UCL Department of Geography
Professor Matthew Gandy
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Professor Matthew Gandy


web-182.jpgDepartment of Geography,

26 Bedford Way,
+44 (0)20 7679 5517
+44 (0)20 7679 7565
e-mail: m.gandy@ucl.ac.uk

UCL Urban Laboratory

Office hours for 2013-14 are appointment by email.




Matthew Gandy was born in Islington, North London. In 1988 he was awarded a BA in Geography from the University of Cambridge (first, with distinction) and in 1992 he completed his PhD at the London School of Economics. From 1992 to 1997 he was a lecturer in the School of European Studies at the University of Sussex.  He joined the Department of Geography at UCL in 1997 and became full professor in 2007. He has been a visiting scholar at Columbia University, New York;  the University of California, Los Angeles; Newcastle University; the Technical University, Berlin; the Humboldt University, Berlin; and the University of the Arts, Berlin.

His book Concrete and clay: reworking nature in New York City (MIT Press, 2002) was winner of the 2003 Spiro Kostof award for the book within the previous two years “that has made the greatest contribution to our understanding of urbanism and its relationship with architecture.”  Recent publications include a co-edited collection entitled The acoustic city (jovis, 2014), which includes original sound recordings, and The fabric of space: water, modernity, and the urban imagination (The MIT Press, 2014), which has been awarded the 2014 AAG Meridian Award for Outstanding Scholarly Work in Geography.  Works in preparation include Moth (for the Reaktion animal series) and a research monograph on bio-diversity and urban nature.  Until the summer of 2015 he will be a Senior Research Fellow of the Gerda Henkel Foundation at the University of the Arts, Berlin.

He was Director of the UCL Urban Laboratory (2005-11) and a co-founder of the Urban Salon.  He is a member of the Peer Review Colleges for the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council.  Matthew is also actively involved in local issues in Hackney, east London, and is a member of Hackney Biodiversity Partnership and Hackney Environment Network.  Since 2013 he has been co-editor of The International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. You can find more details about his current projects and read his blog Cosmopolis at http://www.matthewgandy.org


Concrete and clay: reworking nature in New York City Concrete and clay: reworking nature in New York City.
Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2002.
Link to MIT Press
The return of the White Plague: global poverty and the 'new' tuberculosis The return of the White Plague: global poverty and the 'new' tuberculosis.
London and New York: Verso, 2003.
Hydropolis: Wasser und die Stadt der Moderne. Frankfurt: Campus, 2006. Hydropolis: Wasser und die Stadt der Modene. Frankfurt: Campus, 2006

Urban constellations. Berlin: jovis, 2011



The acoustic city.  Berlin: jovis, 2014



The fabric of space: water, modernity, and the urban imagination

The fabric of space: water, modernity, and the urban imagination.

Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2014



Écologie queer: nature, sexualité, et hétérotopie

Paris: Editions Etérotopia, 2015


Selected Essays
  • Gandy, M. 'Unintentional landscapes' Journal of Landscape Research (in press).
  • Gandy, M. 'The glare of modernity' LA+: Interdisciplinary Journal of Landscape Architecture (in press).
  • Gandy, M. 'From urban ecology to ecological urbanism: an uncertain trajectory' Area 147 (2) (2015) pp. 150-155.
  • Gandy, M. ‘Strange accumulations: the soundscapes of late modernity in J. G. Ballard’s The Sound-Sweep,’ in Gandy, M. and Nilsen, B.J. (eds.) The acoustic city (Berlin: jovis, 2014) pp. 33-39.
  • Gandy, M. ‘Acoustic terrains: an introduction,’ in Gandy, M. and Nilsen, B.J. (eds.) The acoustic city (Berlin: jovis, 2014) pp. 7-13.
  • Gandy, M. ‘Marginalia: aesthetics, ecology, and urban wastelands’ Annals of the Association of American Geographers 103 (6) (2013) pp. 1301-1316. [ PDF download ]
  • Gandy, M. ‘Entropy by design: Gilles Clément, Parc Henri Matisse and the limits to avant-garde urbanism’ International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 37 (1) (2013) pp. 259-278. [ PDF download ]
  • Gandy, M. ‘Queer ecology: nature, sexuality and urban heterotopic alliances’ Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 30 (2012) pp. 727-747. [ PDF download ]
  • Gandy, M. ‘Where does the city end?’ Architectural Design 82 (1) (2012) pp. 128-32 [ PDF download ]
  • Gandy, M. ‘The melancholy observer: landscape, neo-romanticism and the politics of documentary film making,’ in Brad Praeger (ed.) Companion to Werner Herzog (Oxford and Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2012) pp. 528-546.
  • Gandy, M. ‘Interstitial landscapes: reflections on a Berlin corner’ in Gandy, M. (ed.) Urban constellations (Berlin: jovis, 2011) pp. 149-152. [ PDF download ]
  • Gandy, M. 'The texture of space: desire and displacement in Hiroshi Teshigahara's Woman of the dunes [Suna no onna],' in Douglas Richardson, Stephen Daniels, Dydia de Lyser and Nick Entrikin (eds.) Geography and the humanities (London and New York: Routledge, 2010) pp. 198-208.
  • Gandy, M. 'Landscape and infrastructure in the late-modern metropolis,' in Watson, S. and Bridge, G. (eds.) The new Blackwell companion to the city (Oxford and Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2010) pp. 57-65.
  • Gandy, M. ‘Mannahatta and the limits to natural history’ Cartographica 45 (4) (2010), pp. 253-55.
  • Gandy, M. ‘Vicissitudes of urban nature: transitions and transformations at a global scale’ Radical History Review 107 (2010), pp. 178-84.
  • Gandy, M. 'Of time and the city'.  Essay to accompany the British Film Institute's release of Terence Davies's 2008 film Of time and the city (London: BFI, 2010).
  • Gandy, M. ‘The ecological façades of Patrick Blanc’ Architectural Design 80 (3) (May/June 2010) pp. 28-33.
  • Gandy, M. ‘The persistence of complexity: re-reading Donna Haraway’s Cyborg manifesto’ AA Files 60 (2010) pp. 42-44.
  • Gandy, M. ‘Urban flux’ Architectural Design 79 (4) (September/October 2009) pp. 12-17.
  • Gandy, M. "Starting points: Gilles Clement and the recuperation of space', New Geographies 1 (2009), 110-19.
  • Gandy, M. "Above the treetops: nature, history and the limits to philosophical naturalism" Geoforum 39 (2) (2008), 561-69.
  • Gandy, M. "Landscapes of disaster: water, modernity and urban fragmentation in Mumbai" Environment and Planning A, 40 (2008), 108-40.
  • Gandy, M. "The bacteriological city and its discontents" Historical Geography, 34 (2006), 14-25.
  • Gandy, M. "Riparian anomie: reflections on the Los Angeles River" Landscape Research, 31 (2) (2006), 135-45.
  • Gandy, M. “Zones of indistinction: some thoughts on the bio-politics of urban space” Cultural Geographies, 13 (4) (2006), 1-20.
  • Gandy, M. “The cinematic void: the representation of desert space in Michelangelo Antonioni's Zabriskie Point ” in Martin Lefebvre, (ed.), Landscape and film (London: Routledge, 2006), pp. 315-32.
  • Gandy, M. "The drowned world: J. G. Ballard and the politics of catastrophe" Space and Culture 9 (1) (2006), pp. 86-88.
  • Gandy, M. "Planning, anti-planning and the infrastructure crisis facing metropolitan Lagos" Urban Studies 43 (2) (2006), pp. 371-96 [ PDF download ]
  • Gandy, M. "Urban nature and the ecological imaginary" in Erik Swyngedouw, Nik Heynan and Maria Kaïka (eds.), In the nature of cities: urban political ecology and the politics of urban metabolism (London: Routledge, 2006) pp. 63-74.
  • Gandy, M. “Learning from Lagos” New Left Review 33 (2005) 36-52.
    [ PDF download ]
  • Gandy, M. “Cyborg urbanization: complexity and monstrosity in the contemporary city” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 29 (1) (2005) 26-49.
    [ PDF download ]
  • Gandy, M. “Deadly alliances: death, disease and the global politics of public health” PLoS Medicine 2 (1) (2005) e4. [ PDF download ]
  • Gandy, M. “Rethinking urban metabolism: water, space and the modern city” City 8 (3) (2004), 371-87.
    [ PDF download ]
  • Gandy, M. 2004 “Water, modernity and the emancipatory city” in Loretta Lees, ed., Emancipatory urbanism (London: Sage, 2004) pp. 179-91.
  • Gandy, M. “The making of metropolitan nature: a response to Heiman, Lake and Mitchell” Antipode 35 (5) (2003), 1022-28.
  • Gandy, M. “Landscapes of deliquescence in Michelangelo Antonioni's Red DesertTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers 28 (2) (2003), pp. 218-238.
    [ PDF download ]
  • Gandy, M. “Allergy and allegory in Todd Haynes's <Safe>: an exploration of the ecological risks of late modernity” in Mark Shiel and Tony FitzMaurice (eds.) Screening the city (London and New York: Verso, 2003), pp. 239-261.
  • Gandy, M. “Between Borinquen and the barrio : radical political activism in the New York City Puerto Rican Community 1969-1972” Antipode 34 (4) (2002), pp. 730-761.
  • Gandy, M. and Zumla, A. “The resurgence of disease: social and historical perspectives on the 'new' tuberculosis” Social Science and Medicine 55 (5) (2002), pp. 385-396.
  • Gandy, M. “Recycling the past: the dilemmas of ecological urbanism” in Mark Hewitt and Susannah Hagen (eds.) City fights: debates on urban sustainability (London: James and James, 2002) pp. 57-68.
  • Gandy, M. “The Paris sewers and the rationalization of urban space” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 24 (1) (1999), pp. 23-44.
  • Gandy, M. “Rethinking the ecological leviathan: environmental regulation in an age of risk” Global Environmental Change 9 (1) (1999), pp. 59-69.
  • Gandy, M. “Contradictory modernities: conceptions of nature in the art of Joseph Beuys and Gerhard Richter” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 87 (4) (1997), pp. 636-659.
    [ PDF download ]
  • Gandy, M. “The making of a regulatory crisis: the restructuring of New York City's water supply” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 22 (3) (1997), pp. 338-358.
  • Gandy, M. “Ecology, modernity and the intellectual legacy of the Frankfurt School” Philosophy and Geography 1: Space, Place and Environmental Ethics 1 (1997), pp. 231-255.
  • Gandy, M. “The heretical landscape of the body: Pier Paolo Pasolini and the scopic regime of European cinema” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 14 (3) (1996), pp. 293-310.
  • Gandy, M. “Crumbling land: the postmodernity debate and the analysis of environmental problems” Progress in Human Geography 20 (1) (1996), pp. 23-40.
  • Gandy, M. “Visions of darkness: the representation of nature in the films of Werner Herzog” Ecumene 3 (1) (1996), pp. 1-21.



