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Cities Studio publications

The Design Studio component of the MSc City Design and Social Science involves in-depth research, analysis and proposals by students working in groups with tutors on specific urban issues and sites. Each year's collaboration is published in a limited print edition and can also be read online in PDF format - follow links above or scroll down.

Connected City

This year the City Design Research Studio focused on differing forms of connection in Thamesmead, responding to the varied scales at which Thamesmead is severed from the city and the Thames. Thamesmead also provides a context to consider new connections, accompanied by a predicted substantial population growth and large-scale construction of new forms of housing. Working in interdisciplinary groups, our students explored how different forms of physical and social connections provide networks and systems for thinking about emerging micro-economies, everyday patterns of mobility, relations between civic life and the politics of social housing, alternative logics for managing public space, and the underlying asset of water that has historically shaped the site. These explorations are located in the context of growing urban inequalities and definitive shifts in how urban resources are financed and distributed.

Connected City coverConnected City (PDF)
MSc City Design and Social Science 2016-17

Previous publications

Last year's City Design Research Studio (2015-16) was led by Dr Gunter Gassner, Dr David Madden, Dr Don Slater and Professor Fran Tonkiss Infrastructure has been central to the work of architects, urban planners and technical experts for a long time. But it is only more recently – with the ‘material turn’ in sociology for example – that it has also become a key concern for social scientists.  Our investigations in the City Design Research Studio this year involved an expansive and critical understanding of infrastructure and its social, spatial, cultural, economic and political dimensions. Research was carried out in three different site contexts across inner London: Railway Infrastructure in Elephant and Castle; Social Infrastructure in Somers Town; Green Infrastructure in Elephant and Castle; Street and Pavement Infrastructure in Hackney; and Canal and Waterway Infrastructure in East London.

Approaching infrastructure as urbanism allowed us to explore crucial questions for understanding and intervening in today’s contested, unequal cities. To what degree are infrastructural systems ‘neutral’? How are they economised as sites of investment? How do built infrastructures relate to social practices? How can small-scale interventions centred upon infrastructures speak to larger-scale urban challenges? What political projects are encapsulated within urban infrastructures?  For some possible answers, read Infrastructural Urbanism (below).

The City Design Research Studio 2014-15, led by Professor Fran Tonkiss, Dr Gunter Gassner and Dr David Madden, took the theme of the 'critical city' and focused on Tottenham, a district in the borough of Haringey in northeast London. Tottenham is a place where many of the crises of urban life are visible. It is the poorest neighbourhood in the most unequal borough in the capital. Many Tottenham residents experience numerous forms of injustice, and the area has repeatedly been the site of uprisings and riots. And many locals feel that the councilʼs official regeneration plans threaten to bring gentrification and displacement rather than social progress.  The students’ challenge was to understand this area without simplifying or stigmatising it and to propose critical interventions that could help Tottenhamʼs communities on their own terms rather than facilitating their erasure. Scroll down for Critical City.

Our studio exploration in 2013-14 was based between the Elephant & Castle and St. George’s Circus in south London. Within this historic stretch are a host of territories and interests, including a recently vacated and demolished, large-scale social housing estate called the Heygate Estate, the London College of Communication and London South Bank University, and the Elephant & Castle transport intersection. A number of pieces of land in the area are subject to private redevelopment, including the Heygate Estate and the Elephant & Castle shopping centre. Urban renewal within this historic stretch takes on multiple forms and values, all of which are defined by the current economic crisis and a new political momentum for regeneration. It is an area in which the large-scale displacement of people has been further amplified by the soaring land values in London together with the dismantling of inner city social housing stock. Resourceful City expands our understanding of what it means to be resourceful in a period of economic austerity.

In 2012-13 the Studio focused on the inner London borough of Hackney as a site for thinking about the challenges of the local city. Against the backdrop of current political designs for ‘localism’, we aimed to explore in more imaginative ways various local capacities for city-making. Beginning at Hackney Central and the dense commercial, residential, social and mobile environments that surround it, the Studio groups analysed the connections and contexts, the actors and interests, the problems and potential which constitute this complex locality. The map of the local city that emerges is a rich one: from Hackney Central as a point of arrival and interchange, to the fragile vibrancy of a high street under the dual pressures of economic downturn and rapid urban change, the generative environments of ‘problem’ housing estates, geographies of local youth, differential patterns of access and mobility, and the connective potential of the area’s ‘backyard’—the canal that links this local place back into an extended urban network.  Scroll down for Local City.

