Maged Senbel

Associate Professor

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

Affiliations to Research Centres, Institutes & Clusters


Great Supervisor Week Mentions

Each year graduate students are encouraged to give kudos to their supervisors through social media and our website as part of #GreatSupervisorWeek. Below are students who mentioned this supervisor since the initiative was started in 2017.


I am grateful for my research supervisor @MagedSenbel. He provides excellent guidance and feedback, while also allowing me the intellectual freedom to explore new ideas. Thank you! #GreatSupervisor #UBC


Maged is an outstanding supervisor. I know that I can trust him to always be looking out for my best interest. He is communicative and supportive so I know that I can produce my best work under his guidance. He also looks out for me as a human being, checking in to make sure that things are going well not only for my dissertation and future career, but also my everyday wellbeing. Thank you, Maged!

Jennifer Rae Pierce (2017)


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Ageing in the Neuropolis: urban bio-spatiality and seniors' everyday experience in a global city (2024)

This dissertation explores the relationship between urban change and the ageing experience to understand wellbeing in late life. Using the case of Singapore, I illuminate how global city making and the social costs people bear shape seniors’ everyday lives. I offer the concept of urban bio-spatiality in thinking about the urban-body-brain nexus as stresses seep under the skin over the lifecourse alongside the transformation of the urban environment, with effects and possibilities. An urban lifecourse approach helps us better appreciate the production of the ageing experience, where another A.I., an anthropological intelligence, is essential to centre ‘heartware’ in a planning for longevity. This fosters places as carescapes as societies age, and shifts planning from a physicalist towards a humanistic perspective; from an economistic and urban design lens towards a stewardship of connections.

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Sheltering the housing crisis: the contradictions of shelters in the neoliberal city (2022)

Homelessness policies in the U.S. from the federal level to local level have consistently failed to end homelessness, and instead have played a key role managing and perpetuating crisis. This research delves into the normalization of shelters as a spatial and policy fix by exploring the decentralization of one shelter system in Salt Lake County, Utah. Engaging a grounded theory approach, this inquiry uses archival research, participant observation, and interviews to offer a multi-scalar analysis, considering both the perspectives of those who are negotiating the shelter system, and the policymakers and service providers responsible for creating it. With stated goals of displacement, dispersal, and containment, Utah’s processes and practices have a clear impact on the wellbeing of people without housing, effectively isolating and excluding them from urban space and resources, and further displacing an already displaced population. Utah’s efforts are a striking example of the historical failure of shelter and homelessness policy to create equitable outcomes that address the systemic causes of housing insecurity. There are broader implications in revealing the ways in which urban governments are managing the presence of people experiencing homelessness and the resultant stigmatization and criminalization of poverty.

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Dense but not crowded: maintaining a sense of neighborhood community in a world of increasing urban density (2021)

This study investigates the relationship between urban density and sense of community. In particular, it tries to establish whether residents’ sense of community diminishes as density increases, and, if so, what can be done to moderate this relationship. It used an explanatory sequential mixed-methods approach that included an online survey and semi-structured interviews. The findings suggest that there is a negligible relationship between density and sense of community at all density levels except for very dense environments, in which case the relationship is negative. Several types of public space may moderate this relationship, however. Both the survey and the interviews suggest that high-quality parks, walkways, and community centers may increase residents’ sense of community.

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Pursuing design excellence : urban design as public policy on Toronto's waterfront, 1999-2010 (2013)

As one of the largest post-industrial redevelopment projects in North America, Toronto’s Lake Ontario waterfront is a key site for examining a range of policy tools and regulatory mechanisms that can be used to foster design-sensitive city planning practices. This research asks the question ‘How do planning processes affect the quality and execution of urban design?’ It uses an amended series of thirteen principles, initially developed by John Punter (2003), to analyze and evaluate the policymaking, implementation efforts and outcomes of the waterfront urban design process. The primary research data was collected using in-depth semi-structured interviews, archival documents and direct observations of the public realm. The research found that after many decades of failed planning efforts, a waterfront-focused bid for the 2008 Olympic Games caused the municipal, provincial and federal governments to contribute $1.5 billion to the waterfront redevelopment effort and establish a triumvirate public-private partnership to lead a comprehensive master planning process. ‘Design excellence’ was revealed to be a guiding policy aim of the waterfront redevelopment programme. Although the public-private partnership had a limited institutional mandate to deliver on its planning and design objectives, findings show that innovative design-sensitive policy tools and regulatory measures were established outside of the statutory planning framework to achieve design excellence. An urban design peer review panel, design competitions and neighbourhood master planning served to counter a weak and unpredictable jurisdictional context.

