School of Architecture, Planning & Landscape

Research and Design Seminars

Research and Design Seminars

To encourage a dynamic research environment the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape organise weekly research and design seminars where research students, staff, visitors and invited guests present their work.
The seminars are held on Wednesdays 1pm - 2pm in the Exhibition Area, Room 4.60 in the Daysh Building. Everyone is welcome - bring your lunch and see you there!

Seminar Details

20 March 2019: Armelle Tardiveau and Daniel Mallo

Design Activism: Beyond the Here and Now

In parallel with a surge of social movements and citizen’s initiatives over the last decade, we have witnessed a renewed interest in the social significance of design disciplines. Much of the debates around ‘social design’ (Armstrong et al. 2014, Julier 2013, Stickells 2011) point out towards a myriad of design approaches and disciplinary fields interwoven with grass-roots initiatives and social movements. Among these, design activism has gained traction as socially engaged practice whose approach overlaps participatory design but also works in the fringes or the interstices of the system sitting “outside commercial or governmental structures” (Armstrong et al. 2014, p 29).

This paper contributes to the emergent academic literature that envisions design activism as vehicle for promotion and intensification of democratic practices and values. It seeks to understand how design actions permeate socio-spatial spheres, mediate power asymmetries and ultimately contribute to empowerment and co-production. Drawing on ESRC IAA research funded work, the authors present their own case study for the transformation of an underused urban space in Newcastle upon Tyne with view to re-think design activism as necessarily entangled with other communities of practice (gardening, making, co-producing) (Wenger 1998). The authors conceptualise their design activist approach mobilising social practice theory as analytical framework, in particular understandings of ‘material, competence and meaning’ (Shove et al. 2012, Reckwitz 2002, Kimbell 2012). The paper interrogates the potential of social practice theory in capturing the contribution of design activism to dynamics of change in everyday life, thus conceptualising the legacy of design activism as transfer of ‘material, competence and meaning’ to the collective, in other words, communities of practice that are catalysed / coalesce around the design practice.