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Aseem Inam

Professor Aseem Inam

Chair in Urban Design, North America Champion

Welsh School of Architecture

+44 29208 75607
Bute Building, Room 1.26A, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3NB
Available for postgraduate supervision



As Professor and Chair in Urban Design at Cardiff University, Dr. Inam is part of the MA Urban Design [MAUD] program across two different schools, the Welsh School of Architecture and the School of Geography and Planning. The MAUD possesses an extremely strong reputation and is one of the largest programs of its kinds in the world, attracting hundreds of applicants each year from around the world. The MAUD at Cardiff University is on this new and exciting trajectory in two distinct ways: a much more critical and transdisciplinary approach to urban design practice, and a much more research-infused approach to urban design pedagogy. A critical approach to practice involves not only understanding and learning "how urban design is currently done," but also and equally importantly, engaging with "how urban design should be done." This involves acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of current practice, and developing much more sophisticated approaches that engage with the complex and changing realities of cities.

A research-infused approach to urban design pedagogy involves examining common interests among the highly-qualified teaching staff of the MAUD and building upon those synergies. For example, the staff recognizes that urban design is political and embracing the political reality of urban design leads to much more powerful and effective forms of practice. This involves understanding and dealing with the less visible power structures of the spatial political-economy that wield enormous influence on the more conventional and visible tools of urban design, such as drawings, plans, models, guidelines, regulations and reports.

External activities

As the Director of TRULAB: Laboratory for Designing Urban Transformation, Dr. Inam has led several initiatives in urban transformation. He co-designed and co-led three practice-oriented workshops in the rapidly growing cities of Pune, Surat and Jaipur in India on the "Power of Design Concepts", which suggested radically different ways of thinking about design practice in a rapidly and increasingly urbanizing world. The workshops were well-attended by architects, designers and representatives from public authorities. Prior to that, in Toronto, he developed a community-based partnership with the Thorncliffe Park Women's Committee to nurture local entrepreneurship and informal economies, introducing new public spaces, knit together a network of open spaces, and use place-based strategies to empower communities. In Brazil, he worked with a micro-business support non-profit [SEBRAE] and mayors to develop asset-based transformative strategies that are unique to each city. In New York, he helped design a new interactive and collaborative strategy to nurture the relationship between street vendors, public space and public policy in the Union Square area.

Previously, he worked professionally as an architect, urban designer and city planner in France, Canada, Greece, Haiti, India, Morocco and the United States. As an urbanist with the award-winning firm Moule & Polyzoides Architects and Urbanists, he led the team for redesigning the historic core of Whittier, California and for designing a new city in Sunland Park on the U.S.-Mexico border. He was a member of the international team invited by the Government of Haiti to develop a strategic framework for housing rebuilding following the 2010 earthquake in Port au Prince. He worked with Joseph Stein to develop the programming, design and construction of the ecological campus of the renown India Habitat Centre, a complex of public, private and non-profit organizations working on issues of housing and infrastructure. Early in his career, he was recruited by the Geneva-based Aga Khan Development Network to conceive, operationalize and lead a pioneering rural habitat development program in India, which has now benefitted over 80,000 residents.

Other information

Dr. Inam has received multiple recognitions for his accomplishments, including honors and awards from both academic and professional organizations, as well as frequent invitations to speak at public events around the world.

He was invited to chair the opening session of an international conference at the University of Cambridge on "Urbanism in the Global South: Building New Geographies of Development". The session focused on urban theory and practice, deconstructing and reimagining urban change and transformation with examples of current practice and ideas for the future. He also gave a keynote speech on reclaiming urban practice for India at an international conference on the "Future of Cities: Opportunities and Challenges" in July, organized by the Institute of Town Planners India in Delhi.

He has been the keynote speaker at both academic [e.g. European Association for Architectural Education and Architectural Research Centers Consortium – Milan, Global Multidisciplinary Network on Housing Research and Learning – Bratislava] and professional conferences [e.g. Urban Land Institute – Toronto, Serviço Brasileiro de Apoio às Micro e Pequenas Empresas – Belo Horizonte]. His research has received awards from the SOM Foundation, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning. His professional work was awarded by the American Planning Association, and he received the Professor of the Year Award a record three times at the University of Michigan for his teaching.
















  • Inam, A. 2006. What can urban design be?. Presented at: 2nd World Planning Schools Congress (WPSC), Mexico City, Mexico, 1 July 2006.
  • Inam, A. 2006. Urban design. In: Inam, A. ed. Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (UNESCO-EOLSS). UNESCO









Book sections





Research interests

Dr. Inam's dual approach to research, in terms of "research as practice," and "theory as practice," is embodied in a number of books, chapters and journal articles.

