Title: Life-cycle of landmarks, in the impact of urban regeneration

On residences’ emotional security

Subject Area

The purpose of this project is to generate design tools for public engagement, which will act as graphical visual translator to facilitate common residents to be more involved to process of a community development and to enrich commercial stakeholders’ understandings for local voices. The definition of public engagement is ‘A two-way process, involving interaction and listening, with the goal of generating mutual benefit.’(the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement) The endeavour of this project is to develop the design tools that express the life cycle of built landmark and how the new design tools can contribute to an urban regeneration project.



  1. To encourage a fairer process for urban regeneration, opening a dialogue with all stakeholders in the transforming area by looking at life cycle of built landmarks in London. Particularly in King’s Cross, how landmarks have been being understood and re-understood mainly in local perspectives.
  2. To generate visual graphic translator as design tools to encourage public engagement, to make more mutual understandings between all stakeholders for evolution of design activities.



To analyse the life-cycle of landmarks, precedent study will be held in target narratives in King’s Cross to collect local dwellers’ stories about built landmarks in King’s Cross. Also community groups will be found and this project will be explained to the leaders of them. Consequently, the current urban re-generation strategy and process in King’s Cross and role of landmarks in providing emotional security among residents are going to be analysed. As case studies, public engagement projects by other institutions and design organisations will be evaluated as parallel practices. Then I will start generating design tools based on above researched elements and the tools will be based on graphical and visual communication techniques.

To test how users and designers together can be more involved in changing the landscape in the city, to authorities such as councils and developers through this design tools. In the anaphase stage, the tools will be shared and found by design educators, design professionals, architects and developers. Test how it can be extended to assist other regeneration projects in UK and Japan. Then it will be disseminated by the web, conference and workshops.



How a landmark can be narrativised by its inhabitants, I will ask inhabitants to write short stories to discover personal interpretations. Also, to investigate inhabitants, I will use ethnographical approach to withdraw latent local perspective toward the on-going urban regeneration at King’s Cross, by proactively joining local activities and infiltrate into locals.

Series of workshops with stakeholders will be held at CSM to grope the development of the design tools. First of all, participants, especially local inhabitants need to be educated to understand the current situation of themselves in the massive movement of urban regeneration. Therefore the purpose of initial stage of the workshops can be interactive learning sessions with graphical materials. Then I will conduct demonstration to inhabitants that how local voices can be enriched by graphic visualisation to local authorities, such as council and developers. By doing so, I hope inhabitants’ imaginations and creativities will be sufficiently empowered to influence to communities’ future possibilities. To create design tools by applying information visualisation techniques, I will derive Critical Visual Methodology from Rose (2003), to lead participants to fairer process for urban regeneration.

Then the final part of the series of workshops, those will be to try and test how people’s narrative can be visualised as a representative of local voices with designers.

To seek possibility of dissemination of design tools, also demonstrative workshops will be held in Japanese art and design universities.


Possible target groups

  1. The main target group is living in King’s Cross over 20 years, (before the rapid regeneration started mid 1990s – current 2012)
  2. Second group is people commute to King’s Cross for work.
  3. The third group is the students who are studying at CSM.


Historical Context

  1. To research about the history of the movement of public engagement, Public Works, special agency, CABE at Design Council and Proboscis’s activities will be analysed. “Public Consultation” could be a counter historical context for this project because of the contrast of top-down and bottom up methodologies.
  2. Other precedent studies from the world will be also considered. In Seeking Spatial Justice (2010) Soja describes the grassroots movement—involving various groups with sometimes contradictory aims—that led to real reforms in LA’s public transportation services.


Contemporary Context (About KX)

King’s Cross is one of the most significant transforming areas in London. Until recently, the area had a mixed reputation for both intellectual culture (with the British Library to the west and the University of London to the south) and as a cheap red-light district. However, the area is now in the midst of a transformation into a cultural hub. Furthermore, I have an access to Argent which is the main developer for the regeneration of the area through the CSM. It is vital to analyse their strategy for community engagement and my PhD project would run parallel.


