Dr Sana Murrani

Dr Sana Murrani

Associate Professor (Spatial Practice)

School of Art, Design and Architecture (Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business)

Sana can be contacted through arrangement with our Press Office, to speak to the media on these areas of expertise.
  • Migration
  • Displacement
  • Refugees
  • Asylum seeker housing
  • Post-war and post-conflict spatial practice
  • Spatial justice
  • Participatory co-design and architecture
  • Urban and city marginalisation and ghettoisation


Sana Murrani is an Associate Professor in Spatial Practice with a background in Architecture and Urban Design. She is the Deputy Director of the Doctoral College for the Arts and Humanities at the University of Plymouth, UK. 


BSc (Hons) Architecture
MSc Architecture
PhD Architectural Theory
Fellow of the Higher Education Academy [FHEA]
Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice.

Roles on external bodies

ESRC Global Challenge Research Fund Peer Review College Member
A reviewer for Routledge Architecture Section
Leonardo Reviews: The International Society for the Arts, Science, and Technology
Guest reviewer for Footprint: Delft Architecture Theory Journal



Teaching interests

I lead the Master of Architecture Dissertation and co-teach Design Studio for both Year 1 and 2 Master of Architecture. My teaching is research informed and supported by Live Projects. I utilise experimentation in Architecture and Urban Design through the exploration of different tools of representation and mapping technologies. I focus on the design process and the creation of narratives through people's lived experiences through the process of co-design, communication as well as representation (storytelling and mapping narratives, memories and experiences). I emphasise on the integration of theory and practice in my teaching across the Masters and into the PhD.

I lead the main Research Skills and Training programme across the Faculty training students on research skills that cross the disciplinary boundaries between the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. 

Staff serving as external examiners

April 2020: External examination for a PhD at UCL.

I welcome research projects to supervise at PhD and Post-Doc levels that focus on the spatial practice of displacement, migration, and diaspora studies. This can be approached from an architectural, urban or anthropological point of view. I would specifically be interested in projects that utilise participatory action research and mapping (GIS and/or cognitive) methodologies.  



Research interests

Sana Murrani is an Associate Professor in Spatial Practice with a background in Architecture and Urban Design. She is the Deputy Director of the Doctoral College for the Arts and Humanities at the University of Plymouth, UK. 

Sana’s main research falls within the field of architecture in particular, the imaginative negotiations of spatial practices and social justice. She focuses on highlighting the impact of transient conditions of war, conflict, and displacement on people's creative spatial responses to sudden changes in their built environment and the making (or re-making) of the concept of home and collective imaginary housing for the future. 

Sana's research methods are embedded in participatory action research approaches and creative mapping techniques that rely on spatial thinking, memory mapping, and speculative and imaginative drawing and layering. 

She studied architecture at Baghdad University School of Architecture at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Sana completed her PhD in the UK on the theoretical encounters and the critique of architectural representation and material culture under the influence of technology. She is an alumna of the International School in Forced Migration (cohort 2021) at the Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford Department of International Development, University of Oxford. 

She is the founder of the Displacement Studies Research Network and co-founder of the Justice and Imagination in Global Displacement research collective, working at the intersection between displacement, design, imagination and justice to research, share, and enhance the impact and power of the creative agencies of displaced peoples, their identity, memory and the spaces and places they create and inhabit. She is the principal investigator for Creative Recovery: Mapping Refugees’ Memories of Home, as Heritage funded by the European Cultural Foundation. The project is in partnership with British Red Cross, and is based on co-produced creative research with refugees and asylum seekers in the Southwest of England. She recently completed a collaborative research project with Dr Rachael Kiddey from the University of Oxford, mapping the material culture of displacement with a group of Refugees in the UK, Sweden and Greece. She has published in peer-reviewed journals and participated in international conferences and workshops. Sana is currently an Advising Editor for Leonardo Reviews: The International Society for the Arts, Sciences, and Technology, a guest reviewer for Routledge Architecture section and a member of the ESRC Global Challenge Research Fund Peer Review College. She is an advisor for the Global Doctoral Program in Spatial Arts, part of the O. P. Jindal Global University, Delhi - India.

Research groups

Other research

Founder of Displacement Studies Research Network.

Co-founder of Justice and Imagination in Global Displacement.

Collaborator with i-DAT, University of Plymouth.

Collaborator with Transtechnology research group, University of Plymouth.

Member of the Architectural Humanities Research Association (AHRA).

Member of the Planetary Collegium research group, University of Plymouth. 

Research degrees awarded to supervised students

PGR supervision:

Revival Strategies in Architecture to Achieve Sustainability in Mosul Post ISIS by Raad Sultan [expected completion October 2024].