In 2011-12 our students focused on the Barbican, the massive multi-level, multi-entry, modernist labyrinth in the City of London comprising the largest arts centre in Europe and a dense housing development, as a site for thinking about the problems and the potential of the ‘public city’. The Studio explored the public character of the city not simply in terms of designated spaces, but in terms of different kinds of use, of users and of urban interaction. The Barbican presents an opportunity to conceptualise how participation and performance extend both within its walls and to the city beyond.  The fruit of their labours, Public City is available to read below.

In 2010-11 the focus was on 'High Street 2012', the six kilometre stretch of road running from Aldgate through Stratford, a combination of a number of local high streets that accumulate into a major urban corridor leading to the Olympic Legacy project. The area associated with High Street 2012 is currently part of major planning and design initiatives that relate to shifts in policy directions for the role of London’s high streets, as well as the substantial, planned regeneration of London’s East End.  Students worked together in groups to analyse their stretch of street, and to propose strategies for intervention.  Their work is the basis for City Street (see below).

In 2009-10 the focus was on the areas surrounding East London's massive Olympic Park development: Hackney Wick, Fish Island, Sugarhouse Lane, Carpenter's Estate, Stratford Town Centre and Leyton.  How will they benefit from the regeneration projects promised for this largely deprived part of London?  Students suggested some interventions, emphasising the role small, local projects could play in the growth and change of the Olympic fringe sites.

In 2008-09, the City Design Research Studio centred on Bishopsgate, on London's city fringe.  In 2007-08 the Studio theme was urban development on the inner/outer city edge - looking at Barking and Dagenham in East London within the larger Thames Gateway context.  In 2006-07 the central theme was Housing and the City, with a focus on Southwark: the students' original research on housing history fed into the catalogue for Home/Away, the British Pavilion at the 2008 Venice Architecture Biennale.  In 2005-06, the Studio focused on the Land Securities development of Bankside 123, designed by Allies and Morrison Architects, and sited behind the Tate Modern.

Publication PDFs

See links below for the electronic version of previous Studio publications (separate PDF for each chapter), starting with last year's (2016):

Infrastructural Urbanism_CoverInfrastructural Urbanism (PDF)
MSc City Design and Social Science 2015-16


Critical City CoverCritical City (PDF)
MSc City Design and Social Science 2014-15

06 Collage crop

Resourceful City (PDF)
MSc City Design and Social Science 2013-14

■ 01 Negotiating Regeneration
02 Relational Grain
03 Urban Ecology of the High Street
04 A Castle for the Elephant
05 An Open System
06 Collage




Local City coverLocal City (PDF)
MSc City Design and Social Science 2012-13


Public City (PDF)
Public City CoverMSc City Design and Social Science 2011-12


City Street front coverCity Street (PDF)
MSc City Design and Social Science 2010-11 

Olympic Fringe (PDF)

MSc City Design and Social Science

Stitch the Wick
Urban Ecotones
Urban Archipelago
Common Ground
Partial Policy Vacuum
Urban Co-Production

Olympic fringe 

Inner Edge (PDF)

MSc City Design and Social Science

Bishopsgate as a Border
Development Processes
Bishopsgateway to the Green Grid
1:1 Colonisation

Inner edge 

Outer City (PDF)

MSc City Design and Social Science

Emerging Typologies and Densities
Urban Environment
The Economics of Development

Outer city 

Housing and the City (PDF)

MSc City Design and Social Science

The Inhabitant
Affordability and Tenure
Emerging Typologies
The Developer
The Control of Housing Design
Quantity and Density

Housing and the city 

Bankside 123 (PDF)

MSc City Design and Social Science

Working Capital
The Developer
Organisational Structures
Statutory Strategies and Policy
Civic Image and Public Space

BAnkside 123 cover_small_154x216 

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