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Dr Penelope Plaza

Portrait of lecturer of architecture Dr Penelope Plaza
  • Co-leads the development and delivery of BSc Architecture stage 1 design studio
  • Module convenor of Year 1 Design Studio, Spring/Summer
  • Module convenor of Year 3 History and Theory of Architecture: Critical Writing (Dissertation)
  • Contributes to the research agenda of the School of Architecture, as part of the Urban Living Research Group (School of the Built Environment)
  • PhD supervision
  • Department Director of Academic Tutoring for Architecture.

Areas of interest

  • Urban artivism, the right to the city and the right to play
  • Entanglements between culture, public space, and politics
  • Petrocultures.

Academic qualifications

  • PhD in Cultural Policy and Management, Department of Sociology, City University of London (2016)
  • MPhil in Latin American Studies (Intellectual History, Film and Visual Arts), University of Cambridge (2005)
  • Architecture qualification (with honors), Carrera de Arquitectura, Universidad Simón Bolívar (1997)
  • Chartered Architect in Venezuela
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Professional bodies/affiliations

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.