Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Contemporary South Asia

Faiza Moatsim ─ Planning Bureaucracy and its Encroachments: The Making of Islamabad as a Master-planned City

Friday, February 24, 2023

2:00pm - 4:00pm EST

McKinney Conference Room, 111 Thayer Street 

Sangeeta Banerjee, Brown University
Zehra Hashmi, Brown University 

Faiza Moatsim is an Assistant Professor of Architecture in Urbanism and Urban Design at the USC School of Architecture. She specializes in history and theory of architecture and urban design, modern colonial and post-colonial architecture and urbanism, low-income housing and urban informality. Moatasim’s research explores how the agency of individuals and communities in shaping their urban built environments, using their personal resources and political connections, is integral to our understanding of the planning, functioning, and everyday lived experiences of cities around the world. Her research has been supported by the Social Science Research Council, American Institute of Pakistan Studies, Mellon Foundation, International Institute for Asian Studies, Teagle Foundation and Foundation for Urban and Regional Studies.

South Asia Seminar

Faiza Moatasim’s book, Master Plans and Encroachments: The Architecture of Informality in Islamabad (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2023), is the first study that brings together informalities of the privileged and underprivileged in the high-modernist city of Islamabad (Pakistan). Informal spaces in comprehensively planned cities have mostly been conceptualized as contradictions to the ideal 'plan.' But in cities today, informal urban processes are deeply enmeshed with formal planning procedures. Master Plans and Encroachments presents informality as an orientation to law rather than an absence of law. In contrast to how urban informality has usually been studied as a form of deregulation and exception, Master Plans and Encroachments argues that informal constructions are a result of a strategic and partial orientation and conformity to law. It shows that architectural forms and aesthetics are central to how residents and businesspeople build encroachments and how city officials tolerate them in Islamabad, at both elite and ordinary levels. Master Plans and Encroachments thus offers a contemporary history of the modernist city of Islamabad by focusing on the modalities, material forms, and aesthetics of those spaces that are not part of its official master plan but that play an integral role in its everyday functioning and long-term development.   

Faiza Moatasim is currently investigating the processes of forced displacement of sidewalk vendors and working-class tenants from their places of work and residence in Los Angeles.

Faiza Moatasim’s work on urban informality has been featured in Urban Studies, “Entitled Urbanism: Elite informalities and the reimagining of a planned modernist city,” and Antipode, “Informality Materialized: Long-term Temporariness as a Mode of Informal Urbanism.” https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/anti.12434

Faiza Moatasim teaches courses on themes in modern and contemporary urbanism and architecture in cities around the world that explore the relationship between spatial design and human social development, and offer insights into pressing global challenges caused by urbanization such as social inequities, political conflicts, and spatial disparities.