11 December 2020

Afield Book Awarded Graham Foundation Grant

The Graham Foundation awarded Dalhousie Architectural Press (DAP) a grant to advance production of the book Situated Architectural Politics (2021) by Afield co-directors Kai Wood Mah and Patrick Lynn Rivers.


Situated Architectural Practices will be the first book in DAP's Design Matters series. The book is used to identify and elaborate on an emerging trend in contemporary architectural practice as well as a way (i.e., approach and method) to understand what Mah and Rivers dub “the practice of practice.”


DAP's goal is "to foster a wider appreciation of architecture and its allied disciplines in Canada by featuring the work of exemplary practitioners and providing a critical context for a broader discussion of the built environment."

4 December 2020

Virtual Studio Visit

Afield did a virtual “studio” visit yesterday—the first conducted by the Multiple Mobilities working group at The New School.


Co-directors of Afield—Kai Wood Mah and Patrick Lynn Rivers—reviewed several ongoing Afield projects during the conversation placing emphasis on interdisciplinary methods used for those projects and the nuts-and-bolts of cross-disciplinary collaboration. The Multiple Mobilities working group was particularly interested in “productive friction, uncertainties, glitches” as well as “gaps, absences, silences, misalignments.”


Afield plans to collaborate with Multiple Mobilities on a near-term project as well as a long-term project (funded). The near-term project will be featured in 2021 in the journal Borderlands. Stay tuned!

13 November 2020

Afield Facilitates Diversity Training

Afield conducted a participatory diversity training in French for Places des Arts du Sudbury today using inclusive design tools. The tools were used to initiate conversation on immediate and long-term plans for programming and building facility. Place des Arts is  multidisciplinary umbrella entity including Galerie du Nouvel-Ontario, Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario, and five other Francophone arts organizations which will be housed in a state-of-the-art facility ($30M) in Sudbury, Ontario, scheduled to open in late 2021.   

15 July 2020

Afield Service Design Project Receives Federal Funding

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) awarded Afield and David J. Roberts (University of Toronto) a Partnership Engagement Grant (PEG) worth $24,995.


The grant will be used to better understand how youth and newcomer youth in particular access wrap-around services through formal and informal referrals. Beyond understanding how services are accessed, the project grant will be used to design and implement a referrals curriculum for newcomer youth and their social service providers that gives them a sense of how referrals work in theory and practice.


The projects is a partnership project with the major community partner being a large Toronto social service agency serving 10,000+ clients a year. Many of these clients are newcomers reflecting the demographic mix of the most diverse city in North America.

8 February 2020

Partage/Partake Exhibition Opens

Afield mentored three architecture students and curated an installation at the Galerie du Nouvel-Ontario (GNO) featuring the work of the mentees. Titled “Partage/Partake,” the installation is used to explore the relationship between space and difference as well as reconfigure “generosity” and “participation.”


An article on the project published by Afield co-director Kai Wood Mah on the GNO website can be found here in French and here in English. In addition, a video featuring the three students can be found here. The three students are Andrei Aranyi, Jonathan Kabumbe, and Jennie Philipow.


The installation will be on view from 8 February until 14 March at the GNO’s temporary space in Sudbury, Ontario.

15 December 2019

Foundation Funding for Afield Project on Migrant Youth Housing

We are proud to announce that Afield and David J. Roberts of the University of Toronto were awarded a Connaught Fund Community Partnership Research Program grant of $135, 638.


Grounding for the project largely comes from Afield co-director Kai Wood Mah’s work on children and youth in Toronto that is both historical and contemporary. Norms for housing Toronto children and youth in custodial care goes back to the nineteenth century when children and youth, demographically, looked very different than they do now in the most diverse city in North America. These norms also infuse international instruments impacting IRY (i.e., unaccompanied and separated) like the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) as well as Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (2001).


The project is used to investigate housing provision for Independent Refugee Youth in Toronto (i.e., unaccompanied and separated). Originally conceptualised by Afield as a service design research project for government, project methodologies for the Connaught project reflect Afield’s practice at the intersection of design and social science research. Possible outcomes for this research-creation project will vary—from rethinking housing typologies for children and youth in custodial care to designing actual housing for partnering organisations housing Independent Refugee Youth.

25 September 2019

Sustainable Education Meeting

Afield has been invited to the Sustainable Education Meeting (SEM) 2019 in New York City the week of 23 September.


