The Bartlett School of Architecture


Andre Afonso

Andre Afonso



A multiscale approach to bodily interactions with urban art and media installations.

Primary and secondary supervisors




The migration of digital interactive technologies to urban settings blurs the boundaries between architecture and human-computer interaction (HCI). A growing number of interactive media have been deployed in outdoor urban spaces, affecting both the social and the spatial qualities of the urban environment.

At the same time, the theme of embodied interaction has gained traction in recent years (Marshall and Hornecker 2013), and one of the emerging interaction styles to appear in this context is whole-body interactions.

Urban art and media installations is an interface typology that encapsulates the trends outlined above. On the one hand, since these installations are usually located in open, public settings, they have a markedly urban and social character; on the other hand, urban installations have increasingly embraced whole-body interaction, encouraging people to interact by performing actions like running, jumping or swinging their bodies in playful and/or unexpected ways. 

To date, there is a lack of detailed accounts exploring the ways in which whole-body interactions with urban installations affect the use and life of urban spaces. Aiming to fill this gap, this research looks into whole-body interactions with urban art and media installations as an intrinsically spatial and social phenomenon that entails diverse scales of analysis. 

As such, the enquiry is anchored to three notions and their corresponding analytical scales: the notion of “urban spatial layout” at the macro level of the urban environment; the concept of “shared encounters” at the intermediate societal level; and, at the micro level of individual bodily engagements, the research focuses on whole-body interactions. 

The research adopts an in-the-wild approach of five interactive urban installations situated in the UK and conceived by different artists and designers. Besides architecture and HCI, the investigation spans emergent domains such as media architecture (Vande Moere and Wouters 2012), human-building interaction (Alavi et al. 2016), Urban HCI (Fischer and Hornecker 2012) and tangible and embodied interactions (Hornecker 2011). The main expected contribution of the thesis is to deliver a consistent theoretical framework as well as methodological insights to support the design and analysis of urban media installations.


Andre studied architecture and urbanism at Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG, 2008) and graphic design at Minas Gerais State University (UEMG, 2009), both in Brazil.

He has a MSc degree in architecture and urbanism at Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG, 2013).

He is now enrolled at The Bartlett in the Architectural Space & Computation MPhil/PhD programme.

Publications and other work
  • Afonso, A., Fatah gen. Schieck, A. (2020) ‘Play in the smart city context: exploring interactional, bodily, social and spatial aspects of situated media interfaces’. Behaviour & Information Technology, Vol. 39, Issue 6, pp. 656-680.
  • Afonso, A., Ergin, E., Fatah gen. Schieck, A. (2019) ‘Flowing bodies: exploring the micro and macro scales of bodily interactions with urban media installations’, Designing Interactive Systems Conference – DIS '19. 23-28 June. San Diego, California, USA.
  • Ergin, E., Afonso, A., Fatah gen. Schieck, A. (2018) ‘Welcoming the orange collars: robotic performances in everyday city life’, 7th ACM International Symposium on Pervasive Displays – PerDis 2018. 6-8 June. Munich, Germany.
  • Afonso, A. (2018) ‘Urban art as platforms for bodily engagement and social encounters: the Modified Social Benches’. The Senses and Society, 13:1, pp. 108-113.Long paper and oral presentation: "Modified Social Benches: Exploring the Role of Aesthetic Interaction to Placemaking", 10th Conference on Design and Semantics of Form and Movement, Delft and Eindhoven, Holland, 2017.
  • Short paper and video: "Emojis on the facade: Exploring social media graphics to transmit urban issues on media facades", 6th Pervasive Displays Symposium, Lugano, Switzerland, 2017. Authorship: Afonso, A. G. et al.
  • Academic walk: "Look, feel, move: experiencing interactive media installations in Canary Wharf", a walk exploring the light art installations of the Winter Lights Festival, London, Jan 2017 (part of the Bartlett PhD Walks programme). 
  • Workshop Organisation: "Encounters and Movements of Encounter", a workshop exploring the design of a site-specific content for a media facade in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Dec 2016 - Jan 2017. Authorship: Afonso, A. G.; Fatah gen. Schieck, Ava.
  • Presentation of upgrade seminar: "Comparative analysis of embodied interactions in public spaces: case studies of urban media installations in London", Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, 2016.
  • Conference Poster: Full Bodily Engagement as a Means for Placemaking. Presented at: Media Architecture Biennale – MAB 2016, Sydney, Australia.
  • Conference Paper: Square Lights: Towards an Expanded Approach to Urban Surfaces For The Design of Media Facades. Presented at: Mediacity 5 Doctoral Consortium, Plymouth, UK, 2015.
  • Conference Paper: “Subsídios teóricos para o Design da Experiência em espaços públicos: as noções de Lugar e de Experiência Urbana a partir de um estudo de caso.” Andre, A. (2014). Theoretical support for Experience Design in public spaces: the notions of Place and Urban Experience from a case study. P&D Design 2014 - Brazilian Conference on Design Research and Development, Brazil.
  • Conference Paper: “Superfícies urbanas como recurso expressivo e comunicativo para sistemas de sinalização urbana digital: o projeto Luzes da Praça.” Andre, A. (2013). Urban surfaces as expressive and communicative resources for urban digital signage systems: the project Square Lights. CIDI 2013 – International Conference on Information Design, Brazil. 
  • Masters Dissertation: “Superfícies Midiáticas Urbanas.” Authorship: AFONSO, Andre; Supervisor: Prof. Renato Cesar Ferreira de Souza. Urban Media Surfaces. Federal University of Minas Gerais – UFMG, 2013.