UCL Urban Laboratory


Giving agency to design: Educational practices for urban knowledge co-production

The role of urban designers urges to be recalibrated. The traditional autonomous, non-critical, market driven, solution-based practice no longer fits the contemporary challenges of urbanisation processes. Designers have the imperative to respond effectively to hyper-transformative landscapes, precariousness and increasing spatial injustices. As Buckminster Fuller suggested, a new kind of designer "is an emerging synthesis of artist, inventor, mechanic, objective economist and evolutionary strategist" (1963). 

This presentation aims to reflect upon the ways in which urban design needs to be understood as an interdisciplinary, spatially complex and hybrid practice that engages with the political and social urban realities. In this way, design research is embedded - where learning and knowledge production are seen as processes integrally related to the practices and lived experiences of people in specific settings and locations. By focusing on contested spaces in the global south, as sites of socio-spatial innovations, the scope of research become platforms to engage in collective endeavours of multiple space production practices. In sum, this presentation will illustrate the mechanisms that enable learning processes to renew a social commitment and critical engagement with the urban design practice: a) field action research, b) international partnerships and c) collaborative pedagogies. These mechanisms unveil the fields of tension of educational practices and its dialectical approaches on global south - global north, theory - practice, design - research and formal - informal. Thus, we argue that urban design needs to reclaim the political relevance of design, challenge the paradigm of participation and promote a critical understanding of space and everyday practices.

15 minute paper by Catalina Ortiz (UCL) and Giovanna Astolfo (UCL).

Session two (parallel panel two): 14.00 - 16.00, Thursday 17 September, Darwin Building B12/B15. 

Image: Engaged urban design research education


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