Post Social Realism Art Practice by Cameron Williamson [expected completion October 2024].

The Quotidian Future: Contemporary Art from Artistic and De-colonial Curatorial Perspectives by Flounder Lee [expected completion October 2023].

Re-Imagine Your Town: Co created archives of community urban visions by Becalelis Brodskis, 3D3 Centre for Doctoral Training [expected completion October 2021].

Integrating transnationalism into a transmedia practice by Cândida Luiza Borges da Silva [expected completion March 2022].

PGR completions:

Radical Rivers: Blue Spaces for the 21st Century by Sally Sutton [Completed December 2021].

Play Dynamics: participatory/ dynamic architecture as an instrument for social activism by Alejandro Quinteros, Planetary Collegium [Completed November 2021].

Arhitectura 1950 – 1989. Interstitial Spaces of Communist Romanian Architecture by Ioana Popovici [completed March 2019].

In and out of memory: exploring the tension between remembering and forgetting when recalling 9/11, a traumatic event by Anna Walker [completed PhD December 2017].

Post-structural and Post Colonial Critique of Utopian Ideas by Richard Bower [completed PhD January 2015].

Participatory Design in Spatial Practice by Alex Lorimer [completed ResM March 2016].

MRes completions:

A Play between Interactive Architecture, Social Space and Participation by Chrysa Petrou [completed MRes August 2013].

The Use of Technology and the Representation of Contemporary Architecture by Jessica Westmacott [completed MRes August 2011].

PhD chairing and internal examinations:

Saltram House: The Evolution of an Eighteenth-Century Country Estate by Katherine Norley [ ResM Art History, September 2020]. Charing examination.

Ideas Exchange: Design and the post bio-tech-body by Agatha Haines [PhD Transtechnology Research, July 2020]. Charing examination.

Creative Caprice: Intrinsic Interest; States of Consciousness; Emotion & Practice-led Phenomenological Inquiry by Steven Evans [PhD Art and Media, July 2020]. Chairing examination.

Syncretic Narrative: Method for Navigation of Power and Resistance in War and Conflict by Diane Derr [PhD Art and Media, June 2020]. Internal examination.

Analysis of the Ludic Dream State through Artistic Practice: A Technoetic Approach by Pamela Payne [PhD Art and Media, June 2020]. Charing examination.

Vibrating Existence: Early Cinema and Cognitive Creativity by Guy Edmonds [PhD Transtechnology Research, May 2020]. Charing examination.

Doppelkopf Neuroarchitecture. A Wicked Threshold Space by Fiona Zisch [PhD Architectural Design, UCL, April 2020]. External examination.

The Liminal Event and Its Symbols: On the Interaction of Human and Technology by Blanka Domaglski [PhD Art and Media, January 2020]. Internal examination.

Space-Time Aesthetics in the Meta-Environment: A Cybersemiotic Analysis by Claudia Ferreira Jacques de Moraes Cardoso [PhD Art and Media, July 2018]. Internal examination.

University must be safe: Genealogy as a knowledge approach by Patrizia Moschella [PhD Art and Media, June 2018]. Chairing examination.

Post African Futures: Decoloniality and Actional Methodologies in Art and Cultural Practices in African Cultures of Technology by Tegan Bristow [PhD Art and Media, December 2017]. Chairing examination.

The (Not so) Intelligent House: User Perception in an Interactive Architectural Environment by Alexander Ćetković [PhD Art & Media, September 2017]. Internal examination.

In Search Of The Domonovus: Speculative Designs For The Computationally-Enhanced Domestic Environment by Stavros Didakis [PhD Art & Media, August 2016]. Chairing examination.

Theroia: The Veneration of Icons via the Technoetic Process by Katerina Karoussos [PhD Art & Media, June 2016]. Internal examination.

Museum and Technology: aspects of multimediality and multimodality in the cultural assets field by Simona Caraceni, Plymouth University [PhD Art & Media, September 2014]. Internal examination.

Grants & contracts

Co-Investigator for Forced to Flee: Co-designing a peer-led community approach to support the mental health of refugees, funded by the National Institute for Health Research, in partnership with Universities of Exeter, East London and King’s College London and the following charities: Livewell Southwest, Colebrook SW, Students and Refugees Together (START), and Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (GARAS). Together we will look at Experience Based Co-Design (EBCD) as a main method of storytelling in research with people with lived experiences to help support mental health provision for refugees in the UK. Grant award: £750K, 2022-2025. 

