmental Design at CU Boulder. He studies designers' participation in contentious politics and social problems. He bridges sociological theories of social movements and race with architectural design and theory.
Click hyperlinks to access PDFs.
Contreras, Santina and Shawhin Roudbari, “Who’s Learning from Whom? Grassroots International NGOs Learning from Communities in Development Projects,” Development in Practice. 2021.
Niles, Skye, Shawhin Roudbari, Santina Contreras “Integrating Social Justice and Political Engagement into Engineering,” International Journal of Engineering, Social Justice, and Peace. 2021.
Rowe, Matthew, Joris Gjata, Shawhin Roudbari, “Dissenting Designers: Reading Activism and Advocacy in Architecture through a Sociological Lens,” Architectural Theory Review. 2020.
Niles, Skye, Santina Contreras, Shawhin Roudbari, Jessica Kaminksy, Jill Harrison, “Resisting and Assisting Engagement with Public Welfare in Engineering Education,” Journal of Engineering Education. 2020.
Contreras, Santina, Skye Niles, Shawhin Roudbari, Jessica Kaminsky, Jill Harrison, “Bridging the Praxis of Hazards and Development with Resilience,” International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. 10.1016/j.ijdrr.2019.101347. 2019.
Roudbari, Shawhin, Mehdi Heris, Manny Hakhamaneshi, and Shideh Dashti, “Mediating Design Claims: the Politics of Social Media in Iran’s Maskan-e Mehr Social Housing Disaster in the 2017 Halabja Earthquake,” in Natural Hazards Review. 2019.
Roudbari, Shawhin, “Renegade Cosmopolitans: Iranian Architects, Professional Power, and the State,” Iranian Studies, 51.6: 905-930. 10.1080/00210862.2018.1539620. 2018.
Cayer, Aaron, Peggy Deamer, Shawhin Roudbari, Manuel Shvartzberg Carrió, “Socializing Practice: From Small Firms to Cooperative Models of Organization,” in Dodd, Melanie (ed.) Spatial Practices: Modes of Action and Engagement with the City. New York: Routledge. 2019
Roudbari, Shawhin, “Architecture Without Borders? The globalization of humanitarian architecture culture” in Karim, Farhan. (ed.) Routledge Companion to Architecture and Social Engagement. New York and London: Routledge, Taylor, and Francis, pp. 441-448. 2018
Shawhin Roudbari and Germane Barnes, eds. Vigilantism. Chicago: MAS Context. 2021
Roudbari, Shawhin, Germane Barnes, Katherine McKittrick, “Architectures of Kindness and Rebellion: an interview with Katherine McKittrick,” MAS Context 33: Architectures of Vigilantism. 2021
Barnes, Germane and Shawhin Roudbari, “Architectures of Vigilantism,” MAS Context 33: Architectures of Vigilantism. 2021
Barnes, Germane and Shawhin Roudbari, “Collisions,” MAS Context 33: Architectures of Vigilantism. 2021
Gabriel Cira, Peggy Deamer, Ashton Hamm, James Heard, Will Martin, Quilian Riano, Shawhin Roudbari, and Christian Rutherford, “Template for a cooperative Network of Small Architecture Practices,” MAS Context. 2020
Niles, Skye and Shawhin Roudbari, “Design, Politics, and Infrastructures of Immobility,” Platform, August 3, 2020.
Shawhin Roudbari for the Architecture Lobby, "Three Degrees of Ethical Engagement: A Manifesto for Architects," Platform, August 22, 2019.
Roudbari, Shawhin, Katelyn Warren, Michelle Sanchez, “Participatory Anti-Racist Design,” accepted for publication in Proceedings of the Association for Collegiate Schools of Architecture, Annual Meeting, 2022.
Roudbari, Shawhin, Germane Barnes, and Skye Niles, “White Space: the architecture of institutional racism.” Proceedings of the Association for Collegiate Schools of Architecture, Annual Meeting. 2021
Shawhin Roudbari, Joris Gjata, and Matthew Rowe, “Contemporary Forms of Social Justice Activism in Architecture,” Proceedings of the Association for Collegiate Schools of Architecture, spring Annual Meeting. 2020
Shawhin Roudbari, Ana Damari Colon Quinones, Ann Marie Dang, “Forming Anti-racist Spaces,” Proceedings of the Association for Collegiate Schools of Architecture, fall Annual Meeting, 2019.