Radical cities are places of transformative ideas, political exchanges, activism, and social movements. In these incubators, people find ideals that reflect a city’s progress through their stories and narratives [1
]. Through demonstrations, social activities, and uprisings, revolutionary ideas create debates among citizens who interact in all types of spaces: streets, blocks, squares, hospitals, and schools. All these spaces have something extraordinary in common: the interaction of the people who inhabit them and the regular tourists according to the characteristics of the cities. Radical cities are cradles and hosts, made of complex processes that unfold in political worlds that can become crises. Over time, they will host local spaces and movements, which would be moments of change and simultaneously contribute to change that can gradually become global [2
Through pedagogical collaborative practices, this study enables us to discover crucial transformations and paradigm shifts in radical cities and the responses to these changes by their diverse inhabitants and authorities utilizing various visualization and representation methods [3
]. Through the various transnational case studies, radical cities’ common and different characteristics will be recognized with a focus on spatial features and socio-political aspects.
This research uses comparative perspectives to revisit and challenge dominant narratives and imaginations about radical cities and urban activism and create alternative stories, narrations, visualizations, and visions that reflect the experiences and perspectives of marginalized or underrepresented communities [4
This paper considers the importance of critical pedagogical practices to provoke urban activists, scholars, academics, and policymakers. This research project aims to explore and reimagine radical cities and urban activism through the lens of critical pedagogical practices. Radical cities are places of transformative ideas, political exchanges, activism, and social movements that reflect the progress of their inhabitants and serve as sites of interaction for citizens. However, dominant narratives and representations of radical cities tend to overlook the experiences and perspectives of marginalized or underrepresented communities [7
]. This study seeks to challenge these narratives by utilizing visualization and representation methods and comparative perspectives to explore the transformations and paradigm shifts that have taken place in radical cities. By doing so, this research aims to create alternative stories, narrations, and visions that better reflect the complexities and nuances of radical cities and urban activism, with a focus on their spatial features and socio-political aspects [10
]. Through pedagogical collaborative practices, the paper seeks to engage with diverse inhabitants and authorities to address the responses to these changes and identify ways to foster future socio-spatial developments. This research study is significant in its attempt to offer new perspectives on radical cities, their diverse inhabitants and authorities, and the potential for transformative change in urban environments.
2. Methodology Notes
The research methodology of this article is based on the qualitative analysis of the data collected from the media elective course titled ‘Radical Cities Over Time and Through Space: Re-narrating Urban Activism’, ARCH 4341.094, taught at the Huckabee College of Architecture, Texas Tech University in Fall 2022, focused on the concept of a “radical city” and its characteristics. This research conducted a content analysis of the students’ final works to identify common themes or patterns related to the characteristics of a radical city. The data collected for the study include the projects’ submissions, portfolios, focus discussions, interviews and group critiques, which are analyzed through a thematic approach to identify common themes and patterns related to the characteristics of a radical city.
The study assumes that the concept of a radical city is subjective and depends on the values and priorities of its inhabitants. The research methodology is focused on analyzing the data collected from the course to identify the common characteristics of a radical city, as defined by the students. The analysis includes a thematic approach to categorize and interpret the data, and to identify patterns and trends related to the students’ visions of a radical city.
The findings of the study are intended to provide insights into how the architectural pedagogy can be used to promote critical thinking and creativity among students, and to encourage them to develop their own ideas and visions for a radical city. The study also highlights the subjective and dynamic nature of the concept of a radical city, and the importance of involving the community in the process of urban planning and development.
This study’s focus on the concept of the “radical city” through a media elective course has implications for architectural pedagogy. Architecture students are often trained to design buildings and urban spaces that meet certain technical requirements and aesthetic standards, but they may not always be exposed to broader social, political, and cultural issues related to urban development. The paper’s focus on the “radical city” through the architectural pedagogical lens aims to contribute to a more holistic and interdisciplinary understanding of urban planning and design that could help prepare architecture students to address the complex challenges of urban development in the 21st century.
