Prof. Dr. Kenny R. Cupers
Kenny R. Cupers
Philosophisch-Historische Fakultät
Departement Gesellschaftswissenschaften
Fachbereich Urban Studies


Petersgraben 52/Spalenvorstadt 2
4051 Basel

Tel. +41 61 207 58 35

Kenny Cupers co-founded and leads the Critical Urbanisms program at the University of Basel. He is committed to the development of the architectural and urban humanities through collaborative pedagogy and engaged research. He has published widely on modern architecture, public housing, and planning history. Grounded in primary research, his scholarship analyzes spaces and landscapes in order to answer questions about power and historical change.

Cupers' current research explores infrastructure as African worldmaking. In this context, he is working in Kenya with Kamĩrĩĩthũ community actors and Dr. Makau Kitata to build a digital archive of decolonization (, and with Lamu Youth Alliance to address social and environmental justice in Africa’s mega-infrastructure boom (

His forthcoming book The Earth that Modernism Built: Empire and the Rise of Planetary Design rewrites the history of architectural modernism for an age of rising global inequality and deepening environmental crisis. With Ernest Sewordor, he is currently co-editing a journal issue on “African Challenges to the Coloniality of Infrastructure.”

Cupers is the author of the multiple-award-winning The Social Project: Housing Postwar France (2014), translated into French as La banlieue, un projet social: Ambitions d’une politique urbaine, 1945-1975 (2018). The book reveals how France’s unprecedented building boom after WWII turned dwelling into an object of modernization, an everyday site of citizen participation, and a domain of social scientific expertise. His co-edited volume Architecture and Neoliberalism from the 1960s to the Present (with Helena Mattsson & Catharina Gabrielsson, 2019) explores the multivalent role of architecture and urbanism in processes of neoliberal transformation. His edited volume Use Matters: An Alternative History of Architecture (Routledge, 2013) examines how architecture depended on changing definitions of use throughout the twentieth century. Spaces of Uncertainty (2002), co-authored with Markus Miessen, focuses on the importance of leftover spaces for public life in Berlin—a theme he has recently revisited in Spaces of Uncertainty: Berlin Revisited (2018). His recent co-edited volume What is Critical Urbanism: Urban Research as Pedagogy (2022) offers a toolkit for working with care and reciprocity across different contexts and institutions in urban studies.

Cupers co-directs (with Orit Halpern and Claudia Mareis) the Sinergia project Governing through Design: An Interdisciplinary Phenomenon. As part of this project, he co-coordinates (with Laura Nkula-Wenz) South Designs: Planetary Futures. He led the SNF-funded project How Infrastructure Shaped Territory in Africa (2018-2022), and together with PI Bilgin Ayata, he co-coordinated the SNIS-funded project, Infrastructure Space and the Future of Migration Management (2018-2021).

Cupers received a B.Sc. and M.Sc in Architecture from the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium), studied photography and cultural theory at Goldsmiths College (London), and received his Ph.D. in architectural and urban history from Harvard University in 2010. He taught in the United States before co-founding the University of Basel’s Urban Studies division in 2015.

  • housing and urban history
  • architectural modernism
  • infrastructure, colonialism, and decolonization
  • design and planetary humanities


  • East Africa
  • Western and Central Europe