A side event of the 74th opening session of the United Nations General Assembly, SEM 2019 brings together government heads, NGO leaders, educators and educational researchers, corporate executives, and others to plot the way forward for the coming year as the world makes progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for education (SDG 4). The event is organised by Millenium@EDU Sustainable Education, hosted by Microsoft, and with the UNESCO Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development as a key partner.


Millenium@EDU Sustainable Education is a Geneva-based NPO and NGO committed to realising the UN's SDGs by mobilising the world’s most important multinational corporations especially tech corporations.

18 September 2019

"Spatialising the Curriculum" Article Published

An article by Emily J. Ashton, Kai Wood Mah, and Patrick Lynn Rivers was published online today in the international and peer-reviewed Journal of Curriculum Studies with hard copy publication to follow. The article, titled “Spatialising the Curriculum” and found here, is a major output of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Democratic Early Childhood Development (DECD) grant project conceptualised and led by Mah and Rivers. The article is used to articulate design and curriculum into an actual space and to, in the process, advance the deconcentration of early childhood development resources in South Africa.

1 August 2019

Afield Image Appears in New Book by Dexter R. Voisin

An Afield image offering a critique of design’s implication in state violence was just republished in the new book America the Beautiful and Violent (Columbia University Press, 2019) by Dexter R. Voisin.


The original 2015 image appeared in the Chicago magazine New City here and was a part of a Kai Wood Mah and Patrick Lynn Rivers article critical of architect Jeanne Gang’s proposal to use Chicago police stations to provide social services—where, for example, black youth could get to know Chicago police officers on basketball courts.


The book by Voisin uses the voices of Chicago youth, their parents, and their communities to offer structural analysis explicating the epidemic violence on Chicago’s South Side. As a counterpoint to the demagoguery of politicians using the violence for their own end, the book as billed “offers a set of practice and policy recommendations to address the patchwork inequality that leads to concentrated violence and to support children and adolescents struggling with the precarious conditions and threat of violence in their daily lives.”


Voisin, a psychotherapist and social worker, is Dean of the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and Sandra Rotman Chair in Social Work at the University of Toronto.

4 July 2019

Transformative Architectural Practice Book Contracted

We are proud to announce that Afield co-directors Kai Wood Mah and Patrick Lynn Rivers signed a book contract with Dalhousie Architectural Press (DAP) which will be the inaugural book in DAP's Design Matters series. The book will feature transformative architectural practices. Beyond featuring projects, the book will highlight methods and approaches marking practices in Canada, Cuba, France, South Africa, and Thailand. Featured practices include Lacaton & Vassal who recently won Europe’s prestigious Mies van der Rohe Prize. Principals Anne Lacaton and Jean Philippe Vassal sat for a four-hour interview with Mah and Rivers in the firm’s Paris office.

14 June 2019

Galerie du Nouvel-Ontario Collaboration

Afield will collaborate with Galerie du Nouvel-Ontario (GNO) on a project. The multidisciplinary project is site specific and uses design, performance, and documentation to chronicle GNO's understanding of "sharing" and "shared space" as the the organisation journeys from its old Sudbury gallery space to its new home a block away in the $30 million Place des Arts currently under construction. This collaboration will culminate in a 2020 exhibition. 

29 March 2019

Peter Guo-hua Fu School of Architecture

Afield co-director Kai Wood Mah ('93, '95, '03, '09) returned to McGill University today as a part of a Peter Guo-hua Fu School of Architecture event on career directions post-architectural education.

Mah presented five past and and ongoing Afield projects highlighting design research methods that advance knowledge production and social justice in the built environment. The projects are also fundable by public and/or private funding sources.

McGill is a leading research university in North America and Canada, with its architecture school being amongst the best in Canada. 

7 February 2019

Parsons/New School Lecture

We immensely enjoyed taking part in a seminar today hosted by Parsons School of Design at the New School for Social Research.


Asked to think about race and the postcolonial, as well as to consider the way that design and social science might help to rethink migration and borders, we presented the latest version of our project titled “Surviving a Massive Refugee Situation: A Political Manual for Designers.” Our presentation—reflecting hybrid practice and with a posthumanist and speculative edge—looked at migration on the Mozambique-South Africa border as site of migrations all textured by climate (change) and “Big Sugar” capital.


The Parsons/New School seminar is a Sawyer Seminar funded by a $225,000 grant from the Andrew Mellon Foundation. Faculty members Fiona Raby and Miriam Ticktin are key contacts for the two-year grant supporting the seminar. For sure, Parsons/New School will be the place where rigorous and innovative social science and design meet to address concerns of local and global significance—all made possible by substantial grants and other external funding.

