CITIES OF SAND

Thanks to Kate Dawson and Kiran Pereira for inviting me to the podcast serie Cities of sand, London school of economics department of geography and environement


Listen to Part One Here

Listen to Part Two Here


Cities of Sand: Unearthing the connections Podcast series



This podcast series engages with researchers, activists and policy-makers, to unearth the dynamic relationships between urbanisation and sand Every week, 3 million people migrate to cities (UN-Habitat 2015). Underpinning these diverse spaces – host to many futures all at once – is one shared material: sand. Sand forms the fabric of roads, buildings, glass and land itself and is extracted at such vast scales, that, with gravels, it constitutes the largest volume of solid material extracted on the planet (UNEP, 2014). In this very real way, our cities – big or small – are to a large degree, built on sand. This podcast series engages with researchers, activists and policy-makers, to unearth the dynamic relationships between urbanisation and sand. Excavating issues of ecological damage and community displacement in the context of the present need and desire for concrete development – with its many health, social and economic benefits – the series gets to the core of the complex relationships embedded in cities of sand. The podcast ends with a call to look beyond sand to more alternative, more inclusive materials – and ultimately just ways of inhabiting our urbanising planet. Podcast host and producer: Kate Dawson


In this two-part episode, I welcome Kiran Pereira of Sand Stories back to the podcast as co-host. Kiran leads the way towards the end of Part 1 and takes the floor in Part 2. In Part 1, I speak with Dr Philip Oldfield and Dr Anna Mavrogiannia to critically consider the way we build our environments and the kinds of models that might enable us to do things differently. We then speak with Alia Bengana who spotlights alternative materials for construction and the challenges of shifting perceptions around natural material use. In Part 2, we welcome Craig White, Shriti Pandey, Jukka Nieminen and Dr Ralf Jung, who deliver fascinating insights into their ground-breaking approaches to construction and recycling – offering inspiring ways forward for building cities beyond sand.


Contributors in order of appearance:

Part One:


Dr Philip Oldfield is Head of School at UNSW Built Environment, Sydney. His research is focussed on the decarbonisation of architecture, with special interests in tall building design, embodied carbon and lifecycle thinking. Philip is a British Science Association Media Fellow, and has spent time working at The Guardian, writing for the Science and Environment teams. He has also written for Architecture Australia, The Architects’ Journal, Dezeen and many other publications.


Dr Anna Mavrogianni trained as an architect engineer specialising in building physics and environmental design at the School of Architecture at the National Technical University of Athens and the Bartlett, UCL and has several years of experience in architectural design and environmental consultancy. She is an expert in indoor environmental quality, building energy retrofit and climate change adaptation of the built environment, focusing on heat vulnerability and air quality at the building and urban scale. She leads interdisciplinary research in building performance used by policymakers to evaluate impacts of energy efficiency, urban growth and climate change on energy use, carbon emissions, health and wellbeing. She has produced over 120 peer-reviewed publications to date and has contributed to policy reports, including the UK Government’s 2017 Climate Change Risk Assessment. She is a Co-Secretary of the International Building Performance Simulation Association-England (IBPSA-England) and an Associate Editor in the Energy and Buildings journal.


Alia Bengana is an architect, she studied at the School of Architecture of Paris-Belleville and at the Sapienza of Rome. She has been granted by the Delano & Aldrich American Institute of Architects scholarship. Since 2009 she opened her professional practice in Paris, and previously worked in Barcelona, New-York and Shanghai. For the past 10 years, she has specialized in the use of regenerative materials, especially focusing on earth and fibers. She has been teaching in Paris since 2015 and at the Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, and Haute école d'ingénierie et d'architecture de Fribourg in Switzerland since 2021. She is a contributor for the Swiss French media Heidi.news and the architectural swiss french magazine Tracès. She has published an investigation on sand and Concrete with Claude Baechtold «Concrete, the end of an era ? » that they are turning into a comic book to be published in fall 2022.