Towards Spatial Justice: A Co-design Guide

The built environment has always been complicit in political change, economic pressures, and social movements. It is actively shaped by multiple actors – those in power and those disempowered – with different values, contested interests and varying degrees of agency. Reflecting on the theme of ‘connecting communities’, the research acknowledges and addresses the power dynamics at play in development, especially in the context of London and the UK where conditions of land tenure produce unique challenges to addressing spatial injustices. In the absence of legal or statutory guidance, too often ‘community engagement’ is conducted at a tokenistic level, with superficial considerations of what constitutes a community. The research aims to make a case for co-design as a more inclusive process for development that can empower a more diverse group of actors to be at the table and part of design teams, shape strategic decisions and participate in design and construction stages, which in turn strengthens existing and nurtures new communities.

The report is available to download at the end of this page.
Towards Spatial Justice: A guide for achieving meaningful participation in co-design processes

This research and guide builds on the rich legacy of co-design work that has run alongside the more conventional development models and architectural design practices of the built environment, and frames the discourse under the broader framework of spatial justice to draw out the contingencies, challenges and opportunities of collaborative and power-sharing processes in addressing pressing social and economic inequities, the climate emergency and other intersectional issues that communities face today.

‘Towards Spatial Justice: A guide for achieving meaningful participation in co-design processes’, developed with funding from the Royal Institute of British Architects and the University College London, results from a close dialogue between academia and practice, the public and third sector, and professional and lived experiences. Over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, through interviews, workshops and an in-person symposium, multiple insights –  similarities and differences of co-design approaches – were uncovered and consolidated in the report. The nuances, complexity and diversity of experiences are captured in case studies, from which broader values and principles are drawn to inform concise co-design planning and assessment tools for readers to adapt for their own use in their different realms of practice.

To offer a ‘one-stop shop’ for those seeking an introduction and overview to the subject, this guide concisely captures the key co-design concepts and themes with sign-posts to relevant resources for further reading.

Supervisor: Dr. Neal Shasore

Collaborators: ACD, Arup, Ashford Borough Council, Fluid/Soundings, Fundación Fibra, GLA, Julia King, Intervention Architecture, LSA, Public Practice, Sustrans, Urban Symbiotics and Yes Make
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