Portrait of Valentina Manente

Valentina Manente

PhD student


I chose to study architecture because I wanted to be able to create something tangible and useful, yet meaningful and informed, still, throughout my years of study and work, I came to realise that these intentions alone were not enough; the first time I approached a socially driven project in my career was for my bachelor thesis at the Faculty of Architecture in the University of Parma, when I designed a multi-functional pod that was meant to accommodate people in need by being cheap, easily buildable and transportable. 

From then on, I always pursued programmes, initiatives and jobs that were socially involved. While attending the international Architecture masters course at Politecnico di Milano, I decided to develop my Masters thesis proposal on community upgrading through public spaces in the South African slum of Khayelitsha in Cape Town, where I worked with Shack Dwellers International for five months. 

After graduating and gaining the postgraduate degree, “Coopera(c)tion | knowledge and skills for sustainable cities in the global south”, at Politecnico di Milano, I decided to go back to South Africa to extend my knowledge on informality by working at the Johannesburg based firm Urban Works. Moreover, I was given the opportunity to tutor at the Graduate School of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg for two years, where I came in touch with the topics of Rogue informal economies and Radical Landscapes. These experiences altogether gave me great insight into the inequalities of African cities, posing a challenging question about the role of slums in the future of the Global South and the importance of urban inclusion.  

Research interests

  • Urbanism in the Global South 
  • Informal settlements
  • Place-making
  • Research on public spaces
  • Community upgrading
  • Participatory design
  • Sustainable cities
  • Urban Agriculture
  • Continuous productive urban landscapes
  • Food-Energy-Water Nexus
  • GIS mapping
  • Informal settlement mapping    

PhD Title

GCDC: The Urban Agriculture Nexus: an investigation on urban food growing in the barrios of Bogotà


Dr Silvio Caputo and Professor Jaime Hernandez-Garcia (Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogota)

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