3. Visualization and Narration of Radical Cities through Collaborative Pedagogical Practices
In contemporary architecture, imagery and visual representation can be more conceptual, iconic, or symbolic [13
]. Architects and designers may use imagery and symbolism to communicate ideas, themes, or messages or create a particular atmosphere or experience for those who use their spaces [14
]. Another way imagery is used in contemporary architecture is through photography and other visual media to document and promote architectural projects. Architects and design firms often use professional photography and video to showcase their work. These images may be used in marketing materials, on websites and social media platforms, and in exhibitions and other public displays. Imaging and imagery are essential tools and elements in contemporary architecture and urban studies used to convey information, promote projects, and create a visual impact and meaning in the built environment [15
Collaborative representation and visualization of radical cities and urban activism through pedagogical practices involve using educational and learning-based approaches to explore and represent urban activists’ experiences and perspectives and engage others in learning about and understanding these issues [17
]. One way to approach this is through collaborative mapping techniques [18
]. People work together to create digital or physical maps documenting urban activism’s history, actions, and impacts in a particular place or community [19
]. These maps can be used as a tool for learning and dialogue and help people understand how urban activism has shaped and been shaped by the city over time [20
Another approach is through oral history methods and techniques, in which people collect and share stories and memories from people involved in urban activism. These stories can be used to create a rich and diverse record of the experiences and perspectives of urban activists [21
]. They can help to shed light on the challenges and possibilities of creating more just and equitable urban spaces [22
]. Other pedagogical practices that can represent and visualize urban activism include creative expression through art, writing, music, or other forms of media, as well as educational and community-building events such as lectures, panel discussions, film screenings, or workshops [23
]. By using these mixed-methodologies approaches in pedagogical practices, students could actively learn and dialogue about urban activism in a collaborative and participatory way and inspire others to think about these issues in new and creative ways.
4. Re-Imagining and Re-Narrating Radical Cities through Pedagogical Practices
At the beginning of the course, the students were asked to identify and present a radical city of their own. In addition, they were asked to focus on specific cities, places, or neighborhoods and explore the histories and stories of these places regarding broader issues of urban activism and social change. Specifically, the students’ projects required them to respond to the main questions as follows:
Why is your case study a radical city?
What catalyzes change in your selected radical city?
What were/are the moments of change in your radical city?
Who made/makes your radical city?
Is your radical city connected other ones nationally/internationally?
How could you visualize the themes of utopia/dystopia/heterotopia as relevant to your selected radical cities?
Through the course, we realized that it is difficult to say what a “radical city” would look like, as the concept of a radical city is subjective and would depend on the values and priorities of its inhabitants [25
]. However, we focused on the possible characteristics of a radical city as follows:
A radical city might prioritize social, economic, and environmental justice and work to create a more equitable and sustainable society for its residents.
A radical city might prioritize the needs and well-being of its residents over the interests of corporations or outside investors and work to create policies and systems that benefit the local community.
A radical city might prioritize alternative forms of transportation and housing, such as public transportation, car-sharing programs, and co-housing, to reduce reliance on individual car ownership and create more efficient and sustainable urban environments.
A radical city might prioritize the involvement of its residents in decision-making processes and work to create systems of participatory democracy that allow all community members to have a say in the policies and decisions that affect their lives.
A radical city might prioritize preserving and celebrating its unique culture, built environment, and natural heritage and work to create policies and systems that protect and celebrate its residents’ diverse histories, traditions, and natural environments.
The medium of visual presentation, narration, imagination and research method may vary according to each project’s identified and discussed goals. This process can be facilitated through various methods and approaches, such as visualization techniques, illustrative tools, collaborative writings, creative expression, AI (artificial intelligence)-generated images, educational and community-building events, online virtual platforms, and social media [27
] (see Figure 1
In addition, the students will be asked to reflect on this portfolio by writing an opinion-based narration text about their selected radical cities. At this stage, the students could also refer to blogs, newspapers, historical archives, articles, and social media to support their selected radical cities. Additionally, they asked if they could use the self-explanatory perspective: What is your experience regarding the radical city of your choice?
This research-led course was designed as an urban living lab to educate the students to be urban activists and critical thinkers by utilizing various collaborative visualization techniques. Based on several rounds of group critiques, writing workshops, theory seminars, invited lectures, presentations, and desk critiques, the suggested radical cities were presented and finalized. In the next stage, the students were required to submit posters to visualize their selected radical cities (utilizing their preferred visualization method) and write a short manifesto to support the visual poster presentations and submissions.