More detail on the seminar can be found here.

23 September 2018

Design Justice Summit

Afield took part in this weekend's Design Justice Summit convened by the national organization of the American Institute of Architects and the design education practice Colloquate. The summit brought together invited American design justice activists in design disciplines as well as from other sectors helping to shape the built environment. Taking place in New Orleans, the interdisciplinary summit was used to talk about the politics of space, to devise activist strategies to level spatial inequities, and to build networks that advance social justice. An article on the summit can be found here in AIA national’s publication.

14 September 2018

School of Photographic Arts Ottawa Talk

The School of Photographic Arts: Ottawa (SPAO) hosted a programming event tonight as a part of its “Roger Ballen: There Is No Outside" exhibition. Afield co-director Patrick Lynn Rivers offered a provocation titled “Is Roger Ballen Off the Wall?” as part of the event.


In addition to Rivers, the panel offering provocations included the feted South African-Canadian artist Jennifer Dickson, art historian and curator Charles Reeve of the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCADU), and Monica Patterson of Carleton University’s Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies.


Based in South Africa, and born in the United States, Ballen is most famous for his images of poor Afrikaners in the South African countryside. Ballen’s images, particularly ones from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s published in his Platteland (1994) book, helped to explode the lie that was apartheid’s white supremacist claims about whiteness itself.

7 September 2018

Democratic Early Childhood Development MOU Signed

We’re proud to announce that the last of a series of interconnected MOUs facilitating our early childhood development centre prototype project is now complete. The MOUs link the national governments of Canada and South Africa, the Early Learning Resource Unit (a South African NGO), and the Saldanha Bay Municipality as they continue to collaborate on an ECD prototype for impoverished communities in South Africa.


The MOUs help to advance the Democratic Early Childhood Development (DECD) project proposed by Afield co-directors Kai Wood Mah and Patrick Lynn Rivers. The project will result in the design, construction, and study of a prototype addressing SA’s urgent ECD infrastructure needs.


The project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada. It has resulted in two publications in addition to an in-progress book for an academic press. (One piece appeared here in Bulletin FrancoPaix and the other will appear in the peer-reviewed Journal of Curriculum Studies.)

27 July 2018

"Inexeba as Afroporn from Outerspace" Opinion Piece Published

With a circulation of over 500,000, the South African Daily Voice newspaper ran an opinion piece today penned by Afield co-director Patrick Lynn Rivers. The piece, here, was used to take a critical look at the debate surrounding the South African film Inxeba (The Wound)--South Africa's 2018 Academy Award entry. Many consider Inxeba to be South Africa’s Moonlight (the 2016 American Academy Award winning film about black male love).

16 July 2018

Teaching and Learning Conference

Contributors to the book Literacies, Literature and Learning: Reading Classrooms Differently (Routledge, 2018) constituted a panel today at the Care-Connect-Create conference organised by the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching.


Afield co-directors Kai Wood Mah and Patrick Lynn Rivers recast their chapter from the book in lieu of the conference theme. This basically meant situating posthumanist ECD (early childhood development) learning within the context of higher education in Africa.


The book is a part of the Decolonizing Early Childhood Discourses project supported with funds from the National Research Foundation (NRF). The book was co-edited by Joanna Haynes and Karin Murris. A faculty member at the University of Cape Town, Murris is also the principal investigator of the project.

24 June 2018

"Economies of Humanitarian Architectural Practice" Article Published

Changing political contexts in global perspective are changing the dynamics of humanitarian architectural practice. Interventions published a peer-reviewed article today by Kai Wood Mah and Patrick Lynn Rivers on the tectonics of emerging practices in France and Québec in particular titled “Economies of Humanitarian Architectural Practice.” The article draws extensively on 2016 design ethnography research documenting what was the real-time response of Québec design practitioners urgently responding to the migration crisis heightened by the Syrian Civil War.


Interventions is a leading journal of postcolonial theory edited by Robert J. C. Young. It draws on an international editorial board of leading postcolonial theorists.

17 June 2018

"Philosopher Children Moving Through Spacetime" Chapter Published

Afield’s chapter in the book Literacies, Literature and Learning: Reading Classrooms Differently (Routledge) was published today.


