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Silvano De la Llata, PhD

Assistant Professor, Geography, Planning and Environment

Silvano De la Llata, PhD
Office: S-ER 1440-05 
ER Building,
2155 Guy St.
Phone: (514) 848-2424 ext. 7316
Website(s): Cities X Citizens


Silvano De la Llata is an architect, an urbanist and an educator. He received his PhD in City and Regional Planning from Cornell University (2014). He has taught design/planning studios and seminars on urban sociology, public space and history at Cornell University, and universities of Tamaulipas and Anahuac (Mexico). For the last 15 years, his research has focused on public space and the study of alternative uses, such as street vending, graffiti, public assembly and protest, as design/planning agents. His dissertation explores alternative planning processes in the context of protest encampments in horizontal social movements. He did research and participated in the Indignados mobilizations in Barcelona, Occupy Wall Street and other social movements in 2011 and 2012.
Building on this experience, he directs the project
Cities X Citizens, which focuses on the democratization of planning and urban design through participatory design methodologies and open-source systems. Bridging research, pedagogy and design practice, he developed urban design methodologies, open planning and planning-in-situ, to redesign interstitial spaces in Montreal through collaborative community engagement.

Additionally, he coordinates brainstorming/reading circles on critical theory and philosophy to develop strategies to democratize everyday life in the city.

Teaching activities


This course focuses on exploring urban planning/design strategies andtactics to “re-stitch” – socially and physically – interstitial spaces thatcreate fragmentation in the urban fabric. It particularly focuses on urbaninfrastructure, such as elevated highways, multi-level vehicular intersections,(post)industrial complexes, railroads and railyards. The interruptions thatthese spaces create in the urban fabric are not only due to their physicalcondition, but also because there is a difference in the social, spatial andinstitutional scale. These spaces are often under national or provincialgovernment jurisdictions (i.e. highways and railroads) or even transnationalregulations (i.e. international corporations), and therefore are detached fromcommunity and neighborhood-level dynamics.

The ultimate objective of the course is to explore the challenges andopportunities is to create city out of in interstitial spaces. To explore theseissue, this course will draw from theories that intersect community planning,urban acupuncture, landscape urbanism, infrastructure planning and public spacestudies as well as case studies around the world in which planners and urbandesigners have successfully (or unsuccessfully) dealt with these kinds ofproblems. It also draws from cultural landscape studies in order to understandthe socio-cultural divisions that are created by such urban conditions. Thecourse will focus on laboratory work on the case of the Saint Henri Quartier inMontreal, QC.  This neighborhood,delimited by Highway 720, the Lachine Canal and Atwater Avenue, has many of thecharacteristics described above, and it is an outstanding opportunity to testplanning/design and policy strategies for urban regeneration in fragmentedspaces. This formerly working-class and gentrifying neighborhood is fragmentedby postindustrial infrastructure that otherwise represented common spaces.However, its rich popular culture and history gives the neighborhood aresilience that enables for (re)appropriation and (re)signification of the space.

The solutions suggested for this laboratory are not “major-surgery-like”ones that require large demolitions and construction of existinginfrastructure, but rather mild interventions that can turn the socio-spatialdynamics around in the urban fabric. Interventions such as graffiti murals, artinstallations, farmer markets, community gardens, and events such as festivals,concerts or neighborhood meetings are particularly encouraged. The studentswill use community-engagement methods (i.e. participatory action research, filmprojections, charrettes, planning-in-situ, place-making) to test thesemethodologies in the selected sites. 


Urban space shapes publics,and publics (re)shape urban space. Public space is the result of this dialecticrelationship. Public space is also the physical manifestation of the publicinterest, and therefore is also the manifestation of conflict. However, publicspace and the public sphere is also the realm to debate about and solve thoseconflicts. This seminar explores how the notion of the public and public spaceplays a key role in the construction of democratic societies. It broadlyexplores the socioeconomic, cultural, political and physical dimensions ofpublic space. It particularly focuses on the tensions between how space isproduced and how it is (re)appropriated and (re)produced by its citizens, withthe objective of drawing lessons to enable a more democratic, inclusive andjust city-making. Drawing form theory, history and case studies, thisseminar analyzes how public spaces are planned and how different subjectivitiesemerged from those spaces, as well as how these subjectivities transform andreinvent themselves to change the spaces they inhabit. The notions of exclusionand inclusion, gender/race/age/class equity, gentrification and privatizationof public space, problems and potential of social networks, protest and theright to the city, as well as place-making and community planning would bewidely explored.

The course is divided into twoparts:

1.    Typologies of public space and subjectivities – During the first part of the class, wewill analyze different types of spaces that encourage and discourage certainactivities in space and therefore create different subjectivities and ways of“being-in-the-world” (e.g. plazas, parks, promenades, etc.)

2.    Academic and Civic Debates on public space andthe public interest – In thesecond part of the course, we will analyze and build on the current debatesabout how to plan, manage, regulate, design, use and occupy public space (e.g.privatization of public space, gentrification, protest and occupation of publicspace, paradoxes of the social networks in public spaces, etc.)


Urban Resistance: Alternative Interpretations of Public Space (English/revised version) (2014) in Viladevall & Castrillo (2010), Espacio Publico en la Ciudad Contemporanea, Universidad de Valladolid, Valladolid, España.

Abstract Drawing from a historical analysis of informal uses of urban space in Mexico, this chapter analyzes uses and interpretations of public spaces that clash with their planning and design programs. It particularly explores the notion of urban resistance, understood as alternative readings of space that contest urban regulations and spatial programs and, as practices that remain in spite of historical and cultural transformations. The chapter concludes by reinterpreting a modernist esplanade in a hospital and by providing design proposals that incorporate amenities and an informal market to an otherwise precarious space.

Protest Encampments as Urban Laboratories: The 15M Barcelona Encampment: A Space of Resistance and Creativity (2014) in Progressive Planning, Planner's Network, New York, NY.

Abstract The protest encampments of 2011 operated as spaces of resistance-through-creativity.Without an apparent overarching structure, the protesters engaged in different forms of interaction, encounter and organization. The spontaneous processes used to organize the physical space of the encampments provided lessons for the democratization of planning and city-making processes. Rather than in what was done in the encampments, the true lessons are more in how things were done –through mechanics that allowed potentially anyone from within or without the movement to actively participate in its development. To explore these ideas,this article makes a brief account of the case of the Barcelona Encampment in Plaza Catalunya in the Spring of 2011.

Open-ended urbanisms: Space-making processes in the protest encampment of the Indignados movement in Barcelona (2015) in URBAN DESIGN International

Abstract This paper studies the spontaneous and organic processes involved in the physical planning of protest encampments. Drawing from ethnographic work in the context of the Indignados Movement in Barcelona,it analyzes the spatial evolution and transformation of the Plaza Catalunya encampment in 2011. The encampments evolved in parallel to the conversations and questions that originated them online and offline. Thus, it particularly examines the notions of open planning (i.e. open-source and open-ended decision-making processes) and urban laboratories that the fieldwork indicates were tested in the space of the encampment. The objective is to understand how urban space can be planned through non-hierarchical space-making processes and without a homogeneous overarching structure. This paper situates in a larger discussion about alternative space-making processes such as insurgent, tactical planning,as well as in the recent conversations about open-source cities. 

Keywords: public space, insurgent planning, protest encampments, social movements, open-source cities; urban design

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