The next part of the paper will delve into the selected radical city projects in greater detail, thematically clustered in various groups to comprehensively analyze the concepts and themes involved. Each project will begin with a brief manifesto or narration describing the selected radical cities and the six critical questions introduced earlier. These descriptions will be accompanied by posters that provide visualizations of the selected radical cities from different perspectives, providing an engaging and informative format for conveying the key ideas.
In addition to individual submissions, the students have also worked collaboratively on a group poster submission, the primary aim of which is to compare the various radical cities in different contexts and geographies based on the related themes and clusters. The group poster is a collective effort to synthesize and compare the information and ideas presented in the individual posters, contributing to a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the selected radical cities.
The following section will focus on radical city case studies, drawing on the selected students’ manifestos and individual and group posters. Given the word limits of the paper, it will be necessary to focus on a limited number of case studies. Thus, two projects across North and Latin America are included in the case study section: feminist radical cities and radical Black hair movements. These case studies will provide a more focused and detailed analysis of the key concepts and themes and how these movements have influenced and shaped the urban environment.
5. Case Studies
5.1. Feminist Radical Cities: Manifestos and Posters
Ciudad Juarez, Chih, Mexico
Ciudad Juarez is a border city in Mexico known for its rich culture, vibrant music, and delicious food. The city’s identity is heavily influenced by its location, with El Paso, Texas, having a substantial impact on the town’s identity. Many people, such as Natalia Dominguez, were born in the United States but went to school while still living in Ciudad Juarez. Living in a city while completing your education in another can be challenging, as it involves long hours of commuting, which can sometimes feel bittersweet (see Figure 2
The feminist movement has become an integral part of Ciudad Juarez’s identity, owing to the extreme sexist mentality prevalent in the region. Feminists are fighting for women’s rights and equality for all communities, including immigrants, LGBTIQ+, and victims of abuse. The city is home to numerous murals, messages, and monuments dedicated to those who have suffered, and the movement continues to grow stronger daily, with more people joining in or educating others on these matters, and even organizing protests. Non-conformists, such as feminists, are fighting for the justice they deserve, and the city is gradually awakening to the reality it faces (see Figure 2
Natalia Dominguez recalls her first protest on 16 August 2019, which remains vivid in her memory. She was 19 years old at the time, and she went with some friends, who organized carpooling to the protest. The reason for the protest was a case of police brutality against a girl who was part of the community. The protesters were already walking towards the Municipal Institute of the Women (Instituto Municipal de las Mujeres) when Natalia and her friends arrived. There were people with posters with faces of women who had disappeared or been abused, and their families had asked for answers from the Institute specifically. They started calling out the names of those on the posters, as if they would suddenly appear. Although Natalia did not know any of the girls personally, she got goosebumps and started to shiver each time someone’s name was called. The anger and sadness on everyone’s face and body expressions were palpable. They were all there to demand justice for those who could no longer do so. This protest was significant not only in Natalia’s life as her first, but also for the feminist movement. The posters showcased words such as “discontent”, “speaking up”, and “justice” written along the sides of it, which summarized the movement’s spirit (see Figure 2
b for an example of the posters created in the Feminist Radical Cities case study).
The Feminist Radical Cities case study also highlights a significant moment in the movement when a group of women in Chile wrote a chant as another way of protest. The chant was so powerful that various communities, that were a part of the movement, continued their steps, and cities such as Paris, Barcelona, and Mexico City followed suit, showcasing the chant in front of hundreds of people. This moment of catalyst was a significant one in the feminist movement as it demonstrated that women, irrespective of their language, background, or social status, were united in their demand for justice for every single woman. The fact that four different cities, not in close proximity, sang the same song demonstrated the strength of the movement. Sadly, women worldwide can connect through this feeling of discomfort and anger at the oppression they face. However, it is empowering that people are starting to realize how big the problem is and that there is impunity for those who harm women. The poster created by Natalia Dominguez (see Figure 2
c) aims to communicate that the Feminist movement is not just limited to Ciudad Juarez but is a manifestation of worldwide discontent. It expresses her anger and her point of view on the social movement with both sadness and empowerment.
