Design, engagement and practice

Our researchers are working with an expanded notion of design and an understanding of the architect as a catalyst for social change and innovation.

R-urban research project
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About us

The work in this group builds on the school’s pioneering practices, pedagogies and research on participation and public engagement. All of the group’s projects are underpinned by tools, processes, methods and knowledge of design.

The group’s research projects include:

  • ProShare
    Enhancing diversity, inclusion and social cohesion through practices of sharing in housing and public space (ERA-NET)

  • RE-DWELL
    Delivering sustainable and affordable housing in Europe. Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Action - Innovative Training Network (MSCA-ITN)

  • R-Urban
    An alternative strategy of regenerating neighbourhoods with the principles of urban commons (ADEME) 

  • AgeingHood
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    xploring the intersection between three key domains of human life: ageing, housing and livelihood. Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), under the GCRF Urgency Grants pilot.

  • Co-producing healthy communities
    Backyard retrofit to prevent arboviruses epidemics in Brazilian social housing developments. 

    (QR GCRF Sustainable Partnership) 

  • A Learning Architecture
    Developing a collective design pedagogy in Mumbai with Muktangan School and Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture and Environmental Studies (WRDTP PostDoc fellowship)

  • Urban Commons
    Research urban commons and their potentials in democratizing access to and management of resources and urban infrastructures through promoting sustainability and community well-being (2018-2021)

Researchers in this group have also been key in developing the Feminist Library of the School of Architecture, a live archive of feminist works, exhibitions, events, writings from alumni that have been produced by students and staff at the School over the last 20 years. Another project related to the Design, Engagement and Practice research group is the Resilience Platform. 


Research themes

  • Ageing and inclusive design of the built environment: research under this theme explores the influence of the built environment on mobility, sensory and cognitive health.

  • Building Performance Evaluation: research on the challenges facing the built environment in approaching the design, construction and management of housing. 

  • Co-produced Urban Resilience: research on participative methods to investigate, design and enhance urban resilience.

  • Housing studies: research under this theme addresses post-occupancy evaluation, sustainable design and affordability of social housing. 

  • Urban Commons: research into democratic forms of social, spatial, economic and ecological organisation and management by communities of differently scaled urban contexts.

  • Participative design and civic pedagogies: research under this theme address methodologies and approaches in participatory learning and design.


Research projects

RE-DWELLDelivering sustainable and affordable housing in Europe

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Action - Innovative Training Network (MSCA-ITN) (1.10.2020-30.9.2024). RE-DWELL’s innovative research programme and environment will provide a platform for a holistic analysis of affordability and sustainability of housing through a transdisciplinary perspective.

Co-producing healthy communities: Backyard retrofit to prevent arboviruses epidemics in Brazilian social housing developments 

Funding QR GCRF Sustainable Partnership scheme). Award value £40K  (18 months 2020-2021) (Stevenson PI) working with Federal University of Uberlandia, Brazil. 

Dengue, Zyka and Chikungunya are dangerous arboviruses transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. In 2019, according to the Brazilian Ministry of Health, 1.4 million people were infected, causing 414 deaths. Studies show that the proliferation of the mosquito is correlated to the accumulation of waste and other water retaining elements in private backyards. Most cases occur in social housing developments, especially in the ‘Minha Casa Minha Vida’ Programme (PMCMV) for 4.4. Million homes – the largest Brazilian Social Housing Federal Programme. In Uberlândia, these cases represent 78% of the 38,000 people infected in 2019.  As a rapid action to address key UN Sustainable Development Goals 3, 11 and 15 this project aims to co-produce an effective backyard retrofit approach and toolkit to prevent proliferation of these diseases.  Stage 1 involves a detailed and finely granulated environmental and health audit of backyards by the residents using citizen science following induction by health experts, Stage 2 uses four digital co-production workshops with experts to define potential solutions using existing techniques but new methods of application, Stage 3 uses digital socio-technical studies to assess the application of the solutions, Stage 4 consolidates the approach through a further expert-led digital workshop engaging with residents to refine and spread the resulting toolkit on a socially durable basis , while Stage 5 uses a digital legacy workshop to develop the project at scale.

ProShare: Enhancing Diversity, Inclusion and Social Cohesion through Practices of Sharing in Housing and Public Space
Funding ESRC /ERA-NET. Award Value  €285 000 (18 months 2021-2023) (Petrescu PI) Team: University of Kassel, University of Sheffield, HTW Berlin, Upssala University, KTH STockholm, TU Wien. 