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Urban dwellers and neighborhood nature: Exploring urban residents' connection to place, community, and environment (2013)

Urban residents, in part due to issues of urban form and lifestyle choice, have become both physically and cognitively disconnected from the environment and natural processes – a disconnection that has contributed to decisions that have led to over consumption of natural resources and degradation of Earth. The form of the built environment has contributed to this separation, with city development embedded within infrastructures of concrete and pavement. Further, there is little attention paid to smaller scale integration of nature at the neighborhood level that might allow for frequent resident contact and activity. Today, whether in growth or decline, cities are faced with regulatory obligations and crumbling infrastructure. These issues are compounded by the pressing need to address sustainable development and resilience in the face of uncertainty around climate change and the need for reduced oil use. Incremental urban restructuring of neighborhoods through planning and designing to the specifics of local ecology (place-based design) has the potential to restore a balance between urban areas and natural systems. I therefore studied how urban residents perceive and interact with these systems in order to answer the question: How does active involvement in Portland’s Tabor to the River watershed health program foster place-based awareness and environmental learning? This dissertation is an exploratory qualitative case study undertaken in Portland, Oregon in which I conducted 42 semi-structured interviews of community members and 14 experts. I explored how urban nature and sustainable stormwater infrastructure in the city is seen, perceived, and experienced by urban residents, and how these perceptions influence a human connection to nature and local environmental knowledge. My analysis found that in order to address a human connection to nature and influence environmental learning, the following aspects of urban retrofit should be considered: 1) Integrate a foundation of nature in the city for everyday life; 2) Incorporate multiple scales and types of nature for multiple experiences; 3) Ensure access to nature through walking and cycling; 4) Provide opportunities for hands on work in nature and personal control of space.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

The complicated legacies of Olympic village housing: 1984 to 2018 host cities overview, and the social and affordable housing legacies of the Torino 2006, Vancouver 2010, and London 2012 Olympic villages (2021)

No abstract available.

Using Piolot Projects to Reclaim Public Space for Pedestrians: Lessons from New York city and San Francisco (2012)

In North America, the development of a people-oriented public realm faces a number of political and financial barriers. As a result, conventional car-oriented built forms and policies perpetuate long after they have proven to be dysfunctional. Pilot-testing – the evaluative use of a trial intervention – is emerging as an effective way to overcome these barriers and pedestrianize small public spaces. This thesis sought to provide a better understanding of public space pilot projects and make recommendations about how municipalities can maximize the benefits and minimize the costs of this strategic tool. The researcher conducted an exploratory case study of the pilot programs in New York City and San Francisco, using focused interviews, archival analysis, and an assessment of documentation. The pilot-testing process from each city, as well as individual pilot projects, were described and evaluated using two analytical frameworks developed by the researcher. Planning implications (i.e., advantages and disadvantages) were then discussed and recommendations presented. Key findings from the case study include a) the importance of collaboration (e.g., with other city agencies) and partnerships (e.g., with local merchants) in making projects feasible and inexpensive; b) how exemption from most forms of review enables projects to overcome accountability and be implemented quickly; and c) the high value of iterative and incremental processes to public realm transitions. While needing to be thoughtfully employed, pilot projects are a timely and effective way to minimize costs, refine designs, and gain political, public, and financial support in the creation of people-oriented public spaces.

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An Evaluation of Neighbourhood Sustainability Assessment Frameworks Using Ecosystems Characteristics and Principles of Systems Resilience as the Evaluation Criteria (2010)