He has published this in-depth research in two books, Designing Urban Transformation [New York and London: Routledge 2014] and Planning for the Unplanned: Recovering from Crises in Megacities [New York and London: Routledge 2005]. He has also been invited to contribute chapters in other books, including Extending Place: The Global South and Informal Urbanisms [in Place and Placelessness Revisited, Routledge 2016], Tensions Manifested: Reading the Viceroy's House in New Delhi [in The Emerging Asian City, Routledge 2013], Smart Growth: A Critical Review of the State of the Art [in Companion to Urban Design, Routledge 2011], and Meaningful Urban Design: Teleological / Catalytic / Relevant [in Writing Urbanism, Routledge 2008].

He has also published a number of scholarly articles published in international journals. These include Unveiling Vegas: Urbanism at the Nexus of Private Profit and Public Policy [in Journal of Urbanism, 2015], From Dichotomy to Dialectic: Practicing Theory in Urban Design [in Journal of Urban Design, 2011], Navigating Ambiguity: Comedy Improvisation as a Tool for Urban Design Pedagogy and Practice [in Journal for Education in the Built Environment, 2010], Choice-Based Rationale for Land Use and Transportation Alternatives: Evidence from Boston and Atlanta [in Journal of Planning Education and Research, 2005], Production of Alternative Development In American Suburbs: Two Case Studies [in Planning, Practice and Research, 2004], and Institutions, Routines, and Crises: Post-Earthquake Housing Recovery In Mexico City and Los Angeles [in Cities, 1999].


Teaching profile

Prior to Cardiff University, Dr. Inam has held a number of teaching positions around the world.

He was appointed the John Bousfield Distinguished Visitor in urban planning at the University of Toronto and prior to that, he was the founding Director of the highly innovative Graduate Program in Urban Practice at the Parsons School of Design in New York. He has also been an award-winning professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT], University of Michigan and the University of Southern California. He was invited by UCLA to create and teach a new course for mid-career Chinese architects and planners to evaluate the effectiveness of projects in urbanism. He has given invited talks at several universities, including University of California at Berkeley, Columbia University, University of British Columbia [UBC] in Vancouver, KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, and Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

He has presented his innovative teaching methods at several academic conferences, including the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning, American Association of Geographers, and the World Planning Schools Congress. This work is also known through publication in books and journals. His students have won awards such as the Don Schön Award for Excellence in Learning from Practice, Ed McClure Award for Best Paper in Planning, and the Outstanding Student Project Award. He continues to develop new pedagogical methods for seminars and studios that challenge and support students in creating new and powerful urban practices for the 21st century. He has consulted with the Indian Institute of Human Settlements in Bengaluru and the NewSchool of Architecture and Design in San Diego to develop new programs in urbanism.

He has received awards for his teaching from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Michigan, and the University of Southern California.


Aseem Inam Ph.D. is Professor and Chair in Urban Design at the Welsh School of Architecture in Cardiff University in the UK and Director of TRULAB: Laboratory for Designing Urban Transformation, a pioneering research-based practice originally started in New York City. He is an urbanist and activist-scholar-practitioner who is designing urban transformation at the exciting intersection of urban theory and design practice.

For Dr. Inam, urban transformation means three things. First and foremost, it is fundamental change that leads to significant improvement in people's lives. Second, it is a series of radical shifts in urbanism, which consists of city-design-and-building processes and their spatial products. Third, it is revolutionizing the field of urbanism itself to become transformative design practice. This work has been developed in the overlapping and mutually enriching realms of research, theory, practice and teaching.

Dr. Inam developed this unique approach through "research as practice," in which a profound understanding of how cities work actually leads to new modes of urban practice. His work also embodies the idea of "theory as practice," in which theory and practice are tightly intertwined in ways that they learn from each other constantly. His professional work focuses on developing new and more effective modes of urban practice, in which design is critical, interdisciplinary and engaged. In addition to research and practice, he has also dedicated part of his life to teaching in order to generate new knowledge and create generational shifts in critical thinking and urban practice.


  • Urbanism
  • urban practice
  • urban transformation
  • Urban Design
  • Urban Theory
  • Global Urbanisms
  • future of cities

Current supervision

Juan Usubillaga Narvaez

Juan Usubillaga Narvaez

Lecturer in Urban Design / Teaching Associate in Urban Design and Planning

Matt Ma

Matt Ma

Research student