The Urban Clinic: A Town Square

Luisa Venancio

Luisa Venancio is a PhD student in urban and regional studies, as well as a staff member of the Urban Clinic. She studied architecture and planning in her native Brazil, before moving to France to study for a master’s degree, where she remained to work in humanitarian architecture, including planning post-disaster, low-cost, and cooperative housing. 

Luisa came to realize that projects might fail, not because they were poorly planned, but because they were not planned together with the community they served. Thus, in 2016 she moved to Israel to begin Glocal, the Hebrew University’s International Community Development program. Yet unable to stay away from planning, she immediately became involved with the Urban Clinic. For example, through the clinic she presented to Israeli planners the case study of Medellín, a city in Columbia that undertook a radical, innovative project of social urbanism.

Glocal’s highlight is, undoubtably, the 4-month internship; Luisa decided to intern with Islam Idaes, an Urban Clinic colleague who was the planner for three East Jerusalem neighborhoods. In one of these neighborhoods, a girls’ high school was going to be built. Islam suggested that Luisa teach 9th graders architecture and together develop their vision for the new school, which could be presented to municipal decision-makers. The project was a success, and additional fund raising made it possible to hold an exhibition and publish a tri-lingual booklet. For her thesis, Luisa interviewed the girls about their experiences during the project.

"Everyone seemed in favor of this project, it was in the consensus: teaching girls architecture, technology, and urbanism. So many people offered to help, perhaps because I was an outsider [to the conflict] and they saw the potential for the kids."

With the Urban Clinic playing such a significant role in her studies, Luisa knew she couldn’t leave. She has remained on the Urban Clinic’s staff, while beginning her PhD. She currently works on Urban95, a project focused on toddlers’ experiences living in cities. She’s also a teaching assistant for the course, Big Cities for Little Children. Luisa’s doctoral research will be in this vein, examining the effects of the urban environment upon young children.

"The Urban Clinic has become one of my homes in Jerusalem. It is like a town square, where people come together to share advice, come up with creative ideas, and help one another. My time at the Urban Clinic and living in Jerusalem has taught me to listen and get things done in a polarized environment."