About the Research Group

Urban Projects, Collective Spaces and Local Identities is a transdisciplinary research group at the Department of Architecture of the University Leuven (KU Leuven) gathering researchers from several disciplines (architecture, urban design, urbanism, heritage practice, history & theory of architecture and urbanism, anthropology, digital spatial media, …). Its aim is to initiate and develop research on the making and use of collective spaces in urban projects in relation to coherent theoretical approaches and discourses.

Collective spaces have greatly changed due to environmental, economic and social developments in the daily reality such as migration, cultural diversity, social transformation… Not strictly public or private but both simultaneously, collective spaces have an interesting ambiguous public-ness, transcending property structure or programmatic requirements. They contain different levels of shared use that are defined by multiple physical, cultural or territorial boundaries and different models of accessibility and permeability.

The scope of research and design within the group is merely defined by the intermediate scale, in-between the interior and the regional scale. The different research-projects investigate how people and buildings or open space relate to each other, how space is appropriated and local identities are formed, how it contributes to the built and social environment of urban life. Some of the projects focus especially on places of diverse cultural natures and the diversity of appropriation.

The research group Urban Projects, Collective Spaces and Local Identities seeks to study this balance of parallel mechanisms of space production in different contexts and tests the outcomes through real life and hands-on projects, considering the local neighbours, stakeholders, the protagonists and main beneficiaries. The process (that is a part of the research and design project) is an essential element of analysis and reflection within the research group. The objective is to pronounce a critical discourse on the reading, making and transformation of collective spaces in a contemporary landscape. The used research methodologies are quantitative and qualitative, including literature study, mapping and monitoring of phenomena, action research, analytical and comparative case studies, explorative real live projects, ICT-enabled collective and counter mapping practices as well as social-geographic web (Geoweb 2.0) environments, digital spatial media, research by design methods, etc.

Furthermore we aim to disseminate our research findings also to practitioners in urban design and architecture, and to local governments and decision-makers.

Keywords:

  • Collective Spaces / Intermediate Scale / Public-Private Gradient / Streetscape Territories / Accessibility and Permeability of Urban Projects / Challenged Landscapes /
  • Local Identity/ Social Meshworks / Inter & Transcultural Dynamics / Local Structures and Buildings / Suitablilty 
  • Appropriation / Formal and Informal Processes / Emergent Systems / Non Programmatic Spatial Strategies 
  • Participative Design/ Community Based Approaches / Open Source Practices / Networked Empowerment
  • Resilient Strategies / New Models of Productivity / Adaptive Re-Use