Principal Investigator for Creative Recovery: Mapping Refugees’ Memories of Home, as Heritage funded by the European Cultural Foundation, Courageous Citizens 2018. The project is in partnership with British Red Cross, Plymouth – Devon. Grant award: €10K, August 2018-October 2019.


Internal research funding up to the value of £37K between 2016-2021.

Creative practice & artistic projects

Conferences, workshops and invited talks:

November 2020 - Speaker at Housing and the City at Nottingham University, Architectural Humanities Research Association (AHRA) in collaboration with Routledge. Title of talk: “I map, therefore, I am”: Deep mapping and making home in displacement.

October 2020 - Invited speaker at Contemporary and Historic Archaeology in Theory Festival CHAT20. Made in Migration collaborative.

March 2020 - Invited speaker at Human Rights Festival, Oxford Brookes University (theme of resilience).

November 2019 - Invited speaker (and selected funded project) at the European Foundations Centre for Arts and Culture in their annual event, theme for this year is: “Cultural Welfare: what role arts play in the health and wellbeing of citizens?” which will take place in Turin, Italy on 21-22 November 2019.

November 2019 - Invited speaker at the Global Health Café, University of Plymouth.

October 2019 - Invited speaker at Oxford Brookes in the School of Architecture’s Centre for Development and Emergency Practice (CENDEP).

October 2019 - Speaker at Bitesize Talks, the Arts Institute, Mariner: A Painted Ship Upon A Painted Ocean, The Levinsky Gallery.

June 2018 - Invited speaker at the Sustainable Earth Institute Annual Conference, talk title: Displacement, Disaster and Destruction, University of Plymouth – UK, 28th – 29th June 2018.

June 2018 - Co-organiser and chair of Q&A for The Shroud Maker, a performance for Refugee Week 2018, play by Ahmed Masoud. Plymouth Barbican Theatre.

March 2018 - Speaker at the UK Alliance for Disaster Research Annual Conference, talk title: Displacement and emplacement of spatial heritage, hosted by the Cabot Institute at the University of Bristol – UK, 27-28 March 2018.

January 2018 - Director of the Displacement Studies Research Network, launch event symposium: Human and Urban Displacement: From Crises to Creativity, title of talk: Rudimentary design, architecture, and urban integration: Getting out of context and moving from ‘for’ to ‘with’ the displaced, at the University of Plymouth’s Research Festival 2018, hosted by the Arts Institute, the Responsible Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation Research Group within the Institute for Social, Political and Enterprise Research (iSPER), the Sustainable Earth Institute, and Research and Innovation. University of Plymouth – UK, 25-26 January 2018.

September 2017 - Co-Director and Chair of the DRHA 2017: Data Ache, The 21st International Conference on Digital Research in the Humanities and Arts, hosted by the Arts Institute, University of Plymouth – UK 10-13 September 2017.

August 2017 - Speaker at the Off the Lip 2017: Cognitive Innovation Conference, led by CogNovo, University of Plymouth – UK 16-18 August 2017.

June 2015 - 12th AHRA Research Student Symposium, Syncretic Architectures: new approaches between theory & practice, School of Architecture, Design and Environment, University of Plymouth, Plymouth - UK 11-13 June 2015. Symposium chair, member of the internal reviewing panel, main organiser and mentor for PhD students.

December 2014 - COGTALK: An evening of talks organised for the Cognition Institute on the social and cultural construct of Architecture. An evening with artist Tim Knowles, academic and architect Dr. Sana Murrani and Dr. Mathew Emmett.

September 2011 - Panel discussion at ISEA2011 Istanbul: The Volatility and Stability of World Making as Téchne, Inter Society of Electronic Arts (ISEA2011) conference in Istanbul, September 14th-21st 2011. Workshop panelist.




Murrani, S. Lloyd, H. and Popovici, I. 2021 (forthcoming). 'Between Memory and Mapping: Journeys through Spatial Recovery in Forced Displacement'. 

Murrani, S. 2020. 'Review of Refugia: Radical Solutions to Mass Displacement'Journal of Refugee Studies, feaa077, Online: https://doi.org/10.1093/jrs/feaa077

Murrani, S. 2019. ‘Contingency and Plasticity: The Dialectical Re-construction of the Concept of Home in Displacement’. Journal of Culture and Psychology. Online.

Murrani, S. 2016. ‘Baghdad’s thirdspace: between liminality, anti-structures and territorial mappings’. The Journal of Cultural Dynamics, 28 (2), pp. 189-220.

Murrani, S. 2012. The Socio-Temporary in Architecture: Territories of Second-Order Cybernetics. The International Journal of Art, Culture and Design Technologies 2 (1), 44-56.

