Nabil Ahmed

Studio 2: Contemporary Ecology

Image: INTERPRT Site FP, 2017

Studio brief

In Studio 2 we will explore environmental topics through the lens of art, architecture, spatial practice, media and design disciplines. It will foster alternative ways of thinking about our place in nature, our relationship to nonhumans, the interrelations between ecology, economy and labour, the politics of self-determination and territoriality, the violence of extraction and environmental crimes. While focused on art, architecture and design methodologies, the studio will be in dialogue with environmental humanities, history, international law, continental philosophy, fiction, geography, anthropology, indigenous politics, science and technology studies (STS) and other disciplines and radical thought.

Students will be encouraged to investigate topics that have an intellectual depth and real-world relevance such as those that address the historical and contemporary challenges of climate change, pollution, biodiversity and environmental justice. As we move towards developing individual dissertation topics we will look at a series of geographically distributed case studies, with a special attention to the global ocean, in the process uncovering histories of science and colonialism, nature and power. Given that oceans and islands, for example, in the Pacific are at the frontiers of climate change, we will examine how the arts and humanities can offer new analytical tools, narratives and strategies for raising public awareness and political action. Teaching will take place primarily through seminars, workshops, field trips, listening sessions, screenings and case studies. You'll be expected to attend events taking place in London throughout the year related to the broad and diverse themes covered in the studio.

Outline of the first seven weeks of study

  • Week 1: Introduction and organisational meeting
  • Week 2: Theories/contemporary ecology
  • Week 3: Site introduction
  • Week 4: Interdisciplinary research methods
  • Week 5: Field trip to the Thames Estuary
  • Week 6: Theories/politics and spatial practice
  • Week 7: Case study with guests

Indicative bibliography

  1. Michael Wheeler (ed.), Ruskin and Environment: The Storm-Cloud of the Nineteenth Century. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995.
  2. WJT Mitchell, Landscape and Power. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1994.
  3. Donna Haraway, When Species Meet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008.
  4. Gregory Bateson, "Metalogue – What is an Instinct?", in Steps to an Ecology of Mind. Jason Aronson: New Jersey, 1987.
  5. Bill McKibben. “From The End of Nature.” The Norton Book of Nature Writing. Robert Finch & John Elder, eds. New York: Norton & Company, 2002.
  6. Claude Levi-Strauss. “Categories, Elements, Species, Numbers.” The Savage Mind. Hertfordshire: Garden City Press, 1966.
  7. Eduardo Kohn. “Trans-Species Pidgins.” How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013.
  8. Andreas Malm. "The Anthropocene Myth". Jacobin. March 2013.
  9. David Harvey. "On Architects, bees, and species-being". Spaces of Hope. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000.
  10. Naomi Klein. "Introduction". This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate. Toronto: Knopf, 2014.
  11. TJ Demos. Against the Anthropocene: Visual Culture and Environment today. Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2016.


Tutor Nabil Ahmed

Tutor biography

Nabil Ahmed

Course Leader for MA History, Theory and Interpretation of Architecture

Course Leader MA Architectural Histories, Theories and Interpretation, Postgraduate coordinator (RIBA part 2) History and Theory, Teaches on Architecture BA (Hons) (RIBA part 1).

Dissertation Studios

Studio 1: Another India

Harriet McKay

Studio 1: Another India will examine, reflect upon and critique the historic use of "exotic" motifs in design.

Studio 2: Contemporary Ecology

Nabil Ahmed

In Studio 2 we will explore environmental topics through the lens of art, architecture, spatial practice, media and design disciplines.

Studio 3: Music is the Weapon: Performance, Culture and the Music Industry

Christina Paine

Studio 3: Music is the Weapon: Performance, Culture and the Music Industry is an exploration of race, gender, class and more in music.

Studio 4: Not allowed

Emma Davenport

Studio 4: What Not to Wear? will investigate the roles that dress and fashion play in our workplaces.

Studio 5: Imperfect Theories

Ektoras Arkomanis

Studio 5: Imperfect Theories allows you to critically examine any work that can be seen as theory or presents an interesting relationship with theory.

Studio 6: Curating as a Spatial Practice: From the Wunderkammer to Installation art

Nico de Oliveira

Studio 6: This dissertation studio is designed to help students who are interested in curating as a broad subject, as well as those who wish to contextualise their own practice within the scope of displaying art.

Studio 7: Souvenir

Dr Lesley Stevenson

Studio 7: This studio is concerned with those objects that are lent a particular enchantment because of their relationship with the past.

Studio 8: Post – card

Edwina Attlee

Studio 8 will look at one element of that system – the picture postcard – from a number of different perspectives.

Studio 9: ‘The Form of the Text’

Danielle Hewitt

Studio 9: Together we will explore the space of criticism; acknowledging our point of encounter with objects, places, sites and processes and the relationship between text, writer and reader.

Studio 10: Constellating

Sinead Evans

As creative practitioners we digest and produce images every day – as citizens of the digital age we consume between hundreds and thousands of images each day. This dissertation studio will slim down your daily diet to one image.

Studio 11: Science Fiction Futurity

Luke Jones

Speculative descriptions of the future reveal a magnified — or distorted — reflection of the fears and desires of the present.

Studio 12: Alternative Fashioned Modernities

Lezley George

Much is happening in the world today that foregrounds questions pertinent to our identities in a globalised world.

Studio 13: Desire, Trauma, History

Jonathan Whitehall

How does the relationship of memory to fantasy affect history? What are the links between desire, sexuality and trauma? How are these relationships played out or negotiated in visual and written practice? These questions will form the beginning of our enquiries into artworks, films and literature.

Studio 14: Design and Nature: Forms of an Entanglement

Gabriele Oropallo

We will look at how the idea of nature has been constructed over time and place, and study its impact on design practice in an age marked by the sustainability imperative.

Studio 15: Music, Technology and Ideas

Lewis Jones

Studio 15: Music, Technology and Ideas encourages you to explore how and why we make music, including its origin, relationship to technology and more.

Studio 16: Narrative and Storytelling

Jon Baldwin

Studio 16: Narrative and Storytelling will see you produce storygraphs, storyboards and various forms of narrative analysis in the seminars.

Studio 17: Knowing Audiences

Jeremy Collins

Studio 17: Knowing Audiences will encourage you to study an audience group using qualitative research methods in your investigations.

Studio 18: Time and the Image

David Howells

This workshop will address some perennial problems of writing in the field of visual culture.

Studio 19: Material in Motion

Heidi Yeo

Studio 19: This studio will explore a reading of objects focusing on the interplay between materials, the objects they form and their context.

Studio 20: The Liminal

Andrew Hewish

This Dissertation Studio examines instances of the liminal as they occur in critical theory and culture, and is open to any topic and students from all disciplines.

Studio 21: Reading the library (and nothing but the library)

Joseph Kohlmaier

This year, Studio 21 will stage an unusual experiment. It will move, unpack, catalogue, and perform readings from one private library; and make this library, without exception, the single resource for all the research and writing in the studio.

Studio 22: Meaningful work

Paul Harper

Studio 22: Meaningful work explores the value of making and the idea of craft as meaningful work.

Studio 23: A Common Thread

Gina Pierce

Studio 23: In A Common Thread, we unpick and examine the importance of textiles and how they underpin culture, industry, and global connections.

Cass Studios archive by year