Social Transformation Through the Built-Environment: Meet Urban Design Activist & Architect Alfredo Brillembourg

Meet our expert panel & Keynote speakers

African Culture & Design Festival
9-12 November 2017
Lagos, Nigeria

Explore cutting-edge topics, creativity and thinking that positions design as a driver of economic, social and cultural development

The 2017 IFI CONGRESS and African Culture & Design Festival will bring together an international group of creative leaders and experts to explore the power and potential of design for human support within the built environment in developing societies and cultures around the world. IFI is spotlighting each 2017 IFI CONGRESS keynote speaker in a communications series dedicated to exploring the background and viewpoint of our experts and highlighting some of the work contributing to their regional and global impact.

Reserve Your Free Tickets

Five experts in Design, Architecture and Art
Groundbreaking Creativity
Transforming Social and Economic Realities

Co-Founder, Urban-Think Tank (U-TT) & Co-Chair, Architecture & Urban Design, ETH Zurich

“The real problem in cities today is that the bottom-up does not meet the top-down. You have to bridge policy and real facts…on the ground you have to bridge technology and local-know-how.”– Alfredo Brillembourg, Empower Shack the Film

Alfredo Brillembourg was born in New York. He received his Bachelor of Art and Architecture in 1984 and his Master of Science in Architectural Design in 1986 from Columbia University. In 1992, he received a second architecture degree from the Central University of Venezuela and began his independent practice in architecture. In 1998, he founded the interdisciplinary design practice Urban-Think Tank (U-TT) with Hubert Klumpner in Caracas, Venezuela. Since 1994 he has been a member of the Venezuelan Architects and Engineers Association, and has been a guest professor at the University Jose Maria Vargas, the University Simon Bolivar, and the Central University of Venezuela. Starting in 2007, Brillembourg and Klumpner served as guest professorsat the Graduate School of Architecture, Preservation, and Planning, Columbia University, where they co-founded the Sustainable Living Urban Model Laboratory (S.L.U.M. Lab). Since 2010, Brillembourg and Klumpner have held a Chair of Architecture and Urban Design at the Swiss Institute of Technology (Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule, ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland.

As co-principle of U-TT, Brillembourg has received the 2010 Ralph Erskine Award, the 2011 Holcim Gold Award for Latin America, the 2012 Holcim Global Silver Award for innovative contributions to ecological and social design practices, and was part of the Golden Lion-winning team at the 2012 Venice Biennial of Architecture.

Select Projects

Harnessing an interdisciplinary approach to architecture that fuses social research with artistic activism, Alfredo Brillembourg works collaboratively to use adaptable designs that revitalize marginalized communities and build relationships in urban contexts.

By identifying solutions that connect informal communities with urban centers, Brillembourg introduces the need to integrate public policy with design practice and usher forth a new era in which the designer is also a conscious shaper of civic life. With extensive experience working in South America and South Africa, Brillembourg is an expert in using the built-environment to foster social transformation in developing regions around the world.

“If we work with government in a way that not only broadens imaginations about what is possible and what should be done, but also provides them with potential answers to problems, then everyone can win.”– Alfredo Brillembourg in an Interview with Future Cape Town

The People’s Museum (2016)

Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina – Situated one hundred meters from the frontline of the four-year siege of Sarajevo, the Historical Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina sports traces of shelling and grenade blasts as well as problems with infrastructure. U-TT worked with Baier Bischofberger Architects to design a series of low-cost temporary interventions, including a transparent vinyl skin that would serve as a flexible infrastructure, protect the museum from weather and provide heating.

URBAN-THINK TANK (U-TT) is an interdisciplinary design practice dedicated to high-level research and design on a variety of subjects concerned with contemporary architecture and urbanism. The organization’s philosophy is to deliver innovative yet practical solutions through the combined skills of architects, civil engineers, environmental planners, landscape architects, and communication specialists. U-TT combines architectural and cultural projects with teaching, exhibitions, publications and films to develop and communicate strategies for improving cities around the world. The organization operates with offices in Caracas, São Paulo, New York, and Zürich.

Centro Civico (2013-2016)

Mar del Plata, Argentina –  Commissioned by the Inter-American Development Bank, U-TT intentionally designed this city hall and civic center in one of the city’s poorest areas to bring public facilities into an under-served community. By providing incentives for a diverse population to use the programs and amenities offered at the Centro Civico, U-TT aimed to catalyze a more egalitarian future for Mar del Plata.

“We need to search for new values with which to measure the potential of every city, and maybe these values have a social dimension…People are the subject and object of Architecture.”– Alfredo Brillembourg on Reactivate Athens:101 Ideas

Metro Cable (2010)

San Agustín, Caracas, Venezuela –  Located on a hilltop on the outskirts of the city of Caracas, inhabitants of the informal settlement in the neighborhood of San Agustín were cut-off from the services and benefits of the larger urban area before U-TT installed a cable car system linking the two. Developed as a result of site surveys, community workshops, and consultations with international experts, U-TT’s Metro Cable plan offered a minimally invasive alternative to the government’s initial plan to install roads that would uproot thousands of homes.

U-TT’s design includes five station stops between the neighborhood and the city that also function as “plug-in” buildings–flexible structures attached to each station that provide housing, as well as cultural, community, and recreational programs. Today, the Cable transports up to 1,200 people per hour and has created powerful opportunities for residents by combating the social divide that separates informal settlement and city.

For all  2017 IFI CONGRESS, African Culture & Design Festival and General Assembly (GA) logistics, please go to the IFI Website or email

IFI / CONGRESS & ACDF Sponsors and Supporters:

International Federation of Interior Architects/Designers (IFI)
708 3rd Avenue, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10017