Co-edited by Joanna Haynes and Karin Murris, the Afield chapter is titled “Philosopher Children Moving through Spacetime.” Afield’s chapter draws on data collected after obtaining full ethics approval and mostly compares and contrasts a central map in H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines (1885) and a map presented by a class of South African second graders. The children's map reflects the posthuman potential of young postcolonial subjects both entangled with and free of the colonial and apartheid histories lingering in the everyday of South Africa. As the blurb reads, the book: “moves beyond social, psychological and scientific categories that focus on individualistic and linear notions of the knowing subject; of progress and development; and of child as less than fully human. It adopts a posthumanist framework to explore new perspectives for teaching, learning and research.”


The book is a part of the Decolonizing Early Childhood Discourses project supported with funds from the National Research Foundation (NRF). Karin Murris is the principal investigator for the project.

7 April 2018

Bates College Lecture

Bates College hosted a lecture by Afield co-directors today. While primarily discussing their speculative posthumanist landscape, migration, and border politics project situated at the Mozambique-South Africa border, Kai Wood Mah and Patrick Lynn Rivers also presented other projects both small and large.


It was a bit of a return for Rivers who taught political science and American cultural studies at Bates in the late 1990s.


Bates, located in the central Maine city of Lewiston, is classified as a National Liberal Arts College in the US News and World Report Rankings. It ranked 23rd in the 2018 US News rankings.

7 February 2018

NextGen Database

Both Afield co-directors—Kai Wood Mah and Patrick Lynn Rivers—have been added to the new searchable database of Canadian practitioners and scholars doing international development and humanitarian assistance work. The database, Next Generation (or "NextGen" for short), is, according to its developers, intended to “position Canada as a leader in innovative, multi-stakeholder international development and humanitarian research, practice and policy development.” The developers of the database continue: “The goal is to encourage better collaborations between civil society and academia, and strengthen the Canadian ecosystem of research and knowledge sharing.”


The database is the result of an initiative conceptualized by the Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC) and the Canadian Association for the Study of International Development (CASID). The initiative benefits from the financial support of Global Affairs Canada and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

CCIC describes itself as a “coalition of Canadian voluntary sector organizations working globally to achieve sustainable human development.”

CASID calls itself “a national, bilingual, interdisciplinary and pluralistic association devoted to the promotion of new knowledge in the broad field of international development.”

Global Affairs Canada is the federal grouping of ministries managing Canada’s external affairs. Organizationally, it is intended to synch Canada’s trade, development and humanitarian assistance, and diplomatic efforts.

IRDC supports research augmenting international development. Funded by the Canadian government, it works closely with Global Affairs Canada.

9 October 2017

Royal College of Art Lecture

The Royal College of Art (RCA) hosted Afield for RCA's inaugural lecture in the new “Situated Practices in the Humanities: The City” series. Afield co-directors delivered a designer talk in which they gave an overview of various Afield projects as well as articulated their design research methodology which is site specific and brings together design and social science perspectives mostly within the context of international development.


The RCA series organisers bring together practitioners with diverse practices to introduce RCA’s community to an array of design research possibilities. According to the series organisers, “the lectures aim to introduce and test current ideas and approaches in the Humanities. The sessions will not just be thinking about cities but also thinking with and through cities.  In this way, urban life becomes not simply the subject of critical and historical analysis, but also the means for such analysis.”


Located in London, the Royal College of Art is the best higher education institution for the study of art and design in the world according to the 2015 and 2016 QS World University Rankings. Afield’s talk was co-hosted by the RCA’s Curating Contemporary Art programCritical Writing in Art & Design program, and the V&A (Victoria & Albert Museum)/RCA History of Design program.

5 September 2017

International Union of Architects (UIA) Conference Paper Presentation

Afield presented a paper today at the 2017 UIA World Architecture Congress held in Seoul. Kai Wood Mah and Patrick Lynn Rivers, Afield co-directors, provided the most comprehensive design practice and scholarly presentation to date on the integrated processes (social, political, economic, legal, cultural, etc., e.g.) shaping the design, construction, and study of their early childhood development (ECD) centre prototype. The paper was titled “Integration in Design and Early Childhood Development Practice.”


UIA (International Union of Architects) is the largest association for architects and allied professionals in the world and they hold their congress every three years. (Some 30,000 were set to attend the Seoul congress, which was UIA's 26th congress.) The 2020 congress will be held in Rio and the 2023 congress in Copenhagen.


Afield’s prototype ECD centre is funded by Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). The project is a collaborative one with the Early Learning Resource Unit (ELRU), an ECD NGO based in Cape Town, and South Africa’s National Development Agency (NDA) which is the agency primarily charged with poverty elimination and alleviation.

