Kenny Cupers

Professor of Architectural History and Urban Studies / Head of Urban Studies

Publications  (selection)

Projects  (selection)


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

Cupers is currently working on two book projects. The Earth that Modernism Built is a historical study of German imperialism in southern Africa and central Europe that traces how land and life were turned into objects of design. The second project explores infrastructure as African worldmaking. In this context, Cupers is currently working in Kenya with Kamirithu community actors and Dr. Makau Kitata to build a digital archive of decolonization, and with Save Lamu to address social and environmental justice in Africa’s mega-infrastructure boom.

Cupers is the author of the 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). Most recently, he has co-edited What is Critical Urbanism: Urban Research as Pedagogy (2022), and is currently co-editing (with Ernest Sewordor) a journal issue of on “How Urban Africa Challenges the Coloniality of Infrastructure.”

Cupers leads the SNF-funded project, How Infrastructure Shaped Territory in Africa, and 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. 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.