I am a cultural, urban, and environmental geographer with particular interests in landscape, infrastructure, and more recently bio-diversity.  My research ranges from aspects of environmental history, including epidemiology, to contemporary intersections between nature and culture including the visual arts.

My current work is focused on the following areas:

i) Redefining urban nature

Urban nature encompasses a disparate body of work and ideas ranging from scientific analysis of ecological assemblages to the cultural valorization of “cosmopolitan natures”.  I am interested in exploring changing meanings of urban nature through interdisciplinary and historical analysis of emerging cultures of nature under modernity.

See Gandy, M. ‘Borrowed light: journeys through Weimar Berlin,’ in The fabric of space: water, modernity, and the urban imagination (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2014) pp. 55–79

ii) Post-humanism and new conceptions of agency

By linking urban ecology with post-humanist insights there are clear points of interconnection with network-oriented ontologies of human subjectivity and extended conceptions of agency.  I am building on my previous work on cyborg urbanization to examine corporeal dimensions to urban space including geographies of sound, light, and sexuality.

See Gandy, M. ‘Queer ecology: nature, sexuality and urban heterotopic alliances’ Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 30 (2012) pp. 727-747

iii)       Epidemiology, insect vectors and the political ecology of water

There is significant scope for a critically reworked political ecology, in combination with new insights into the independent agency of nature, to explore evolving relationships between human health and the urban environment.  Although existing studies within environmental history and other fields have emphasized the role of infrastructure networks and other measures against the threat of water-borne disease these insights can be extended to other socio-ecological dimensions of urban space.

See Gandy, M. ‘Mosquitoes, malaria, and post-colonial Lagos’ in The fabric of space: water, modernity, and the urban imagination (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2014) pp. 81–108

iv) Wastelands and urban bio-diversity

I have long been fascinated by “wastelands” since my early forays into London’s so-called “bomb sites”.  A focus on spontaneous forms of urban nature transcends the merely speculative or utilitarian potentialities of ostensibly empty spaces.  Within urban ecology significant attention has been devoted to wastelands as “ecological refugia” or  “islands” of bio-diversity.  These spontaneous ecologies serve as “accidental laboratories” for cultural and scientific curiosity.

See Gandy, M. ‘Marginalia: aesthetics, ecology, and urban wastelands’ Annals of the Association of American Geographers 103 (6) (2013) pp. 1301-1316.

v) Aesthetics, landscape and “non-design

Ecological rhetoric is often widely deployed as a pretext for the elimination of pre-existing spaces of nature that already have high levels of cultural and scientific interest.  But what kind of landscape aesthetics is invoked by the protection of spontaneous spaces of urban nature? How can cultural or scientific complexity become part of a vibrant public culture?  My recent research on Gilles Clément, for example, suggests that a different kind of synthesis between ecological science and urban design might be possible.