Within the framework of the large influx of migrants and refugees in recent years, debates about the future of European cities have referred to problems such as housing shortages, gentrification, segregation as well as unrest, protest and violence. There have also been, however, expressions of solidarity and pragmatic approaches to support marginalized and precarious groups. Against this backdrop, the project explores 1) the forms and conditions in which practices of sharing in the field of housing and public space take place in socially mixed neighborhoods in different European cities and 2) the potential and limits of these practices for fostering participation and collaboration between diverse populations, including migrant and non-migrant communities. The underlying assumption is that practices of sharing can contribute to reduce space competition, enhance diversity in the urban space by civic engagement and community building and in the long term, contribute to social cohesion. The project is based on four phases: First, sharing and comparison of partner’s ongoing and previous research results; second, transnational empirical research across eight European cities (i.e. Berlin-Stuttgart-Kassel, Wien, Uppsala-Stockholm, London-Paris) third, implementation of ‘‘Practices of Sharing - Labs’ in selected neighbourhoods; fourth, examination of results within the consortium and dissemination of outcomes.

Urban Commons 

Research conducted by a team set up in 2018 through regular activities, including seminars and workshops at SsoA and other institutions (eg. CSM/ UoA London, LondonMet)  involving academics, PhDs  as well as urban grassroots groups in order to expand collective understanding of urban commons and its potentials in democratizing access to and management of resources and urban infrastructures through promoting sustainability and community well-being. The Handbook for Urban Commons is a research and pedagogical tool  targeting graduate and post-graduate students as well as international urban practitioners and researchers. 


Featured projects

Enhancing urban resilience through co-produced social, economic and ecological change

Research Impact Case Study 

Professor Petrescu’s research has brought significant ecological, economic and social benefits to deprived neighbourhoods across Paris and London. Her research and its application in seven “R-Urban” resilience hubs has led to her work being internationally considered an example of best practice of community-led resilient regeneration implementing Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) principles. In turn, this led to widescale adoption of her research findings by policymakers, politicians, architects and communities seeking to provide solutions for local resilience in the context of a climate emergency and with restricted resources. The research and R-Urban hubs significance is evidenced by multiple prestigious awards including from the Innovation in Politics Institute (2017).

Find out more

AgeingHood

Funding: Arts and Humanities Research Council AHRC, under the GCRF Urgency Grants pilot.

Award value: Approximately £100,000 (12 months)

AgeingHood explores the intersection between three key domains of human life: ageing, housing and livelihood. The project will propose solutions to address unintended consequences of urban resettlement of low-income older residents of Klong Toey (KT), Bangkok, Thailand.

Find out more

Co-producing healthy communities: backyard retrofit to prevent arboviruses epidemics in Brazilian social housing developments. 

Funding QR GCRF Sustainable Partnership scheme) 

Award value £40K  (18 months 2020-2021) ( Stevenson PI) working with Federal University of Uberlandia, Brazil.

Funding QR GCRF Sustainable Partnership scheme) 

Award value £40K  (18 months 2020-2021) ( Stevenson PI) working with Federal University of Uberlandia, Brazil.

As a rapid action to address key UN Sustainable Development Goals 3, 11 and 15 this project aims to co-produce an effective backyard retrofit approach and toolkit to prevent proliferation of Dengue, Zika virus and other mosquito related diseases.  It involves an environmental and health audit of backyards by the residents using citizen science following induction by health experts, co-production workshops, and digital socio-technical studies, engaging with residents to refine and spread the resulting toolkit on a socially durable basis.


Group members


PhD students

Karim Hadjri

  • Aliyu Abubakar
  • Jingjing Wang
  • Yiru Pan
  • Yanisa Niennattrakul
  • Esra Can
  • Suyee Jung

Doina Petrescu

Lines of Flight PhD research group

Fionn Stevenson:  


Other projects

Resilience Platform
Brings together research across the School and wider University in climate, demographics, governance and economic stability. 

Odessa
An EU-China project on understanding population change focussed on care delivery models that support ageing-in-place (ESRC). 

EcoDA - Experimental co-Design Approaches
Funded by Horizon2020 (2016-17) introduces the idea that open digital toolkits can support the replication of resilience practices.