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Dr Penélope Plaza

School Director of Postgraduate Research Studies (Admissions)

PhD supervision

UG Dissertation Supervision

Module convenorship in BSc Architecture



Building location

L46, London Road campus

Areas of interest

  • The social and cultural dimensions of public space
  • Energy cultures and the built environment with particular interest, but not limited to, oil producing countries (petro-cultures)
  • Entanglements between oil, politics, culture and urban space, with a focus on contemporary creative and spatial practices as forms of critique and resistance

Postgraduate supervision

David Paul Yu: The Social Production of Public Space in Informal Settlements. A Case Study of Sitio Pechayan, Metro Manila

Asma Abdelrahman: The social dimension of Riyadh’s Public Walks as a Sustainability Model for the Middle East



Co-lead of BSc Architecture Year 2

AA2DS3 – Architecture Design: Skills in Architectural Design 1 (UG Year 2)

AA3HTA - History and Theory of Architecture: Critical Writing (UG Year 3)

Contributing to:

AA2DS4 - Architecture Design: Skills in Architectural Design 2 (UG Year 2)

AA3DS5 - Architecture Design: Complexity (UG Year 3)

AA3DS6 – Architecture Design: Integration (UG Year 3)

AA1HTI – History and Theory of Architecture: An Introduction (UG Year 1)

AA2HTC - History and Theory of Architecture: Buildings and Places (UG Year 2)

CE2ADE - Architectural Design 1 (UG Year 2)

AAMRM1 - Research Methods 1 (PGT Year 1)

Research centres and groups

Urban Living Research Group

Reading Latin America & Caribbean (R-LAC) research network (website to be launched soon)

Petrocultures Research Group

After Oil 3

Research projects

Beyond oil from below: creative practice and urban activism as catalysts for the transition towards post-anthropocene cities

Creating a Digital[CCSen365]: exploring ways to deliver a multi-sensorial and inclusive experience of Caracas architectural heritage via mobile phone

Architecture as a Creative Industry: A Latin American Perspective on Craft, Creativity, Energy, and the Profession


Penélope Plaza is a Venezuelan chartered architect, urban artivist, researcher and architectural educator. She researches the entanglements between oil, politics, culture and urban space, with a particular interest in urban activism, creative practices and contemporary Venezuelan petro-politics. Her book Culture as renewable oil: how territory, bureaucratic power and culture coalesce in the Venezuelan petrostate unpacks the links between state power, oil energy, urban space and culture, by looking at the Petro-Socialist Venezuelan oil state to examine how oil is a cultural resource, in addition to a natural resource, implying therefore that struggles over culture implicate oil, and struggles over oil implicate culture. The book was shortlisted for the Royal Geography Society’s Political Geography Research Group Book Award 2019-2020, awarded Special Commendation. Informed by her urban activism in Venezuela, as co-founder of the not-for-profit Collectivox and former member of the playful urban protest collective Ser Urbano, Dr Plaza is currently focused on ground-up cultural forms of critique and creative resistance to the effects of the oil industry on the instrumentalisation of public art and the inequalities of access to public space and culture more broadly. Her multidisciplinary research traverse cultural studies, urban studies, sociology and architecture.

Academic qualifications

PhD in Cultural Policy and Management, City University of London, 2016.

MPhil in Latin American Studies, University of Cambridge, 2005.

MArch in Architecture (with honours), Carrera de Arquitectura, Universidad Simón Bolívar (1997)

Professional bodies/affiliations

Chartered Architect, Colegio de Ingenieros de Venezuela

Chartered Architect, Colegio de Arquitectos de Venezuela

Co-founder of Collectivox

Nominator, Royal Academy Dorfman Award

Fellow, The Higher Education Academy.

Selected publications

Authored books:

  • Plaza Azuaje, P. (2018) Culture as renewable oil: how territory, bureaucratic power and culture coalesce in the Venezuelan petrostate. Routledge Research in Place, Space and Politics. Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, United Kingdom
  • Blackmore, L., Jarman, R. and Plaza, P., eds. (2019) The politics of culture in the Chávez era. Bulletin of Latin American Research Book Series. Wiley-Blackwell in association the Society for Latin American Studies.