Theoretical Context

• Critical Theory

How to make a visual research is clearly outlined in Rose (2001). I will derive her visual methodologies.

• Parallel Theory

I will be drawing on Kevin Lynch’s various criteria for imageability to understand how landmarks function in the lives of urban dwellers. In the Image of the city, Kevin’s aim is analysing the mental image of a city which held by its citizens, and research about particular visual image, then these are unified as clarity/legibility (imageability) of the city scape. Going beyond Kevin’s methodology, my consideration will be to focus on landmarks and people’s emotional security.

• Projective and Generative Theory

Also, to create a democratic design approach, I will analyse Edward Soja’s idea about spatial justice in the Seeking Spatial Justice (2010), to create connections between politics, inhabitants and various environmental factors.


To generate a design tool, another important fact could be people’s emotion and cognitive process about designed objects. Norman (2005) says, People are more likely to prefer the big picture (forest), rather than focusing on minor problems and details (trees). However, when people are irritated by a design, users are more likely to see the trees before the forest. Providing “Smooth orientation” for their imageability is the important aim for the design tools.


To test a design tools

The following bullet points are the current ideas for verification of the created design tools.

  • Info-graphic technique will be practiced and used as a translation tool for the workshops between inhabitants and authorities.
  • If “a re-generation project” was locally/ democratically led, what has happened? To create another fictional story with visual communication technique to empower inhabitants.


Prediction of the Form of the Final Presentation 

It will be an exhibition and a bound book with visuals for the creative and educational industries that are looking for new bottom-up approaches to design activities. Also, the generated methods will be demonstrated during the exhibition as a participatory workshop.




Design tools

Year 1:

Oct 2012 – July 2013

Autumn • Basic research about urban design methods and strategy.

• Correcting information

Spring • public engagement projects by other institutions and design organisations.

• Approaching to community groups in King’s Cross

Summer • the current urban re-generation strategy and process in King’s Cross • this project will be explained to the leaders of them.

• collecting local dwellers’ stories

• To explain the current situation for the inhabitants.

• Design tool as an educational tool for inhabitants

Year 2:

Oct 2013 – July 2014

Year 3:

Oct 2014 – July 2015

Autumn     the tools will be shared and found by design educators, design professionals, architects and developers




Then it will be disseminated by the web, conference and workshops.



Main Study List and Bibliography


  • Park, E. Ernest, B. Roderick, M. (1967) The City. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • The National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (2013) What is the Public Engagement? [Internet] Available from: <http://www.publicengagement.ac.uk/what> [accessed January 10th 2013]
  • Hoyt, H. (1972) The Structure and Growth of Residential Neighbourhoods in American Cities. Washington, D.C.: Scholarly; Reprint edition.
  • Soja, E. (1989) Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory. London: Verso.
  • Soja, E. (2010) Seeking Spatial Justice. Volume 16 of Globalization and Community Series. University of Minnesota Press.
  • Lynch, K. (1995) City Sense and City Design: Writings and Projects of Kevin Lynch MIT Press
  • Lynch, K. (1960) The Image of the City. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press,.
  • Lefebvre, H. (1991) The Production of Space. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Boyer, C. (1994) The City of Collective Memory. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Finnegan, R. (1998) Tales of the City. Cambridge University Press,
  • Rose, G. (2001) Visual Methodologies: An Introduction to Researching with Visual Materials. London: Sage Publications Ltd
  • Laurel, B (2003) Design Research: Methods and Perspectives. London: MIT Press
  • David, J. Hammond, R. (2011) High Line: The Inside Story of New York City’s Park in the Sky : Farrar Straus Giroux.

Merrick, J (2012) Transforming King’s Cross. London: Merrell

  • Spatial Agency. The means through which this action or product is achieved. [Internet] Available from: <http://www.spatialagency.net>
  • [accessed December 1st 2012]
  • PROBOSCIS (2012) pioneers of pie in the sky | makers of mischief. [Internet] Available from: <http://proboscis.org.uk>
  • [accessed December 1st 2012]
  • CABE (2012) the Commision for Architecture and the Built Environment. [Internet] Available from: <http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk>
  • [accessed December 1st 2012]