The vision of a perfect city for the Feminist Radical Cities case study includes women being recognized as one of the most vital members of the community. The resilience of the feminist movement in Ciudad Juarez is unparalleled, with one of its martyrs, Marisela Escobedo Ortiz, being the face of the fight to inspire other women to keep fighting for those who can no longer do so. The fight and perseverance during the protests for women’s safety and rights in the city are represented by a statue in the middle of the Downtown Plaza. The bridge connecting the traditional monument to the “X” symbolizes the international connection to the town of El Paso and serves as a symbol for women who travel between the two. The mountains feature a message that says, “Equity is the truth, trust in it”, replacing the original message that read “The Bible is the truth. Read it”. The poster created by Natalia Dominguez (see Figure 3
a) portrays her hope for a utopian community where justice prevails. The message serves as a reminder of the need for equity and justice, replacing the religious message that previously adorned the mountains (see Figure 3
The poster’s dystopian message serves as a stark contrast to the idealistic vision of a perfect city in the previous poster. In this alternate reality, the feminist movement in Ciudad Juarez would be suppressed and silenced, with women treated as objects and oppressed by a patriarchal system. The use of references to the show Handmaid’s Tale
further emphasizes the extreme nature of this reality, with women stripped of their rights and autonomy. The men on the poster represent the colonizer mindset, taking what they want without regard for others’ well-being. The message “Oppression is the truth, obey” highlights the hostile environment that would exist in this dystopian reality. The use of a dark color palette serves as a warning of the potential consequences if action is not taken to protect and empower women. This poster serves as a call to action to ensure that such a reality never becomes a possibility, and highlights the importance of the feminist movement’s fight for justice and equality (see Figure 3
The fight against oppression and for freedom is a universal struggle that unites women across different continents and cities. Through our analysis of the female experience in different parts of the world, we found that despite differences in culture and society, women in Ciudad Juarez, Barcelona, and Umoja are all fighting for the same fundamental rights. The feminist movement’s ultimate goal is not to gain power over others but to secure freedom and justice for all. The common thread of women’s struggles against oppression and for freedom is what binds us together as a global community. We will not be silenced, and we will continue to speak out until our voices are heard and our rights are recognized (see Figure 3
5.2. Radical Black Hair Movement: Manifestos and Posters
New York City, US
As Joan A. Muranigra presents, the strict enforcement of a high school rule that mandated hair length not exceed one inch, with severe punishments for those who did not comply, echoes a colonial past that delegitimizes Black hair. This past was characterized by the exploration and trade of new items, skills, and ideas, and the notion that professionalism, neatness, modernization, and even humanness required the suppression of one’s own culture and the assimilation to the new culture. Black hair, being different and new, was not embraced, and as a result, aspects of Black culture and its evolution to modernity suffered. The punishment of Black hair is not limited to the school setting; it is also present in society at large. The perception of Black hair as unprofessional or unkempt has led to discrimination against those with natural hair in the workplace, and the use of harmful chemicals to conform to Eurocentric beauty standards. The Radical Black Hair Movement aims to reclaim and celebrate Black hair as a vital and beautiful aspect of Black culture, a statement of identity and resistance against systemic oppression. Through the movement, Black people are challenging the stereotypes, biases, and negative attitudes surrounding Black hair and advocating for its acceptance and respect.
Joan A. Muranigra’s posters (see Figure 4
) aim to highlight the negative impact of the colonial past on Black hair and culture, and the importance of the Radical Black Hair Movement in reclaiming and celebrating Black hair as a statement of identity and resistance against systemic oppression. The visual graphic complements this message by portraying the damaging effects of false narratives and the societal impact of the natural hair movement, including the historical context and radical actions taken to challenge stereotypes and biases surrounding Black hair. The contrast between the beauty of traditional Black hair and the harmful marketing of chemical relaxers and skin bleaches emphasizes the need for decolonization and choice in embracing Black hair as a vital and beautiful aspect of Black culture.