Murrani, S. 2011. Third Way Architecture: Between Cybernetics and Phenomenology. Technoetic Arts: A Journal of Speculative Research 8 (3), 267-281.


Hosale, MD., Murrani, S. and de Campo, A. 2018. ‘Introduction from the Editors’ to Worldmaking as Techné: Exploring Worlds of Participatory Art, Architecture, and Music. Cambridge, Ontario: Riverside Architectural Press, pp. iv-xxvi. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Worldmaking-As-Techné-Participatory-Architecture/dp/1988366097


Murrani, S. 2019. ‘Urban creativity through displacement and spatial disruption’. In: Routledge Handbook of Henri Lefebvre, the City and Urban Society, Leary-Owhin, M. and McCarthy, J. (eds.), London: Routledge, pp. 402-410.

Murrani, S. 2018. ‘Estranged Space Appropriated’, In: Hosale, MD., Murrani, S., and de Campo, A., Worldmaking as Techné: Exploring Worlds of Participatory Art, Architecture, and Music. Cambridge, Ontario: Riverside Architectural Press, pp. 296-319.

Murrani, S. 2009. Instability and Incompleteness in Architecture. In: ASCOTT, R., BAST, G., FIEL, W., JAHRMANN, M. & amp; SCHNELL, R. (eds.) New Realities: Being Syncretic. Wien: Springer. 202-206.

Conference Papers

Murrani, S. 2014. To Cognise a Liminal Reality: on constructing a spatial and social assemblage of peripheral sites and situations in England. In: Architecture and Writing: ARCHTHEO ’14 / Theory of Architecture Conference Proceeding Book, 6th-8th of November 2014, Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University. DAKAM: Istanbul, 217-226.

Murrani, S & EMMETT, M. 2011. Overlaid Realities. In: Cabinet: Changing Perceptions Catalogue, University of Plymouth Press, UK. 16-17 & 26-27.

Murrani, S. 2010. Architecture of Generative Situations. In: 13th Generative Art Conference. Milan – Italy, Domus Argenia Publisher.Murrani, S. 2005. Re-thinking Architectural Form: The Emergence of Self-organized Architectural Form. In: Altered States Conference: Transformations of Perception, Place and Performance Plymouth – UK. Liquid Reader.


Murrani, S. 2016. The Right to a Parking Space: The Spatial State of Marginality, blogpost for the Arts Institute.

Murrani, S. 2011. Unstable Territories of Representation: Architectural Experience and the Behaviour of Forms, Spaces and the Collective Dynamic Environment (PhD thesis abstract). LEA – LABS: Leonardo ABstracts Service, UK. Leonardo Online: Unstable Territories of Representation.

Other Publications

Reviews and Organised Conferences:

December 2018: Advising Editor to Leonardo Reviews: The International Society for the Arts, Sciences, and Technology (MIT).

October 2016: Member of the Global Challenges ResearchFund ESRC Peer Review College.

October 2016: Reviewer for Footnote: Delft Architecture Theory Journal.

June 2015: 12th AHRA Research Student Symposium, Syncretic Architectures: new approaches between theory & practice, School of Architecture, Design andEnvironment, University of Plymouth, Plymouth - UK 11-13 June 2015. Symposium chair, member of the internal reviewing panel, main organiser and mentor for PhD students.

December 2014: COGTALK: An evening of talks organised for the Cognition Institute on the social and cultural construct ofArchitecture. An evening with artist Tim Knowles, academic and architect Dr.Sana Murrani and Dr. Mathew Emmett.

July 2014: Reviewer for Leonardo Reviews: The InternationalSociety for the Arts, Sciences, and Technology. Soft Estate by Edward Chell (reviewed 2014), Cartographies of Place: Navigating the Urban by Michael Darroch and Janine Marchessault, and Drawing Ambience: Alvin Boyarsky and the Architectural Association by Igor Marjanovic and Jan Howard(reviewed 2016).

August 2013: Re-New: Digital Arts Festival - THE BIGPICTURE: the confluence of art, science and technology, Copenhagen, Denmark2013. Invited reviewer on the subject of architecture and cognition.

August 2013: Locative Media, Edited by Katharine S. Willis and Regine Buschauer, Transcript Verlag, 2013. Invited reviewer.

September 2011: Panel discussion at ISEA2011 Istanbul: TheVolatility and Stability of WorldMaking as Téchne, Inter Society ofElectronic Arts (ISEA2011) conference in Istanbul, September 14th-21st 2011. Workshop panellist.

August 2011: Reviewer for Routledge Architecture Section.