Course on 

Architectural Democracy

These series of lectures and workshops are intended for those with studies or experiences in architecture, art, interactive media, geography, urban studies, politics, sociology, anthropology or activism who are interested in the ideological, social and political dimensions of architecture. The course welcomes applicants with diverse cultural backgrounds committed to develop an architectural practice that is both theoretically and practically engaged in the struggle for justice and equality.

Admission requirements: requirements for the course are an MA in architecture, an MA in another relevant field, or the equivalent knowledge and experience.

Duration: The proposed course is meant to last for one semester but a minimum of 3 weeks is required in case of a shorter package of guest lectures / workshops.


Languages: The courses can be held in English, German, Portuguese or spanish

Teachers: Pedro Aibéo, Gabriel Falcao, Hugo Pires, Rolf Kruse, Susu Nousala


The practice of architecture is multi-faceted and deeply political: It creates and divides spaces where we live our everyday lives in and shapes who we are (Fainstein, 2008; Lefebvre, 1991); it allocates vast amounts of natural resources with climate change implications (Fritsch & Brynskov, 2010), it is imbedded in the construction sector, (one of the strongest economic developers worldwide) (Larson, Intille, McLeish, Beaudin, & Williams, 2004), it mingles public and private interests, it uses IT at its core, it is fashionable and it is based on biased reasoning (D. Harvey, 2010; Piatkowska, 2012). Such multi-faceted condition of the urbanized world has been increasingly regulated on the search for a democratic process: Top-down, with the creation of zoning laws (Fischel, 2004), and bottom up, with co-design schemes involving citizens in the decision process. Both approaches are far from effective, the former is unable to avoid corruption; the later remains of punctual and of expensive application (McTague & Jakubowski, 2013). 

However, the construction industry is witnessing technological breakthroughs, many of them backed up by governmental policies such as BIM (Building Information Modeling). These efforts are increasing the process transparency among experts (reducing unnecessary planning hours and increasing the output quality). However, the ignored point so far in this process is, how to use these ongoing strategies to deeply embed the end-user experience in it, to allow a truly accessible and inclusive urban interface on a scale of the everyday life, that empower citizens with particular issues of the city and allow them to organize themselves and act on it (de Lange & de Waal, 2013).*

The course is structured in two interrelated and parallel moments: 1) a period of research aimed at investigating the relationship between politics and architecture and about different scales of participation and 2) producing real outcomes for public participation between the buildings and the public and activating collaboration with groups, associations, governmental and non governmental institutions for specific interventions in contemporary cities.

Reference for the kind of projects that the course aims to develop can be seen here.


The teaching philosophy of the course is one where students are considered coauthors of meanings and bearers of knowledge. Therefore, the structure of the course is adapted to the urgencies and aspirations of the participants. At the same time the student-participants are asked to work under the direction of the course instructor who leads the group towards a collective project which is to be presented at the end of the year in an exhibition format and a publication.

During the semester, there will be several lectures, by our teachers and guest speakers. Along with this work, workshops will address the hands-on application of both students and the teacher's ideas. This will emphasize the production and development of the project in the studio and its possible future realization. The course revolves around three/four days every other week of intensive program of seminars, lectures, studios, mentorships, reading sessions, site visits, walks and convivial meals, spaced out by a week where participants independently develop work, research, write, read, draw, interview, and conduct site visits.


- Architecture 

     - The everyday life of the architectural praxis (what they don't teach you at schools)

     - The Minimum Requirements Vs Maximum Profit in the architectural design praxis 

     - Federated BIM model

     - IoT (Internet of Things)

     - Smart Cities

- Democracy

     - History of Democracy

     - Models of Democracy (representative, delegative, direct, Demarchy, etc.)
     - Political Hacking   

     - General Systems Theory (ecosystems of information, knowledge and wisdom)

- Technology

     - Photogrammetry
     - Stereo photography
     - Object oriented ontology
     - Interface Design & Interactive Media
     - Open linked data

     - Semantic WEB

     - Parallel computing

- Architectural Democracy

     - Hisotrical development of the relationship between Architecture and Politics

     - Metrics of Architecture and Politics, theory and practical applications


3D Interactive Models from Photos

Learn how to make an interactive 3D model of a compartment, building or urban scene with your own photo camera, a hands-on workshop.

Take photos and turn them into an interactive 3D model.

Requirements are your own laptop with Wi-Fi connection and a photo camera. 

We can use the buildings and rooms where we spend most of our lives, as sources of open source information to edit and share among citizens for community well-being. Not only is this a tool to create time machines to understand the history of our cities but to understand its economics, technicalities and social relationships, for a fairer society based on transparency.

Acceleration of compute-intensive image processing on GPUs

Generating 3D volumes from stereo pairs of images has been a popular topic of research over the last years. One such famous output consists of Google Street View.

Recently a new method based in photo-symmetry instead of photo-similarity has been proposed. The scope of this research group is to accelerate the compute-intensive tasks associated with the processing of such heavy workloads, preferably towards real-time 3D reconstruction. 

