The Dean’s Global Forum: Christoph Lindner examines sustainability and interdisciplinarity

January 22, 2024

Joining Dean Marwan M. Kraidy in the latest Dean’s Global Forum, Christoph Lindner, professor of urban studies and dean of The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment at University College London, examined the increasing focus on sustainability as a practice and an interdisciplinary academic field and the importance of academic research for envisioning the cities of the future.

A Victorian literature specialist by training, Lindner’s career trajectory focused on literature and textual expressions before eventually focusing on landscape architecture as a form of cultural expression. In his conversation with Dean Kraidy, he reflected on his career trajectory and the transition points in his intellectual journey that led him to urban studies, saying, “For me, what has always been important is trying to realize the interdisciplinary potential of university life.” He added, “Because I was interested in literature and how it related to visual art and from there to media, television, and cinema, I then became interested in urban space, planning, design, and ultimately architecture.”

In highlighting the connection between Victorian literature and contemporary post-industrial architecture and landscape architecture, he noted, “They are both about intervening in our world and imagining an alternative way of making reality, and the way that I am able in my own work to move between these disciplines is because of the ideas that are relevant across those spaces.” Lindner went on to discuss the increasing focus on sustainability as a cross-disciplinary concept in politics and public life and across societies around the world. “Sustainability as a concept allows us to address the meeting place of two really critical things: the environment and inequality,” said Lindner.

With sustainability as a cornerstone in his scholarly work, he said, “What I am really focused on in my academic work is creating the solutions for how we make the world more livable, more environmentally balanced, friendly, while in the process addressing inequality in our world.”, Lindner stressed the importance of centering collaboration in interdisciplinary work as interdisciplinarity becomes increasingly relevant to addressing pressing issues like sustainability, noting “one of the things about interdisciplinary work is that it needs to be really collaborative.”

When asked about the role of media in creating a sustainable urban future, he said it plays an influential role in shaping imaginations about the future. “What could Doha in 50 years look and feel like considering all of the construction, innovation, and change that has happened in the last 50 years?” he asked. “That is where I think media comes in, in all its many forms, including social media, because it's a really important space to imagine and experiment, but also contest different versions of who we are now and who we want to be.”

Lindner is an interdisciplinary scholar of cities with more than 20 years of experience in higher education in the United States, the U.K., and across Europe. Since joining UCL as dean of The Bartlett Faculty of Built Environment in 2019, his work has focused on taking climate action while advancing educational access and equity, intercultural understanding, and environmental sustainability in the art and design fields.

To watch the full recording of The Dean’s Global Forum with Christoph Lindner, click here.