The image in Figure 4
a is split into two sections, with the left side depicting a beautiful image of a Black woman with her hair styled in traditional natural hair styles such as braids, twists, and afros. The right side of the image shows various magazine covers that promote the use of harsh chemicals to straighten and relax Black hair, as well as skin bleaching products to lighten skin tones. The text on the right side includes phrases such as “Set your hair free”, “Lighten your skin, brighten your future”, and “Choice”, which are meant to suggest that these products offer freedom and personal choice, when in reality, they perpetuate damaging and harmful beauty standards that erase the beauty and diversity of natural Black hair and dark skin tones. The poster aims to critique the beauty industry’s standardization of beauty and push for the acceptance and celebration of natural Black hair and skin tones (see Figure 4
Joan A. Muranigra’s second poster (see Figure 4
b) shows images of Black women with various natural hairstyles and a black-and-white photograph of a woman wearing an afro and a printed dress. The title reads “Black is Beautiful”, which was a slogan that emerged during the Black Power movement and became a rallying cry for the natural hair movement. The poster highlights the influential role of photographer Kwame Brathwaite, who captured images of Black people with natural hair and used his photographs to challenge Eurocentric beauty standards. Brathwaite was a key figure in the “Black is Beautiful” movement, which emphasized the beauty and value of Black features, including natural hair. The annual 62 fashion show, organized by Brathwaite’s brother Elombe Brath, showcased natural-haired Black models and celebrated Black beauty. The poster also references Ebony
magazine, which played a crucial role in promoting Black beauty and fashion and featuring Black models with natural hair. By highlighting the historical context of the natural hair movement and its ties to the Black civil rights movement, the poster emphasizes the movement’s significance as a form of resistance and self-expression (see Figure 4
Focusing on the third poster (See Figure 4
c), Joan A. Muranigra highlights some of the significant cultural and media movements that have positively impacted the perception of Black hair and culture. One example is the impact of the 1970s Blaxploitation films, which not only celebrated Black culture but also showcased natural hairstyles. Another example is the popularity of the “Black is Beautiful” movement, which aimed to challenge Eurocentric beauty standards and celebrate Black beauty, including Black hair. Additionally, the poster highlights the impact of TV shows such as Soul Train
and The Cosby Show
which featured positive and diverse representations of Black hairstyles and culture. Finally, the poster features the iconic image of Solange Knowles, an influential artist and activist who has challenged beauty standards and promoted self-love and acceptance of Black hair and culture. These representations and movements have been important in promoting positive perceptions of Black hair and culture and have been instrumental in the Radical Black Hair Movement’s fight for acceptance and respect (see Figure 4
Key figures for the movement in New York include Wendy Greene, founder of the #freethehair movement, and a major influence in passing the ban against Black hair discrimination in New York. Another key figure is Zulaikha Patal, an influential hair activist in South Africa. Some representative materials are only partially connected to hair to highlight some relationships between the natural hair movement and decolonization. The images ripped here are news article headlines and pictures of dress codes that highlight the issue of hair as a tool for racial segregation (See Figure 5
Joan A. Muranigra’s poster 4b highlights the Black barber and beauty shops as revolutionary spaces for the Natural Hair Movement and the community. These beauty and barber shops became culturally safe spaces for Black people to engage in social, political, and economic discussions that prompted the change. They provided a means for employment and financial autonomy, which, in turn, impacted Black people’s influence in their society, for instance, through outreach and support for civil rights projects. The poster features Madame C.J. Walker and the beauty school she established in Harlem, where catalyst figures of the Harlem Renaissance met and discussed ideas. It also features another Black hair care business owner, Sara Spencer Washington, who founded the Apex News and Hair Company. The top right corner of this last poster highlights the community essence and culture that describes Black hair care. It is meant to celebrate that and the safe spaces barber and beauty shops provide for Black people (See Figure 5
a). The final poster is a group work comparing the themes of Pop Art and Natural Black Hair movements in New York (See Figure 5
6. Concluding Notes
Sometimes a city is not a city; it is a poem we may not have heard. When there is poetry in the way of making a city that helps us to find new horizons and paths, architects and designers are involved in researching, imagining, visualizing, narrating, and discerning those spaces, which are bodies of knowledge that contribute not only to the built and existing space but also to the realization, manifestation, and details of what would be the discipline to build on a larger scale [29
]. This process is nourished by the massive size of cities and all the events that occur there, and these contributions go beyond architecture and urban design. Unexpected people, circumstances, and events are the playthings that designers manipulate on-site and in the surrounding area. Factors such as the economy, politics, technology, and society, in general, are influential in building this space. These factors can be entirely artificial, made by human entities, if a big city’s existence could be defined as the manifestation of human evolution [31
The two case studies, Feminist Radical Cities and Radical Black Hair Movement, are both examples of social movements that aim to challenge systemic oppression and empower marginalized groups. In the case of the Feminist Radical Cities study, the focus is on the feminist movement in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and how it has become an integral part of the city’s identity due to the extreme sexist mentality prevalent in the region. The movement aims to fight for women’s rights and equality for all communities, including immigrants, LGBTIQ+, and abuse victims. The posters and manifestos created by the movement highlight the need for justice and equality while also depicting the dystopian reality that could exist if action is not taken to protect and empower women.
