Miguel Robles-Durán (born July 25, 1975, Mexico City, Mexico) is an urbanist, Associate Professor of Urbanism (tenured) at The New School / Parsons The New School for Design in New York City, amateur ornithologist, and co-founder of the non-profit Cohabitation Strategies, a cooperative for socio-spatial research, design and development based in Rotterdam, The Netherlands and New York City, USA.
Born in Mexico City, Mexico. At the age of nine, Robles-Durán moved to the border region between Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego, California, in the midst of the rapid urban transformation stimulated by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In 1993 he left for Monterrey, Mexico, to study architecture at the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (ITESM), and in 1996 complemented his undergraduate education at Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), in Los Angeles, California, under the guidance of the architect Teddy Cruz. He returned to Monterrey to finish his degree and received his Bachelors in Science in Architecture in 1998. In 1999 Robles-Durán returned to Tijuana and along with his partner, Gabriela Rendon, opened an architecture studio named Rhizoma. Among the many projects that Rhizoma built was the award-winning “Galeria Jardin” (2000), which received The Honor Award of The American Institute of Architects, San Diego Chapter in 2001 and the “Serial House #1” (2004), which was selected by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego to be part of Strange New World (2006), a traveling exhibition retrospective of art and design from Tijuana.
Robles-Durán began his academic career in Tijuana, teaching architecture and urban design at the Universidad Iberoamericana del Noroeste from 2000 to 2003. At the age of 28, Robles-Durán closed his architecture practice to focus on the larger aspects of urbanization. In 2004 he left Baja California to study in the Netherlands, where he received an advanced master's degree in Architecture and Urbanism from Rotterdam's Berlage Institute.
While living in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, Robles-Durán developed the concept of Unitary Urban Theory and studied the political economy of urbanization from a strong driven Marxist perspective, designing his own curriculum in collaboration with the Berlage Institute and the Delft School of Design at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft). Robles-Durán continued his academic career in Europe in 2005 as Adjunct Professor of Urban Design at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in the Human Settlements Post-Graduate Masters Program and as Gast Docent at Delft University of Technology in the Post-Graduate and Architecture Theory Department. After that he held positions as Adjunct Professor at the Delft University of Technology Architecture / City Interiors department in 2006, Unit Professor and Director of the “Social In-Habitat” Graduate Unit in Urbanism at Berlage Institute in 2006, Assistant Professor and Unit head of “Urban Asymmetries” at Delft University of Technology in 2007 and Associate Professor and Co-Director with the French-Swiss graphic designer Ruedi Baur of “Civic City” Postgraduate Program at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHDK) in 2009.
In 2010 Robles-Durán left Europe and moved to New York City, where he was appointed by Parsons The New School for Design, a division of The New School, as Assistant Professor of Urbanism. There, he developed and directed the Masters in Science program in Design and Urban Ecologies. Robles-Duran held the position of director of the program until the beginning of 2014, and today continues his academic career as a tenured Associate Professor of Urbanism at this institution.
In September 2008, while living in Rotterdam, Robles-Durán, together with his work partners Lucia Babina, Emiliano Gandolfi, and Gabriela Rendón, founded Stichting Cohabitation Strategies (CohStra), an international nonprofit cooperative for socio-spatial research, design, and development currently based in Rotterdam and New York City. The organization advocates for social justice in the city and has developed and designed various transdisciplinary urban projects in Austria, Canada, Ecuador, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, The Netherlands, Turkey, United States, and Venezuela; always aiming to catalyze grassroots-led transformations in the realms of housing, urban policy, urban economy, environmental justice, architecture, and the arts. The work of Cohabitation Strategies has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, the Venice Biennale of Architecture, the Vienna Bienniale, the Istanbul Design Biennial, and Cittadellarte Fondazione Pistoletto, among other venues.
Among his direct engagements in the field, he co-directs with the Marxist Geographer David Harvey the National Strategy Center for the Right to the Territory (CENEDET) in the Republic of Ecuador, and he is on the advisory board of Center for Place, Culture and Politics at the City University of New York and the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI) Right to Housing Program and is research adviser of the Right to the City Alliance.
Robles-Durán's main research is centered on the strategic definition and coordination of transdisciplinary urban projects, as well as on the development of tactical design strategies and civic engagement platforms that confront the contradictions of neoliberal urbanization, such as homelessness, housing crises, gentrification, the effects of financialization on the real-estate industry, inter-urban competition, and urban social movements. In 2007, Robles-Duran’s research work on Social Inhabitation earned him the Designing Politics —The Politics of Design award, given by the HFG Ulm at Ulm School of Design, Germany. Among his writing projects is the book “Urban Asymmetries: Studies and Projects on Neoliberal Urbanization” (2011), written and co-edited with Tahl Kaminer and Heidi Sohn, which reviews the dire consequences that neoliberal urban policies have had upon the city and which discusses possible alternatives to market-driven development.
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