If human societies are to sustain over the long-term, we must manage human societies andour products, including settlements, to work within the context of a living environment.While conventional practice in neighbourhood planning has made advances inacknowledging the importance of sustainability in the built environment, it generally doesnot acknowledge fundamental ecological concepts such as the ecology of sites, globalecological productive carrying capacity or the dynamic nature of a living, rapidly eroding,biophysical environment.This thesis articulates the need to acknowledge the ecological context as the basis ofsustainable communities. A living ecological system is not only the context in whichsettlements operate; ecosystems may also be a viable model from which to form settlements.This thesis proposes incorporating the model of ecosystems, the characteristics they embodyand principles by which they are governed into the planning and design of settlements as amethod of informing a physical form that can support sustainable communities.A case study of a local Vancouver neighbourhood, False Creek North, is used as a tangiblereference point around which to frame the discussion of sustainable communities. Althoughnot planned explicitly to be a “sustainable community” the neighbourhood embodies many ofthe characteristics of conventional thinking about sustainable neighbourhoods. Usingsustainability assessment frameworks, the False Creek North development is evaluated forsustainability merits and weaknesses in order to understand how this model of developmentcould be improved to better reflect concepts of sustainability. In order to ensure that theframeworks reflect a strong, ecologically bound concept of sustainability the assessmentframeworks are also evaluated based on their ability to capture characteristics and principlesof ecological systems using an evaluation matrix. An integrated discussion is presented on a)how well the frameworks reflect ecological principles and b) what elements of FCN displayecological sustainability characteristics.Overall, the assessment frameworks are found to be limiting in their ability to capturefundamental ecological concepts. Indicators that reflect ecological principles andcharacteristics are therefore proposed and examples are given as to how they might be usedto measure aspects of the case study site, False Creek North.

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Assessing the environmental practices and impacts of intentional communities: an ecological footprint comparison of an ecovillage and cohousing community in southwestern British Columbia (2010)

The ecological footprint of the average Canadian is three times greater than the global per capita biocapacity of the planet. The purpose of this research is to gain insights from intentional communities on how to reduce household ecological footprints in Canada. Intentional community is an inclusive term for a variety of community types, including ecovillages and cohousing, where residents have come together to achieve a commonpurpose. Studies show that intentional communities have per capita ecological footprints that are less than those of conventional communities. I corroborate these findings through my own ecological footprint analyses of Quayside Village and OUR Ecovillage, in southwestern British Columbia. These communities have per capita ecological footprints that are smaller than some conventional averages. Overall, Quayside Village and OUR Ecovillage also have comparatively similar per capita ecological footprints, suggesting that residents of both urban and rural intentional communities may demonstrate similarenvironmental behaviours. Intentional community living is currently confined to small‐scale grassroots initiatives soeven the aggregate environmental benefits are insignificant. Municipalities and land developers can help to advance the pro‐environmental practices of intentionalcommunities by increasing incentives for this community model and adapting intentional community practices to a conventional context.

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Beyond service: looking at power in community service-learning relationships (2010)

The research presented here is an analysis of power in the context of a community service-learning relationship. The theoretical community service-learning literature cautions that relationships in this context risk reproducing and reinforcing power inequities between community and the university. An analysis of this literature reveals that central narratives about power and relationships may not entirely reflect the reality of practice. The analysis of the literature also points to the unfulfilled need to more carefully consider the community within academic discourse and studies of community service-learning. Using a case study of the YWCA Vancouver and the UBC Learning Exchange relationship, this research explores the following questions:1. How does power operate in the context of the YWCA-Learning Exchange community service-learning relationship?2. How are power relations conceptualized by participants in this community service-learning relationship?3. How do the results from this inquiry align with popular theoretical perspectives on community service-learning? The analysis of 13 in-depth interviews conducted with YWCA staff, UBC Learning Exchange staff, and students engaged in community service-learning activities with these two organizations reveals that actors in the YWCA-Learning Exchange relationship are aware of traditional power inequities between universities and communities. These actors actively reject traditional power relations and react negatively when they perceive a reproduction of these relations in the context of community service-learning. Results from the analysis of this unique case contribute to the community service-learning literature by adding new voices and complexity to the discourse. In contrast to the essentialist view of power that is proposed in the literature, power in this case is understood to operate along multiple dimensions. YWCA staff do not attribute different value to the types of service which the literature differentiates as charity or social justice. Finally, community staff do not identify as powerless in the relationship, and instead view themselves as integral to the operation and the success of community service-learning. Results point to a need for further research into the experiences of all actors in community service-learning with the aim of contributing to the discourses of power and relationships in this context.

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Current Students & Alumni

This is a small sample of students and/or alumni that have been supervised by this researcher. It is not meant as a comprehensive list.

Membership Status

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