The Bartlett School of Planning


Elisabeta Gabriela Ilie

Research subject

Thesis title: Shaping Imaginary Geographies into Inclusive Cities

Primary supervisor: Dr Filipa Wunderlich
Secondary supervisor: Professor Matthew Carmona
Starting date: November 2012
Projected completion date: January 2017 

Within the inclusive urban design debate, mainstream research steps away from traditional urban design ideals of place-making and deals predominantly with the physical accessibility and free use of the built environment.

This research challenges commonly accepted notions of city-making, particularly urban inclusivity by design and the actual extent of this inclusion in the case of marginalised groups. The study builds on sociological theories of socio-cultural production of space/place and of the body in space in order to explore an alternative to traditional approaches to inclusive urban design.

It is argued therefore that, in order to critically discuss notions of inclusivity in the context of urban design, the discipline needs to develop the rightful tools to decipher codes – in objects and discourses – which shape marginalised individuals and their urban geographies in general. By ‘shaping’ is meant here the two-sided image of the subject - in their own eyes and those of the general public -, as well as their bodily presence – their outer look, actions, place-ness. Understanding the performativity of exclusion, how it takes form and how it is experienced in the urban realm is the first step towards a more inclusive urban design process.

To probe this, the research uses the case of the urban rough sleepers as an example of urban marginalised groups. The aimed result is a conceptual framework which accounts for a diversity of urban users at the various stages of the urban design process; a framework which supports and facilitates agency in the case of individuals often excluded from (public) space by means of design practices. 


My engagement with landscape architecture and urban studies sprang from my interest in the surrounding built environment and the human-space interactions of those who inhabit it. Due to a multidisciplinary background, I envisage the complex role of the designer as that of ultimately designing spaces with and for people, aiming beyond aesthetic outcomes towards sustainability values, social inclusion, community spirit and feeling of place.

My background is in Landscape Architecture, with a BA degree from ‘Ion Mincu’ Universtiy of Architecture and Urbanism, Bucharest, Romania and an MA degree from The University of Greenwich, London, UK.

Throughout my design studies, I grew increasingly interested in the part that communities played in the design process and the actual function and purpose of the (spatial) design disciplines in fostering a sense of place and feelings of belonging. As a result of this, I took on an MSc in Socio-spatial Analysis with Wageningen University, the Netherlands, finalised with a research internship with ALTERRA Institute on the subject of social innovation discourses.

My PhD research came as a natural consequence of my studies in the Netherlands and my then new concerns with notions of discursively constructed realities - from socio-cultural productions of space/place to those of the normative body expected to behave and appropriate space in pre-determined ways. The subject of marginalised groups in the city is one that I carried along with me through many of my years of study and I am fortunate to have the chance to pursue it fully by means of this degree. 

Publications and other work


Ilie, E. 2011, ‘Altered Landscapes and Local Character’ in Stremke, S., van Etteger, R., de Wall, R., de Haan, H., Basta, C. and Andela, M. eds Beyond Fossils. Envisioning desired futures for two sustainable islands in the Dutch Delta Region, p. 141-142, Wageningen: Wageningen University.

During, R., Duineveld, M. and Ilie, E. 2011, Social innovation: linguistic observations, London: Social Innovation Europe [Online].

Ilie, E. and During, R. (eds) in prep, An analysis of social innovation discourses in Europe, ALTERRA [Online]. Available at: