UCL Urban Laboratory



Our research explores a wide range of subject areas across disciplinary and geographical boundaries, using experimental, collaborative, and participatory methods.

Annual theme (2019-20): Waste

UCL Urban Laboratory and the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies are collaborating during the 2019-20 academic year on a shared research theme, Waste. Find out more here.

Priority areas

Commencing in the 2019-20 academic year, UCL Urban Laboratory's work will be explored through the prism of six priority areas, each led by one of our Co-Directors or Director. We will announce these in summer 2019, when they will replace the below activity areas.

Activity areas

Our activities currently focus on six key areas: housing and dishousing; ecology and metabolism; change and crisis; imagination and design; data and place; and citizenship and cosmopolitanism. You can find case studies under each theme below. 

Housing & Dishousing

Housing and dishousing
We explore diverse kinds of human shelter and settlement, aiming to improve housing for lower income city dwellers, and to understand and contest the evictions that have accompanied many contemporary and historical forms of urbanization. 
Ecology & Metabolism

We tackle urgent questions regarding political ecology, urban nature, and public health, re-conceiving relationships between cities, environments, people and infrastructure. 

Change & Crisis

We study urbanization and the restructuring of cities from varied perspectives, analysing the effects of cycles of investment and disinvestment, and the mobilization of citizens and built environment professionals in response to instability and critical situations.

Imagination & Design

We have a strong focus on urban culture, design and aesthetics, the representation of cities of the past, present, and future – as well as their challenges to representability – and the relations between different urban imaginaries and material conditions.

Data & Place

We study emerging digital technologies interwoven in the city fabric, in order to understand how they are changing everyday urban life, enabling new models of production and consumption, and redefining citizens’ relationships with one another as well as the cities they live in. These activities include work on physical ‘Internet of Things’ devices being embedded in buildings, transports, objects, and the like, as well as new virtual (or online) services, as exemplified by the collaborative economy wave. The digital footprint – data – that these new technologies create afford us the ability to systematically study the impact they have on our daily lives, the way we interact with one another, and with the space we live in. 

Data and place
Citizenship & Cosmopolitanism

Cities are now the focus for contemporary debates over citizenship in the face of new kinds of religiosity and ethnic identification that challenge secular conceptions of the modern metropolis and individual identity. 

Citizenship & Cosmopolitanism

The erosion of the nation state has also fostered different kinds of relationships between place, locality and the global economy that are manifest in widening disparities in wealth and quality of life.

The location of power in the contemporary city has increasingly shifted from concentrated and visible manifestations of state power (governmental bureaucracies, police services and so on) to a more diffuse set of networks dominated by capital (corporate lobbies, financial derivatives and other dispersed and ultra mobile elements) and also new forms of social and political organization and mobilization.

Cross- and interdisciplinary methods

We build across the full range of urban disciplines, practices and professions at UCL, providing a laboratory for the invention of cross- and interdisciplinary methods, because difficult urban challenges demand new modes of working.

Collaboration and experimentation

In order to address the most challenging urban complexities, knowledge about cities, and methods of urban research, need to be produced collaboratively and publicly, with the participation of citizens as well as those excluded from citizenship.

Internationalisation and comparison

In order to address conditions of globalisation, and challenge epistemological and geographical hierarchies in urban studies, we prioritise the internationalization of urban theory, research and practice, and the development of innovative comparative frameworks.

Image of cracked orange parking restriction markings on a road

Cities Imaginaries

Broad public programme of events that curate and create cultural representations of cities and urban life.

Installation shot of a studio in the Cities Methodologies exhibition in autumn 2014. Credit: Max Colson.

Cities Methodologies

An eclectic exhibition and programme of events showcasing innovative urban research methodologies.

Street scene in Gothenburg with a car passing and posters stuck to a piece of street furniture

Research projects

Our research covers a wide range of topics, from university-led urban regeneration to LGBTQ+ nightlife spaces.