See Gandy, M. ‘Entropy by design: Gilles Clément, Parc Henri Matisse and the limits to avant-garde urbanism’ International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 37 (1) (2013) pp. 259-278.

vi) Marginal spaces and cultural practice

The ambiguity of urban nature and the limits to scientific knowledge have been a focus for a variety of cultural interventions since the early 1970s.  In these instances close observation, or the “botanical eye”, becomes a specific form of cultural-scientific practice that can reveal new insights into the production of space and the often arbitrary assignment of cultural and economic value.  The multiplicity of cultural responses to urban nature—ranging from literature to cinema—is partly related to the diversity of such sites and their varied origins: whilst some spaces have developed spontaneously within ostensibly “empty” sites, others have emerged from neglect or abandonment.

See Gandy, M. “Landscapes of deliquescence in Michelangelo Antonioni's Red DesertTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers 28 (2) (2003), pp. 218-238.

Forthcoming publications include the book Moth (for the Reaktion animals series) and a research monograph on urban nature (funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation).  I am also completing an ERC funded documentary film on the recent history of nature in Berlin to be released in 2016.


Policy advice and consultancy activities

I have carried out consultancy and policy advice for local government and the UN Development Programme. My background paper for the UN was used for their Human Development Report 2006 Beyond scarcity: power, poverty and the global water crisis.

Links beyond the academy

In London my AHRC and ESRC funded seminars have involved links with CABE (Commission on Architecture and the Built Environment), the Royal Academy, and the trade union organization PSI (Public Services International).

Hackney_Biodiversity-Action_Plan2.jpgMy work on urban biodiversity in east London has involved my participation with the Hackney Biodiversity Partnership involving public outreach work, scientific monitoring, and assistance with the preparation of Hackney’s Biodiversity Action Plan published in 2012. Since 2010 I have been developing the biodiversity website lepidopteragallery.org devoted to European Lepidoptera (designed in collaboration with Corinna Reetz).

In Mumbai my research on urban infrastructure has involved collaboration with NGOs such as PUKAR (Partners for Urban Knowledge and Research), CRIT (Collective Research Initiatives Trust) and VAK (Vikas Adhyayan Kendra). I have also just joined the advisory board of UERO (Urban and Environmental Research Organization).

In New York City my work on cyborg urbanization was used as the basis for an urban design project at Columbia University in 2006 entitled ‘The water studio’ with the participation of Professor Kate Orff who is also founder of the innovative New York based design studio SCAPE.

Film making

Gandy_Liquid-city2.jpgI have directed the documentary film Liquid city (2007) (30 mins; English, Hindi and Marathi with English subtitles) about water and urban infrastructure in Mumbai. The film was developed in collaboration with PUKAR, funded by the AHRC, and has been shown at various events in Boston, Budapest, London, Manchester, Minneapolis, and Mumbai. It was also featured in the London Documentary Film Festival held at the Barbican (December 2008). I am currently working on a new documentary film about the wastelands of Berlin.


Undergraduate teaching

  • GEOG 1006 Ideas in geography
  • GEOG 3041 Landscape and power
  • GEOG 3036 Berlin

Postgraduate teaching

  • GEOG G001  Geography and social theory
  • URBN  G002  Urban imaginations
  • GEOG G025  Cyborg Urbanisation
  • GEOG G039  Landscape and power

PhD Students

i)  Successfully defended theses:

  • Marielle Snel, Waste, recycling and sanitation in Hyderabad, (ft 1994-1997) (second supervisor) (self funded)
  • Andrew Harris, Branding urban space: contemporary art districts in London and Mumbai, (ft 2001-5) (first supervisor) (ESRC)
  • Ana Francisca de Alvezedo, Landscape and ideology in Portuguese cinema, (pt 2001-6) (in collaboration with the University of Minho, second supervisor) (self funded)
  • David Gissen, Atmospheres of late modernity: the urban production of indoor air in New York City, 1963-2003 (pt 2004-8) (first supervisor) (self funded)
  • Clare Herrick, Governing the 'obesity epidemic': putting preventative public health to work in London and Austin, (ft 2004-8) (first supervisor) (ESRC)
  • Joseph Hillier, Hydropolis: water, engineering and power in London, (ft 2005-9) (in collaboration with the UCL Department of Civil Engineering, second supervisor) (EPSRC)
  • Valérie Viehoff, Engineering modernity: the provision of water for Tangier, (pt 2003-9) (first supervisor) (DAAD)
  • Ben Campkin, Dirt, blight and regeneration: a study of urban change in London (pt 2004-9) (first supervisor) (self funded)
  • Melanie Brickman, The resurgence of tuberculosis in London and New York (pt 2004-9) (first supervisor) (self funded)
  • Leandro Minuchin, Modernity, planning and social control in Buenos Aires (ft 2005-) (first supervisor) (Dorothy Hodgkins Award)
  • Rebecca Ross, Aerial views, professional practice and popular culture 1850-1930 (pt 2008-)  (in collaboration with the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, member of supervision committee)
  • Karolina Kendall-Bush, Moving city: the ambulatory urban experience in film, memory and walking tours (ft 2009-) (second supervisor) (UCL scholarship)
  • Craig Hatcher, Law, space, and the city:  a legal geography of urban change in post-socialist Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (ft 2010-) (in collaboration with the University of Zürich)
  • Sandra Jasper, Cyborg imaginations: nature, technology, and urban space in West Berlin (ft 2008-) (first supervisor) (UCL scholarship)