5 August 2017

Penser créer l'urbain chapter published

The first formal print output for the Afield project Le campus urbain comme un espace postcolonial (The Urban Campus as Postcolonial Space) appears on the Penser créer l'urbain website in French here. (Contact Afield for an English-language translation here.)

Le campus urbain project is part of the larger Du terrain vague au campus urbain intégré project funded by the Conseil de recherches en sciences humaines (CRSH). The larger project represents a research-creation effort by interdisciplinary design practitioners and scholars from around the world to understand the impact of a new urban campus for the University of Montreal. Situated between an affluent community and a neighborhood of new "ethnic" (i.e., "non-white") Canadians, construction of the $350 million campus raises issues of race, gentrification, and socioeconomic inequality in a Montreal, Quebec, and Canada attempting to industrialise and capitalise "innovation."

An e-book compilation of all projects is in the works, as well as a hard copy version.

Afield co-directors Kai Wood Mah and Patrick Lynn Rivers plan at least one additional (peer-reviewed) article as the 2019 opening of the new campus approaches.

8 July 2017

Aga Khan University East African Institute Forum

Aga Khan University hosted a one-day forum today on child-learning environments at its Nairobi campus and Afield co-directors Kai Wood Mah and Patrick Lynn Rivers participated in the conversation. Organised by AKU’s East African Institute, the focus was upon listening to children in order to inform how architects, urban planners, and early childhood educators in particular make child-centred spaces. The central question for the day was as follows: “How can we ensure learning environments are child informed, safe and conducive to the development of not only knowledge but self-worth, creativity, and community responsibility?"


The Aga Khan University’s Nairobi campus is one of five AKU campuses with the others being in Karachi, Dar es Salaam, Kampala, and London.


AKU’s East African Institute is a research entity focused upon evidenced-based research that promotes policy solutions to the region’s multi-pronged challenges.

31 May 2017

Aligning Development Studies and Design Paper Presented

Afield co-directors Kai Wood Mah and Patrick Lynn Rivers presented a paper in Toronto today at the annual meeting of the Canadian Association for the Study of International Development (CASID). Titled “Aligning Development Studies with Design,” the paper was used to suggest how development studies as academic area of study might be placed in conversation with design practice. The paper was further used to highlight how, through research-creation as approach, international development might be advanced by forging new interdisciplinary paths to synch theory and practice. The paper was a part of a panel on “International Policy and Neoliberalism.”


The paper was consistent with a new initiative between CASID and the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC). Specifically, with funding from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), CASID and CCIC are engaged in a joint project exploring scholar-practitioner collaboration in international development. As stated in a release on the project: “The program has the ambition to position Canada as a leader in innovative multi-stakeholder approaches to global development research, practice and policy development, creating conditions for enhanced and sustained collaboration between civil society and academia.”


CASID’s annual meeting in Toronto was held in conjunction with the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences which brought together multiple Canadian disciplinary and interdisciplinary academic associations.

13 May 2017

Engineered Worlds 2 at the University of Chicago

We were delighted to participate at Engineered Worlds 2 this weekend. Hosted by the University of Chicago’s Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, this small conference was the culmination of the second year of a three-year investigation of, as project conveners understand it, “the conceptual and material implications of a planet transformed by industrial effects.”


Afield co-directors Kai Wood Mah and Patrick Lynn Rivers used their invited presentation to advance a project on landscapes, migrations, and politics in South Africa. Specifically, in a presentation titled “Surviving a Massive Refugee Situation: A Guide for Designers,” Mah and Rivers pondered the meaning of “the border” in the context of the SA-Mozambique border where much of the South African side encompasses Kruger National Park (aka “South Africa’s most exciting African safari destination”).


Organizers of the larger Engineered Worlds project are: Tim Choy (University of California, Davis), Jake Kosek (University of California, Berkeley), Joseph Masco (University of Chicago), and Michelle Murphy (University of Toronto).

13 March 2017

"Decolonizing the Toilet" Article by Rivers Published

Briarpatch, the progressive politics and culture magazine, recently published an extended article on design activism by Afield co-director Patrick Lynn Rivers.

The idea for the article emerged from Rivers’ use of a University of Cape Town “toilet” that used to be a men’s restroom. “Decolonizing the Toilet,” the title of the long-form piece, traces how a men’s room became a non-gendered public facility. Telling this story involves understanding recent student activism at South African universities (e. g., #RhodesMustFall, #FeesMustFall) and how radical trans students injected trans rights into the movement and institutional design.

