Contact us on 01792 721 725 or

Tatiana Bodnar talks urban regeneration, local community action, and becoming a Mayor!

Tatiana Bodnar talks urban regeneration, local community action, and becoming a Mayor!


Tatiana Bodnar has recently joined Urban Foundry as our first PhD student. Originally from Baltimore in the USA, she is studying a collaborative PhD at Swansea University in Human Geography – made possible through the support of the ESRC Doctoral Training Partnership for Wales and co-sponsored by Urban Foundry.

In this article, Tatiana shares her personal journey, her experiences in Swansea, and the vision she carries for the future of urban regeneration, examining the concept of ‘Urban Acupuncture’ as a transformative tool for places in South Wales.


Where were you before Swansea and Urban Foundry?

Before moving to Swansea and Urban Foundry, I was in Stockholm, Sweden. That is where I completed my Master’s degree in Sustainable Urban Planning and Design and was working at a placemaking organisation in the city centre.

I have always been driven by a desire to understand how cities can become more sustainable. In Stockholm during my studies, I became very interested in citizen participation and how it could be reimagined – I was fascinated by new and innovative ways in which citizens could be actively involved in the planning process of their own communities.

During my Master’s, a friend and I set up an urban collective we called ‘Fluke’. Together, we co-designed games and playful activities that were centred around citizen participation and co-design processes. These games, activities, and events brought people together to collaborate on reimagining public spaces through a design process.

In the student community where we lived, we managed to get about 300 people involved in a project to redesign the public spaces around us. Some of these places felt intimidating or just lacked character, so we wanted to change that in a fun and collaborative way. Through our co-design process, we ended up co-creating a one-day festival where we transformed these spaces in our neighbourhood temporarily, showing the potential of what they could become with community input and creative thinking.


How did you find out about the PhD opportunity with Urban Foundry?

It was quite lucky, actually – a total fluke! I stumbled upon it on the very day the application was due. I had been searching for the right PhD opportunity whilst working in Sweden, and then, out of the blue, I decided to have a look online, and there it was – this incredible PhD.

It was as if all my work on creative urban regeneration and my drive to involve people more intimately in the planning processes – to create more liveable and healthy urban spaces – had all been leading to this.

The PhD seemed like a natural progression from my thesis work. The fact that it was a collaborative PhD particularly interested me because I was keen on partnering with an organisation like Urban Foundry.

I looked Urban Foundry up online and they really resonated with me – they appeared to be a company involved in precisely the kind of cool, innovative work I wanted to be part of.

Being in Swansea was spontaneous! I had hoped to move to the UK, but I hadn’t decided where. Discovering Swansea and Urban Foundry felt like fate stepping in. And now, I absolutely love Swansea.


What is your PhD in?

My PhD research is centred around ‘Urban Acupuncture in South Wales: Pinprick Solutions for Urban Regeneration’. It’s a fascinating concept, it draws parallels between a city and a living body, suggesting that just as acupuncture targets specific points in the body to heal and invigorate, similarly, swift, precise and strategic interventions in certain parts of a city can create vitality and a stronger sense of place.

The idea is to identify and implement quick, strategic actions that can have a ripple effect on the wellbeing of the city and its inhabitants.

I’m looking into how this approach can be applied in South Wales, examining the work of Urban Foundry and other similar organisations. My focus is on the creative and local efforts to regenerate areas, to see how these small-scale interventions can collectively contribute to the larger urban tapestry, benefitting both the physical spaces and the community that interacts with them.


What do you think about Swansea?

Swansea is teetering on the edge of great change. It’s an exciting time to be here as the city is evolving rapidly. There’s a sense that Swansea possesses all the raw ingredients needed to transform into something even more special – it just needs that extra bit of boldness and vision to realise its full potential.

Swansea is delightfully quirky, full of character, and I absolutely love it. The people here are the friendliest you’ll meet, and the beaches are stunning.

You’ll find independent shops and a genuine community spirit that’s really welcoming. It’s easy to feel like you belong, contributing to a community that cares deeply about creating a supportive and down-to-earth environment.


Working with Urban Foundry

Working with Urban Foundry has been an incredible experience. Being part of Urban Foundry means being in a creative space where ideas can become reality. The environment is dynamic, and the ethos of the company is lived and breathed by everyone here. The team at Urban Foundry is inspiring – they are full of ideas and have a practical approach to ensure longevity in their projects.

From Swansea Bay Street Markets to PopUp Wales and HQ Urban Kitchen, Urban Foundry is dedicated to sustainability. They understand how to integrate their projects into the urban realm for the long term.


What do you want to do post-PhD?

Honestly, I’d like to be a mayor! Maybe of a small town, or one a bit off the beaten path. Local politics is a complex and challenging arena, but I believe there’s room for a more creative and joyful approach. Too often, public life is overshadowed by less inspiring news, but what if we could infuse it with a bit more imagination? With a collective vision.

Alternatively, I’d like to work in urban regeneration. Working closely with artists, community members, and local entrepreneurs to impact a place, making it more vibrant and liveable.

I want to create urban spaces that aren’t just functional, but also enriching and reflective of the community’s collective spirit, history and future.