UCL Department of Geography


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Isobel Pagendam


Isobel Pagendam

UCL Department of Geography
University College London
North-West Wing
Gower Street



The lift has dramatically altered mobility networks in the speed and distance that can be travelled vertically; without the lift, there would not be the height, depth, and volume of buildings in urban landscapes today. Yet, research exploring vertical mobility is highly limited, which is attributable to an overwhelming emphasis on horizontal mobility, and a widespread understanding of lifts and escalators as mundane infrastructures. My doctoral project, provisionally titled ‘Everyday ups and downs: exploring experiences of the lift in London’, aims to address this lack of research by developing an interdisciplinary investigation of vertical mobility, drawing on the particular ways vertical transport in everyday vertical spaces in London are used and experienced. From tower-blocks, to high-rise regeneration projects, commercial skyscrapers, hotels and spaces of consumption, London has seen a growing range of different forms of verticality, as well as a dramatic increase in the number of high-rise buildings in the city. It is within this context that the research will highlight the socio-spatial particularities of vertical mobility, questioning what a study of different lift spaces can reveal about social differentiation and status in London. This will be achieved by focusing on, and comparing, different typologies of vertical mobility, including: residential lifts (in social housing blocks and “elite” private residential dwellings), office lifts, glass lifts, restaurant/bar, and hotel lifts. The research will explore the roles of spectacle, luxury, materiality, and sensation in the creation of a 'premium' experience, whilst also acknowledging the importance of visibility/invisibility and mobility/immobility. The project also looks to respond to current circumstances by considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the use and experience of the lift.

Primary Supervisor: Dr Andrew Harris (UCL Geography)

Secondary Supervisor: Professor Iain Borden (Bartlett School of Architecture)

Academic background

MPhil/PhD in Geography (ESRC funded), University College London

MSc Urban Studies, University College London (2018 - 2019)

BA Geography, Durham University (2015 - 2018)


2021 Postgraduate teaching assistant, UCL, GEOG0028: Urban Geography. Course convenor: Alan Latham.

2020 / 2021 Postgraduate teaching assistant, UCL, GEOG0014: Geography in the Field II. Course convenors: Andrew Harris and Jonathan Holmes.