The article can be found here.

28 February 2017

World Issues Forum at Western Washington University

Kai Wood Mah and Patrick Lynn Rivers, Afield's co-directors, addressed approximately 100 undergraduates, faculty, and Bellingham (WA) community members today as a part of Fairhaven College's World Issues Forum. The presentation by Mah and Rivers was used to outline some of the ways that research-creation and development practice can impact the way that the assessment of international development programs take place and the way that such alternative means of assessment can lead to innovations in development policies and practices. The presentation was particularly used to consider the way that research-creation can be used to blunt an emerging nationalism in the United States leading the new American government to discount engagement with the Global South and eschew international development. The presentation was further deployed to contrast the current international development assistance disposition of the US and Canada.

Fairhaven College is one of several colleges constituting Western Washington University. It is best known for its open progressive curriculum that requires students to construct their own interdisciplinary course of study. The college also promotes social justice activism as a part of its curricular and extracurricular programs.

26 February 2017

Portland State University Center for Public Interest Design

An audience of approximately 40 graduate student and faculty colleagues engaged with Afield co-directors Kai Wood Mah and Patrick Lynn Rivers today at Portland State University. Mah and Rivers's presentation titled "Development through Design" was hosted by Portland State's Center for Public Interest Design. The presentation featured detailed overviews of selected Afield projects especially projects in some way connected to research-creation, design, and development practice.

The Center for Public Interest Design bills itself as a "research [+action] center at Portland State University that aims to investigate, promote, and engage in inclusive design practices that address the growing needs of underserved communities worldwid­­e." It is directed by noted public interest designer Sergio Palleroni.

20 February 2017

Northwestern University Center for Forced Migration Studies

Northwestern University’s Center for Forced Migration Studies (CFMS) invited the Afield co-directors to present at the Center’s Faculty Working Group today.  A robust hour-long discussion took place.

The basis of the discussion was the pre-circulated paper by Mah and Rivers recently published in the peer-reviewed Space and Culture as well as a follow-up study that advanced the previous study by adding a broad consideration of landscape, design, and a posthumanist ethos. Conversation forced Mah and Rivers to be more specific in their intentionally speculative paper while simultaneously and thoughtfully considering those very same speculative dimensions. (Speculative dimensions culminated with the first of three watercolour drawings ultimately used to rethink the meaning of "the border.")


Access the Space and Culture paper titled "Refugees Without Exception" here. The title of the follow-up project (ongoing) is “Surviving a Massive Refugee Situation: A Manual for Designers.”  

15 February 2017

Operating Manual for Living in the Worst Case Scenario

Operating Manual for Living in the Worst-Case Scenario

Kai Wood Mah and Patrick Lynn Rivers, Afield co-directors, participated in the “Operating Manual” panel and boot camp today in New York City.

The panel was part of the 2017 College Art Association (CAA) annual conference. The panel was used to consider “how scenario design and behavior regulation are negotiated in the format of the survival manual, considered in an expanded sense.” As a part of the panel, Mah and Rivers presented a paper titled "Surviving a Massive Refugee Situation" and the paper abstract is here.

The boot camp, according to the press release prepared by the organisers was “a curated program designed and framed around the central theme of how we conceive of ‘solutions’ and ‘preparedness’ for living in worst-case scenarios.” The event took place at the Cabinet magazine event space. For more on the event, look here.

Both events were curated by Emily Candela (Royal College of Art), Maya Oppenheimer (Royal College of Art), and Francesca Laura Cavallo (Kent University).

Event sponsors were Cabinet magazine, the Design History Society, the Royal College of Art, and the University of Kent.

23 January 2017

"Pais de paix sans developpement" Article Published

Afield co-directors Kai Wood Mah and Patrick Lynn Rivers authored an article in French with the English title “No Peace Without Development: A Research-Creation Proposition” in Bulletin FrancoPaix 2 (2017): 1-6. They use the article to critique neoliberal rationales embedded within Canadian international development policies and practices. Articulating design and development are central to their argument, as well as deploying research-creation as means of assessment that enhances innovation in international assistance programs.


The article is the first of several planned publications growing from the successful Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant proposal conceptualised by Mah and Rivers. Titled “Democratic Early Childhood Development,” the project is extensively referenced in the Bulletin FrancoPaix article to demonstrate the potential of research-creation in design and development projects.