ii)  Theses in preparation:

  • Louis Moreno, The architecture of financial crisis (ft 2009-) (first supervisor) (AHRC)
  • Braulio Eduardo Morera, Ecological metaphors and urban sustainability: a critical analysis of eco-towns (first supervisor) (pt 2009-) (self funded)
  • Giles Omezi, The history of infrastructure provision in Lagos, Nigeria (ft 2010-) (self funded)
  • Pei-Sze Chow, Framing the Øresund in Film and Television (ft 2011-) (second supervisor) (self funded)



  • Departmental tutor for joint degree students in Geography and Economics (1997-2001)
  • Deputy Undergraduate Tutor (1998-2001)
  • Curriculum Development Committee (1997-2001)
  • Teaching Committee (1998-2001)
  • Health and Welfare Committee (1998-2001)
  • Deputy Graduate Tutor (2004 - 2007)
  • UCL Academic Board (2005 -)
  • Graduate Tutor (2007 - 2010)
  • PCASG (Programme, Planning and Development Executive Sub-Committee: Programme and Course Approval Steering Group) (2007 - 2010)
  • Co-chair of Exceutive Commitee for UCL Grand Challenge (2008 - 2010)
  • Graduate School Research Funds Committee (Arts, Laws and Social and Historical Sciences) (2010 - )


  • Nuffield Foundation (1993) This funded research into 'The political economy of urban waste in Germany and the United States'.
  • Economic and Social Research Council (1994-6) This funded an eighteen month fellowship under the Global Environmental Change Programme. The title of the project was 'Postfordism and the environmental crisis: the restructuring of municipal services in New York'.
  • British Academy (1998). The title of the project was 'Technological modernism and the urban parkway in New York City'.
  • UCL Interdisciplinary Research Fund (1999) (with Professor Ali Zumla of the UCL Windeyer Institute, Department of Bacteriology). The title of the project was 'The resurgence of disease: rethinking the epidemiology of tuberculosis'.
  • Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts (2000) The title of the project was 'Concrete and clay: reworking nature in New York City'.
  • UCL Mead Scholarship (2001) Funding towards research networking activities in Scandinavia
  • Economic and Social Research Council (2002-2005). Three year research fellowship entitled 'Cyborg urbanization: theorizing water and urban infrastructure'
  • Economic and Social Research Council (2002-2004). Series of interdisciplinary seminars under the theme 'Rethinking urban metabolism'
  • Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (2003) One-year fellowship to be held in the Institut fur Sozialwissenschaften, Stadt- und Regionsoziologie at the Humboldt University, Berlin.
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council (2006) Liquid city: water, landscape and social formation in twenty-first century Mumbai.
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council (2006) From the technological sublime to the urban pastoral: rethinking urban and industrial landscapes.
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council (2009) Collaborative Doctoral Award for the project 'The architecture of financial crisis'
  • UCL Mead Scholarship (2009) Funding towards research on environmental history in Berlin
  • Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts (2010) The fabric of space
  • Leverhulme Trust (2011) Artist-in-residence scheme for Carolyn Deby at the UCL Urban Laboratory.
  • Leverhulme Trust (2012). Artist-in-residence programme for Benny Nilsen held at the UCL Urban Laboratory.
  • British Academy (2012). “Between art and science: responses to urban nature in Berlin.
  • Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (2013). Three-month fellowship at the Centre for Urban Ecology, Technical University, Berlin.
  • Gerda Henkel Foundation (2013).  Two-year fellowship at the Universität der Künste / University of the Arts, Berlin.
  • European Research Council Advanced Grant (2014-2019)  Rethinking Urban Nature