Learn how to identify complex image-based applications and develop strategies for accelerating the processing of such compute-intensive 2D or 3D imaging contexts. In particular, we propose to give new insights about parallelization procedures and code development that can be followed under this context, and teach the skills of parallel programming using novel interfaces and frameworks such as CUDA that a can be used to exploit the massive computational power of GPU-based parallel processors.

The real shared economy Architecture

Turn all floors into shop windows. What if citizens could have a shop window regardless if they live on the ground floor or on the 10th floor? Would that democratize space and empower locals?

We learn the different business models being implemented in the so called "shared economy" and compare it with the one being proposed by the Architectural Democracy.

Improve it and propose your own.

Heritage and real estate
Use your smartphone to have Superman’s X-ray vision which transports you to the past. We publicly reveal new architectural and historical dimensions of buildings, important for both citizen awareness and commercial purposes.

How to do this? How can it be managed over time?

Tourism for communities

Open buildings as dollhouses and see its objects and stories and add stories to it. We are developing the technology that will take the facades out of the buildings and show what is inside. Then you can simply add more info to the space. This will allow citizens to understand better its hidden value, enhancing tourism, communal life and adding public pressure to avoid the destruction of our heritage but to preserve it with creativity. How will this affect our cities and our perceptions?

Museums for discussions
No frozen history! Museums are places for discussion.

In 2014 we did the 3D capturing of museums and we are now working on a platform to change this paradigm from frozen history into places for discussion by making its objects and building editable. 

What new relationships can be added, what sources of information?

Virtual drawing classes

Using smartphones, architecture students are invited to draw urban scenes in immersive 3D environments (notable places, buildings, historical sites). Thought to broaden the available urbanscapes that are the subject of architectural hand drawing classes (1st and 2nd grade = 18-20years) and to promote new experiences in the training of young architecture students. How do we react to these new visual interfaces, especially to study the perception-interpretation-representation process involved in hand drawing?

The teachers

Pedro Aibéo

Pedro Aibéo is a trained Design Architect (M.Sc., Dipl. Ing., TU Darmstadt, Germany) and Civil Engineer (M.Sc., Licenciatura, FEUP, Porto) with over 50 buildings designed and built on 15 countries currently practicing at "AIBEO architecture".

He is also a Visiting Associate Professor at UNAM University, Mexico and at Wuhan University of Technology, China, and a Lecturer, Research Assistant and Doctoral Candidate at Aalto University, Finland on "Architectural Democracy". He has also regularly lectured about Architecture at the Universities of QUT Brisbane, TU Darmstadt and FAUP Portugal.

More at

Hugo Pires is a senior surveyor and a 3D scanning expert having dedicated much of his work to innovative uses of geomatics in the field of cultural heritage, in projects in Europe, Africa and South America. He is currently a researcher at CEAU - Study Centre for Architecture and Urbanism at the University of Porto, with a strong focus in 3D imaging techniques and advanced visualization systems, and author of several publications in scientific journals.The results of his work are also shared with a wider non-specialist audience through National Geographic Magazine where he collaborates in digital heritage imaging projects. In 2007 he was nominated ICOMOS national delegate to the international scientific committee CIPA-Heritage Documentation.

Gabriel Falcao graduated in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Porto, Portugal, where he also concluded a M.Sc. degree in digital signal processing. In 2010 he received the Ph.D. degree from the University of Coimbra, Portugal, where he currently is an Assistant Professor. In 2011 and 2012 Gabriel was a Visiting Professor at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, and in 2013 he was the recipient of a Google Faculty Research Award and of the 1st place at the Altera Europe-Wide University FPGA contest 2012-2013. In 2015 Gabriel became the Principal Investigator of a GPU Research Center at the University of Coimbra / Instituto de Telecomunicações. Presently, he is developing efficient parallelization strategies, novel algorithms and architectures for dealing with compute-intensive applications used in the medical, ultrasound, and deep neural network imaging contexts, in parallel with continuous work in digital communications. He is a researcher at Instituto de Telecomunicações, and a senior Member of the IEEE, Signal Processing Society, and the HiPEAC Network of Excellence.

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Literature References

Boulding, Kenneth E. "General systems theory—the skeleton of science." Management science 2.3 (1956): 197-208.

Fainstein, S. S. (2008). Mega-projects in New York, London and Amsterdam. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 32(4), 768-785. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2427.2008.00826.x

Lefebvre, H. (1991). The Production of Space: Wiley.

Fritsch, J., & Brynskov, M. (2010). Between Experience, Affect, and Information: Experimental Urban Interfaces in the Climate Change Debate.

Larson, K., Intille, S., McLeish, T., Beaudin, J., & Williams, R. (2004). Open source building - reinventing places of living. BT Technology Journal, 22(4), 187-200.

Harvey, D. (2010). Social Justice and the City: University of Georgia Press.

Piatkowska, K. K. (2012). Economy and architecture. The role of architecture in process of building the economic potential of space.

McTague, C., & Jakubowski, S. (2013). Marching to the beat of a silent drum: Wasted consensus-building and failed neighborhood participatory planning. Applied Geography, 44(0), 182-191. doi:

de Lange, M., & de Waal, M. (2013). Owning the city: New media and citizen engagement in urban design. First Monday, 18(11).