Bulletin FrancoPaix is a regular publication of the Centre FrancoPaix at the University of Quebec at Montréal (UQAM). In a short period of time, the Centre has become a leading resource for research on peace and conflict resolution in Canada, the Francophone world, and beyond.


A French version of the article can be found here and an English version can be found here.

31 October 2016

Dalhousie University School of Architecture

Dalhousie University’s School of Architecture hosted Afield co-directors Kai Wood Mah and Patrick Lynn Rivers on October 31 for a midday lecture titled "Development through Design."

Mah and Rivers used their presentation to offer insight on the relationship between international development and design. They did this by discussing a series of Afield projects with special emphasis on Afield’s Democratic Crèche project. Research-creation methodologies were presented as a means to assess international development projects as well as a way to innovate outside neoliberalism’s very particular “metrics.”

This is a part of Mah and Rivers’ efforts to advance thinking in Afield’s public comment as a part of Global Affairs Canada’s review of international assistance programs.   

12 September 2016

Du terrain vague au campus urbain intégré

Afield co-directors Kai Wood Mah and Patrick Lynn Rivers will make a presentation titled "Le campus urbain comme un espace postcolonial" as part of an international symposium in Montréal on September 30, 2016. The presentation and symposium constitute part of a larger project funded by the Conseil de recherches en sciences humaines (CRSH). The larger project constitutes part of the planning process for a new Université de Montréal campus in the Outremont and Park Extension neighborhoods of the city. Other invited speakers come from France, Lebanon, the United States as well as Canada.

The Afield paper itself is used to wrangle with the "urban campus" and higher education within the context of globalization. More specifically, the paper is used to consider what the globalization of higher education means for postcolonial subjects who find themselves in some way a part of or proximate to an urban campus.

French and English abstracts of the paper can be found here.

16 August 2016

Public Comment on International Assistance

Global Affairs Canada is conducting a review of the nation's international assistance policies and programs. As a part of the review, Global Affairs took public comments from May to July 2016. Afield contributed to the review by submitting a public comment in response to a government discussion paper. Afield co-directors Kai Wood Mah and Patrick Lynn Rivers used the practice's comment to suggest how research-creation methodologies might be utilized to do development and study development in ways that advance critical assessment and reflexive innovation in development assistance programs.

27 July 2016

Mah and Rivers Proposal Receives Federal Grant

A project proposed by Afield co-directors Kai Wood Mah and Patrick Lynn Rivers will be realized with the help of a $74,728 research-creation grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). The developmental grant will be used to design and construct two early childhood development (ECD) centre prototypes for the South African context. In addition to advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 2030 agenda, the project will be used to understand the ways that grassroots organizations and social movements assert themselves in the shaping of the post-apartheid built environment. This social dynamic will be used to enhance the frequently staid application of evidence-based design.


The research-creation project depends on intense collaboration between Afield and local South African partners. Co-creators include government agencies, NGOs and CSOs, black women entrepreneurs who own and operate early childhood development centres in rural and urban township communities, and the communities in which the centres are located.


Funding for the research-creation project starts in September 2016 and continues for two years.

6 July 2016

Refugee Housing Article Published in International Journal

An Afield article titled "Refugee Housing without Exception" will be published in the peer-reviewed journal Space and Culture 19, 4 (November 2016): 390-405. The article is used to critique and present an alternative to a South African government plan to address a “massive refugee situation” by designing and constructing “model” refugee camps at the country’s land borders.

At no point in human history have so many people been forcibly displaced. According to UNHCR 65.3 million people have been forced from their home, with 21.3 million being refugees and half of all refugees being under the age of 18.

15 April 2016

Everyday Humanitarianism

Afield co-directors Kai Wood Mah and Patrick Lynn Rivers presented a paper titled "Economies of Humanitarian Architecture" at the Everyday Humanitarianism conference held April 14-15, 2016, at the London School of Economics and Political Science. The paper abstract can be found here.

14 March 2016

Children, War, and Play

Afield co-director Kai Wood Mah participated in a Montréal design charrette culminating with a playground design for internally-displaced children in Syria. The playground will be built in Camp Ariha with funds raised by event co-sponsor Je veux jouer, a Syrian-Canadian NGO that describes itself as a “movement and community." Architectes de L’Urgence et de la Coopération (Emergency Architects) and the Université du Quebéc à Montréal's Design Centre co-hosted the charrette.

