Faiza Moatasim

Assistant Professor


B.Arch., National College of Arts, Lahore M.Arch. Post-professional in Minimum Cost Housing, McGill University, Montreal PhD in History and Theory of Architecture, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Faiza Moatasim is Assistant Professor of Architecture in Urbanism and Urban Design at the USC School of Architecture. Before joining USC, she held a postdoctoral fellowship in Asian Urbanism at Hamilton College, Clinton. She specializes in history and theory of architecture and urban design, modern colonial and post-colonial architecture and urbanism, low-income housing and urban informality. Moatasim’s research explores how the agency of individuals and communities in shaping their urban built environments, using their personal resources and political connections, is integral to our understanding of the planning, functioning, and everyday lived experiences of cities around the world. Her research has been supported by the Social Science Research Council, American Institute of Pakistan Studies, Mellon Foundation, International Institute for Asian Studies, Teagle Foundation and Foundation for Urban and Regional Studies.

Faiza Moatasim’s book manuscript entitled, Elite and Ordinary Informalities: Formal-Informal City Making in Islamabad, compares the modalities of high- and low-end informal urban processes that have had a major impact on the routine functioning and long-term development of the high-modernist city. Informal urbanism is commonly associated with spaces of shelter and livelihood sustained by marginalized populations outside of formal planning frameworks. But in many cities like Islamabad, informal urban practices are pervasive among those with wealth and power, despite their ability to afford formally developed spaces. Elite and Ordinary Informalities shows that both the entitled and impoverished communities in Islamabad use bureaucratic devices and architectural strategies that balance formal and informal activities to maintain impressions of legality. In addition to citizens, city officials also engage in informal planning practices to allow important functions that cannot be accommodated formally. Elite and Ordinary Informalities thus asserts the centrality of formal-informal relations--particularly through an examination of material practices and aesthetics--in the development and functioning of contemporary cities like Islamabad.

Faiza Moatasim’s work on urban informality has been featured in Urban Studies, “Entitled

Urbanism: Elite informalities and the reimagining of a planned modernist city,” https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0042098018767011

and Antipode, “Informality Materialized: Long-term Temporariness as a Mode of Informal

Urbanism.” https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/anti.12434

Faiza Moatasim teaches courses on themes in modern and contemporary urbanism and architecture in cities around the world that explore the relationship between spatial design and human social development, and offer insights into pressing global challenges caused by urbanization such as social inequalities, political conflicts, and spatial disparities. 

Related Links: Informality Materialised: Long‐term Temporariness as a Mode of Informal Urbanism

Currently Teaching
  • 414
    Perspectives in History and Theory in Architecture - Architectures of Occupation and Resistance
    Perspectives in History and Theory in Architecture - Architectures of Occupation and Resistance

    What does the architecture of buildings and cities tell us about systematic oppression and political control? What options for resistance exist in deeply entrenched spaces and structures of domination and dispossession? In this course, we will explore how the design of the built environment is shaped by social hierarchies and political agendas. In addition, we will examine how occupation and resistance are in constant flux, and how the dispossessed manage to find ways to act politically and resist strategies of domination through their everyday spatial practices and tactics.


    The course aims to:

    • demonstrate the relevance of architecture and planning perspectives to the study of power and resistance in modern society;
    • signify the design of the built environment as not only a technical process, but also as a product of political motivations and social hierarchies;
    • introduce tools needed to decipher social beliefs systems and political agendas underlying various architectural and planning schemes.


  • 561
    Urbanism Themes and Case Studies
    Urbanism Themes and Case Studies
    Trace the history of ideas about the city - from antiquity to the present - through the cities which produced them. The course will take twelve cities as case studies and study their transformation and modernization through weekly lectures paired with selected readings from urban theory which emerged alongside their growth and change. The texts illuminate the varied and ongoing struggles all cities continue to wrestle with under pressures of rapid population growth, new technologies, and the need to become ecologically sustainable. The course articulates nuance and difference in place and culture; hoping to suspend -- for the duration of the course anyway -- the theory by some commentators that cities have become interchangeable: lost in the generic and ubiquitous nature of globalization, sprawl, and commercial capitalism.
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