A new generation of practitioners are challenging our definitions of experts and expertise and calling for more diverse voices to be heard. Citizen talks to some of the innovators and entrepreneurs who are working across and beyond professional boundaries to improve city life.

John Bingham-Hall: Theatrum Mundi

John Bingham-Hall

John Bingham-Hall is the director of Theatrum Mundi, a charity that aims to improve the understanding of cities through collaborations between artists, architects, planners, engineers and urbanists.

What do you do?
There are eight of us – architects, urban designers, sociologists and people from an arts background. I find myself mixed in with all of them in different ways: writing proposals, leading workshops, planning events, conducting research, meeting and developing ideas with potential collaborators, and presenting our work.

Why do you do it?
Richard Sennett founded Theatrum Mundi because he saw a desperate need for ideas that would help urbanists to imagine new possibilities to address the failure of so many places to stimulate public life. He saw that these ideas could come from the more unconstrained ways of thinking in things like music, choreography, theatre and writing.

What’s the biggest challenge you face?
To mediate between people who speak very different languages – for example a choreographer and a traffic engineer – and draw out useful links between them that aren’t superficial. Assessing our work is also a challenge. Only five people may come to a workshop, but if that sparks five valuable ideas or projects, it’s more worthwhile than a public event of 500 people where nothing much changes. We’re trying to understand how to keep track of that.