Initially founded in the year 1997 as an artistic collective, CUP (the Center for Urban Pedagogy) was incorporated in the year 2002 as a not-for-profit organisation that develops different projects on the social and political infrastructure of the built environment. These projects aim to increase the legibility of the world that surrounds us. The organization operates in the field of education through programmes connected with architecture, communication, design, and advocacy.
CUP creates projects about social justice, the urban environment and the practice of democracy, produced in collaboration with designers, community-based oranizations, schools and policymakers. These projects are addressed mainly to sections of society that are more deprived for reasons of race or class, with difficulties accessing basic services such as healthcare or housing. Through these initiatives, between 10.000 and 20.000 people are annually given solid training in the mechanisms of bureaucracy and the urban infrastructures that affect their daily lives. This knowledge equips them with the necessary tools to investigate and change what they see. Citizens recognise themselves within the framework of society and make beneficial choices, for themselves and for their communities.
By creating curricula for high schools, teaching tools in collaboration with community partners, and public programs and exhibits on the built environment, CUP is at the forefront of a new type of civic education that helps to establish the groundwork for democratic participation. Proof of this can be found in the large audiences and wide-ranging impact that CUP’s exhibition programmes, audiovisual productions, and publications are achieving, both nationally and internationally.
CUP projects have been presented at a variety of public spaces, art and architecture fairs, film festivals, and publications. Many of these projects were accompanied by conferences, talks or workshops that complemented the projects and gave a more in-depth treatment to the topics under discussion. Noteworthy among these projects are educational exhibitions on topics of urban renewal (City Without a Ghetto, 2003) and housing rights (Building Codes, 2001); educational programmes on water (Water Underground, 2006) and the infrastructure of the Internet (The Internet is Serious Business, 2008); and media projects on the language of development (Envisioning Development, 2008) and public housing (two episodes of Public Housing Television, 2004). Some of these projects have transcended the borders of the United States and have been presented in, among other spaces, the Netherlands Architecture Institute, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Leipzig and the Italian and American pavilions of the Venice Architecture Biennale.