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Emily Costain

Emily Costain is an Architect at HOK.


I was once told that ‘culture can be defined by the worst behaviour tolerated.’ From my perspective as an Architect, this resonates because I can see it manifesting within the built environment.

Developments are often realised through a ‘default’ lens as a result of the limited diversity within the Industry. If you consider city planning, infrastructural design and national transportation schemes such as HS2, much of this is focused on mobility in relation to work, excluding the diversity within our population such as primary care givers, those who are unemployed, or on the minimum wage. For example, UK data shows the number of trips made for caring purposes almost equals those made for traditional employment purposes.

What can we do as architects, designers and practitioners to ensure our work fosters inclusion, equity, and social sustainability?


The following (online) events celebrate the widening of the ‘default’ architectural lens by promoting different perspectives and ways of understanding space.

The next Negroni talk titled ‘BAMEWASHING’ poses several questions including: the ways in which ‘diversity’ is being ‘procured’ within the built environment, whether a cultural revolution is on its way, and how this can be achieved within our competitive market.

The nightlife scene are spaces of transgression, that often enable creative expression and fluidity outside of mainstream ideals. The Design Museum celebrates one facet of this, documenting Electronic music: its people, art, design and technology that have been shaping its landscape. Although temporarily closed, the Design Museum is offering the option of engaging with an online virtual tour.

Originally planned to open Wed 17 Mar 2021 and running through to Sun 16 May 2021, Matthew Barney: Redoubt  is also temporarily closed. Keep eyes locked for its opening as this is Barney’s first solo work in the UK in more than a decade, exploring the relationships between the human and natural world.

Join Ubah Cristina Ali Farah, in a writing workshop on the 4th March, to create a portrait representing a woman who has inspired them. This is part of a wider series of workshops led by black womxn and gender-nonconforming artists, writers and thinkers engaging with decolonisation, and diasporic thinking. The event is free but booking is required.

The Siobhan Davies Dance studio offers ‘doing day’ workshops as an opportunity to experience dance and movement whilst engaging with artists and their processes. The latest event invites those who are Black, Asian or Ethnic Minority who have lived experience of racism to share and reflect on experiences of being alone and outside in green spaces.

As part of the LSE Cities Urban Age Debates, the latest is due to be aired in March, themed ‘Urbanising the Home’ and asks if ‘the design of domestic and urban space promote cohesion and healthier lifestyles?’

Join the University of the Arts London, Goldsmith Department of Visual Culture, and Muse de Arte de Sao Paolo throughout March, as they present a series of events under the title ‘Decolonisation in 2020.’ These include live discussion with artists, activists, academics and art workers.

Delve into the realm of soundscapes, and how design and research approaches informed by acoustic methodologies could help stimulate interspecies cohabitation in urban space. Theatrum Mundi and the Institut de recherche interdisciplinaire sur des enjeux sociaux go live on the Gaîté Lyrique‘s new online platform Plein Écran.


Although living with the constraints of the pandemic, I am grateful to all the institutions that continue to provide through provoking cultural events.

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