The word architecture generally brings to mind urban skylines, ultra-modern homes, and attention-grabbing skyscrapers—not favelas, waterside slums, and ravaged buildings. But creative architects around the world are working in challenging environments to improve the lives of the locals with innovative designs and building techniques.

Rebel Architecture, an Al Jazeera documentary series, profiles these visionary architects to discover why they do the work they do, how they overcome immense challenges, and how they impact the people around them.

1. Guerrilla Architect

Santiago Cirugeda is a Spanish architect based in Seville, Spain who illegally reclaims abandoned urban spaces for the public. He uses recycled materials, builds quickly, and creates all his buildings to serve a social function. His latest project is turning an abandoned factory into a vibrant cultural centre.

2. A Traditional Future

Pakistani architect Yasmeen Lari uses local, traditional building techniques to rebuild villages in the flood-stricken Sindh region. Since 2010, she has built over 36,000 houses.

3. The Architecture of Violence

London-based, Israeli architect, academic and writer, Eyal Weizman discusses the role of architecture in the settlements of the West Bank and how damage to buildings can be used as evidence for war crimes.

4. Greening the City

Award-winning Vietnamese architect Vo Trong Nghia is bringing green spaces to Vietnam’s crowded cities by creating vertical farms and designing green buildings. His work also brings low-cost housing solutions to low-income communities in Mekong Delta.

5. Working On Water

Flooding and overcrowding in Nigeria's waterside slums pose enormous problems. Architect Kunle Adeyemi designs floating buildings to help remedy the situation, yet he struggles to get approval for their construction from local authorities.

6. The Pedreiro and the Master Planner

Ricardo de Oliviera is an informal builder in Brazil. Working in Rochina, the largest favela in Rio de Janeiro, he has built over 100 houses for his community with no formal training.


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Cat Johnson is a content strategist and teacher helping community builders create strong brands. A longtime writer, marketing pro and coworking leader, Cat is the founder of Coworking Convos and