On the other hand, the Radical Black Hair Movement study aims to reclaim and celebrate Black hair as a vital and beautiful aspect of Black culture and a statement of identity and resistance against systemic oppression. The movement challenges the negative attitudes surrounding Black hair and advocates for its acceptance and respect. The posters and manifestos created by the movement highlight the damaging effects of false narratives and the societal impact of the natural hair movement, including the historical context and radical actions taken to challenge stereotypes and biases surrounding Black hair.
One common thread between the two case studies is the importance of reclaiming and celebrating one’s identity in the face of systemic oppression. Both movements aim to challenge negative stereotypes and biases that have been perpetuated by mainstream society and reclaim the beauty and value of marginalized groups.
Another similarity is the use of posters and manifestos to communicate the messages of the movements. Both case studies highlight the power of visual art to convey the ideas and emotions of the movement to a broader audience. Additionally, both movements show how social activism can lead to significant change. In the case of the Feminist Radical Cities study, the movement has led to the creation of murals, messages, and monuments dedicated to those who have suffered. More people are joining the movement or educating others on these matters. Similarly, the Radical Black Hair Movement has led to the passing of laws against hair discrimination in some regions and an increase in the acceptance and celebration of natural Black hair. While the Feminist Radical Cities and Radical Black Hair Movement case studies differ in their specific goals and objectives, they are examples of social movements that aim to challenge systemic oppression and empower marginalized groups. Both highlight the importance of reclaiming and celebrating one’s identity, using visual art to communicate the messages of the movements, and how social activism can lead to significant change.
Through the analysis of the case mentioned above, this research highlighted that the design of a city is not just a matter of technical expertise, but also involves the creation of a poetic vision that inspires people to imagine new horizons and paths. In this sense, architects and designers are called upon to use their creativity and imagination to research, visualize, and narrate the spaces they are creating, considering the many different factors that influence the built environment, including the economy, politics, technology, and society.
The study also emphasized the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in understanding and transforming urban spaces. By integrating different fields of study, such as architecture, history, sociology, humanities, and critical urban studies, scholars, educators, students, and local communities can understand the complex and multifaceted nature of the built and natural environment. The research helps urban scholars, educators, students, and local communities to understand the built and natural environment as a broader and more complex entity by integrating different fields of study, such as architectural visualization, history, sociology, humanities, and critical urban studies. As discussed through the various comparative case studies, this article suggests that one way to re-imagine and re-narrate radical cities is to focus on themes critical to the local community, such as immigration, gentrification, displacement, social movements, revolutions, environmental justice, gender inequality, water crisis, racial segregation, or social inequality [33
This study argues that visualization and narration are powerful tools for understanding and transforming urban spaces. Using collaborative visualization techniques, students can explore different perspectives and develop a deeper understanding of the challenges and possibilities of creating more just and equitable urban spaces [35
]. This research shows that by focusing on visualization and narration of radical cities local communities can gain a deeper understanding of how these places have been shaped by and have shaped urban activism and societal change over time.
The author concludes that a collaborative and participatory approach is necessary for re-imagining and re-narrating radical cities, and that diverse voices and stakeholders must be involved in creating a more just and equitable urban future. The research-led course described in this study is designed to educate students to be urban activists and critical thinkers, using collaborative visualization techniques to explore and transform urban spaces.