The interdisciplinary team assembled in Montréal reiterated the urgency of attending to the unique needs of children in emergency situations. This especially proves to be the case since play spaces are often viewed as a kind of add-on even by humanitarian organizations dedicated to child wellbeing. Children in camp environments require—like all children—playground designs that encourage full movement and foster creative play. Beyond this, though, spaces like the space that will be built in Camp Ariha must have, amongst other things, tailored soundscapes that offer respite from the realities of war.

Mah along with Afield co-director Patrick Lynn Rivers will deliver a paper on the charrette and the needs of children in emergency situations at the Everyday Humanitarianism conference in April 2016 at the London School of Economics. The paper titled “Economies of Humanitarian Architecture” will extensively utilize design ethnography as methodology.

14 December 2015

Opinion Piece by Afield Used to Address Design and Policing

New City, an arts and design publication in Chicago, published an opinion piece by Afield co-directors Kai Wood Mah and Patrick Lynn Rivers on 14 December 2015.

The piece, titled “Design for Justice: Policing, Architecture and Urban Design in Chicago Post-Laquan,” is a response to an installation by Studio Gang on show at the inaugural Chicago Architectural Biennial. Studio Gang, which is the Chicago-based practice headed by Jeanne Gang, put forth a design proposition at the biennial intended to mitigate conflict between the Chicago Police Department in particular and the city’s African American community. Mah and Rivers’ response stresses the need to mollify power differentials between a powerful institution like the police and black communities first and foremost before police and minority communities can make peace much less play basketball.

13 December 2015

Being Political in Architecture and Design

Afield presented current work at the following symposium: "Being Political in Architecture and Urban Design." Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies, University of Amsterdam.​ Details can be found here.

13 October 2015

York University Centre for Refugee Studies

Afield presented current work: “Refugee Housing without Exception.” Centre for Refugee Studies, York University, Toronto. Details can be found here.

13 October 2015

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE)

Afield presented current work: “Building Schools after Apartheid.” Ontario Institute for Studies in Education's (OISE) Comparative, International & Development Education Centre, University of Toronto. Details can be found here.

19 August 2015

University of the Witwatersrand African Centre for Migration Studies

Afield presented current work: “Refugee Housing without Exception.” African Centre for Migration Studies, University of the Witswatersrand, Johannesburg. Details can be found here.

31 July 2015

Mah Article on Schoolyards Published in Trade Journal

Co-director of Afield Kai Wood Mah's article "Greening Schoolyards" was published on August 1 in the trade journal School Planning & Management 54, 8 (August 2015): 28, 30-31. The article, which stems from Afield's work with a Francophone primary school in Northern Ontario, has already been cited by one Northern California school in the process of transforming their campus. Mah's article can be found here.

22 July 2015

University of Cape Town School of Education

Afield presented current work: “Building Schools after Apartheid.” School of Education, University of Cape Town.

8 July 2015

European Conference on African Studies (ECAS)

Afield presented current work: “The New Social Architecture in South Africa.” European Conference on African Studies (ECAS), Paris.

13 August 2014

Afield Conference Paper Gets Media Attention

Afield presented current work: “Architectural Standards and Education after Apartheid” and "Refugee Housing, without Exception." International Union of Architects (UIA) World Congress, Durban.

5 August 2014

International Union of Architects (UIA)

Afield presented current work: “Architectural Standards and Education after Apartheid” and "Refugee Housing, without Exception." International Union of Architects (UIA) World Congress, Durban.

5 August 2014

International Union of Architects (UIA)

Afield presented current work: “Architectural Standards and Education after Apartheid” and "Refugee Housing, without Exception." International Union of Architects (UIA) World Congress, Durban.

22 June 2014

Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture

Afield presented current work: “Race, Rights, and Housing Design for Refugee and Asylum Seekers in South Africa.” Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, Seoul.

25 August 2013

"Negotiating Difference in Post-apartheid Housing Design" Article Published

An Afield article on the politics of post-apartheid housing design was published in the international peer-reviewed journal African Identities. Titled “Negotiating Difference in Post-apartheid Housing Design,” the article is used to investigate how visual design practice can help to mitigate power differentials between design professionals and informal communities transitioning from informal to formal housing.

5 July 2013

Cities on the Move

Afield presented current work: “Negotiating Difference in Post-apartheid Housing Design.” Cities on the Move: Mobilities and Sensibilities, Cape Town. The conference was hosted by the University of Western Cape's Department of Linguistics.