Authored book chapters:

  • Blackmore, L., Jarman, R. and Plaza, P. (2019) Introduction: charting cultural currents in Venezuela's pink tide. In: Blackmore, L., Jarman, R. and Plaza, P. (eds.) The Politics of Culture in the Chávez Era. Wiley, pp. 6-18.
  • Plaza, P. (2019) Untangling the myth of 'culture as renewable oil': a Barthesian exploration of PDVSA La Estancia's visual campaign Transformamos el petróleo en un recurso renovable para ti. In: Graves, H. and Beard, D. E. (eds.) The Rhetoric of Oil in the Twenty-First Century: Government, Corporate and Activist Discourses. Routledge.


Articles in peer-reviewed journals:

  • Plaza, P. (2011) De Bentham a Le Corbusier: Vigilancia y disciplina en la vivienda social moderna latinoamericana. El Complejo habitacional Pedregulho, Río de Janeiro, Brasil (1947-1958). Atenea. Revista de Ciencia, Arte y Literatura (504). pp. 111-130
  • Plaza, P. (2010) Madre armada y niño. Representación de la Mujer Nueva en los murales de la Revolución Sandinista en Nicaragua. Apuntes. Revista de estudios sobre patrimonio cultural, 23 (1).


Conference proceedings:

  • Plaza, P. (2008) La construcción de una nación bajo El Nuevo Ideal Nacional. Obras públicas, representación e ideología durante la dictadura de Pérez Jiménez 1952-1958. Semana Internacional de Investigación Facultad de Arquitectura y Urbanismo. Ponencias in Extenso (LIbro y CD). Caracas: FAU-UCV, pp. [HP-12] 1- [HP-12] 24.

Career path

Penelope is a Venezuelan architect, urban artivist and researcher. She qualified as an Architect in 1997 at Universidad Simón Bolívar in Caracas, Venezuela. Her degree project, a shelter for street children in La Pastora, was awarded an honourable mention. Following an internship at the Museo de Bellas Artes of Caracas, she joined the practice Larrañaga/Obadía Arquitectos in 1998, where she worked on residential projects and competitions. She left the firm in 2000 to work as an independent architect and arts manager, developing a successful career in exhibition design, arts management and communications for cultural institutions and not-for-profit organisations in Caracas.


In 2004 Penelope was awarded the Shell Centenary Scholarship to study an MPhil in Latin American Studies at the University of Cambridge; her dissertation analysed emblematic modern architecture built during the dictatorial regime of Marcos Pérez Jiménez in the 1950s. She returned to Venezuela in 2005 to work for the British Council as Arts Coordinator where she delivered an exciting programme of workshops and exhibitions on design, architecture, visual arts, performing arts and music.


Penelope left in 2008 to join the Department of Architecture at Universidad Simón Bolívar as Lecturer on Theory and History of Architecture and on Visual Arts and Graphic Expression. That same year she co-founded Collectivox, a not-for-profit organisation focused on developing collaborative projects of small scale urban interventions with communities and young urban artists. She also became an active member of the urban artivist collective Ser Urbano.


She moved to London in 2012 to pursue a PhD in Cultural Policy and Management, for which Ishewas awarded the City University of London Doctoral Studentship, achieving her doctoral degree in 2016. She continued to manage Collectivox remotely as Head of Strategy, Partnerships and Communications. In 2014 Collectivox became the local partner of the British Council to develop the two-year project Busca Tu Espacio funded by the European Union commission in Venezuela.


In terms of her research, through her profession in the arts and urban activism Penelope developed an interest on the intersections between politics, culture, architecture and urban space. This also informs her approach to pedagogy, intersecting practice and theory, having taught at the Institute for Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship at Goldsmiths, Canterbury School of Architecture, Centre for Culture and the Creative Industries at City University of London, Faculty of Philosophy at Universidad de Concepción in Chile, and the School of Architecture at Universidad Simón Bolívar in Venezuela.


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