Property guardianship and the 21st century city

Friday, 12 January 2018


A University of Newcastle (UON) academic and architect has been honoured with a prestigious Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) 2018 Richard Rogers Fellowship.

Dr Cathy Smith

Dr Cathy Smith, Senior Lecturer in UON’s School of Architecture and Built Environment, is among six winners from across the globe who will embark on the unique program in London from September this year.

Dr Smith will use her time in London to develop a framework to help govern the emergent phenomenon of ‘property guardianship’, the approved, short-term occupation of vacant buildings .

“There are benefits and challenges that are associated with property guardianship. Renew Newcastle has provided wonderful opportunities for equitable access to commercial spaces in the CBD.

“It provides up-and-coming creatives from diverse backgrounds with access to spaces and opportunities that are not otherwise possible.

“My research will look at how property guardianship in London, which predominantly focuses on residential rather than commercial occupation, differs, and how it has the potential to address equitable access there,” she explained.

The Fellowship includes a three-month residency in London’s Wimbledon House, which was gifted to the Harvard GSD by Lord Richard and Ruth Rodgers to ensure its continued use as a residence and to provide researchers with a unique and accessible study location.

“It’s incredible to be based in Wimbledon House for three months. This will provide an opportunity to immerse myself in the same host city that I am researching.”

A strong advocate for equity and gender diversity, Dr Smith is particularly interested in issues of social agency in the built environment, and her own practice is focused on small scale, low-budget, and temporary installations.

Her research aligns strongly with UON’s School of Architecture and Built Environment, which is recognised for its focus on urban revitalisation and socially  engaged design.

The Richard Rodgers Fellowship is inspired by Rogers’ commitment to cross-disciplinary investigation and social engagement, evident across his prolific output as an architect, urbanist, author and activist.

The Fellowship builds on Dr Smith’s recent success as a recipient of the inaugural $95,000 Turnbull Foundation Women in Built Environment scholarship, which will enable her to study at University of New South Wales (UNSW) Faculty of the Built Environment and participate in UNSW’s Australian Graduate School of Management Women in Leadership Program.

“I am absolutely thrilled to embark on the Richard Rodgers Fellowship. It’s an amazing opportunity for myself as a female academic and architect  from regional Australia to join such high-calibre colleagues from around the world,” she said.