Title: Graphic tools for public engagement: visualising the life-cycle of built-landmarks, and their impact on social identity.

Subject Area

The purpose of this project is to develop graphic tools for public engagement and to explore the potential of graphic visualisation to play a new communications role in the process of urban regeneration. The National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement defines public engagement as ‘A two-way process, involving interaction and listening, with the goal of generating mutual benefit.’ The graphic tools focus on defining and exploring built-landmarks which confer on a community a significant sense of emotional security through that community’s shared experience of it.



  1. To enrich public engagement processes by developing emotionally driven graphic tools that will amplify local voices and enable inhabitants to communicate in new ways with commercial and government stakeholders.
  2. To explore how local perspectives of built-landmarks have been formed over time and produced emotional security for individuals and communities.



1) To document and evaluate materials of previous public engagement projects to contextualise the research. Interviews will be carried out with the current community groups. Consequently, relevant stakeholders will be contacted to identify important built-landmarks.

2) To inform the prototype graphic tools that will draw on design fiction. ‘The invention, creation and construction of possible futures, which are explored, tested, evaluated and improved’ (Grand and Wiedmer), to allow, use, and materialise their central features as stories.

3) To engage local communities and the stakeholders through a series of workshops. The workshops will explore which built-landmarks are most significant for locals and facilitate them in the creation of their own visual stories featuring landmarks of the future. Meetings will be held with the stakeholders to present the outcomes from the workshops. The discussions form these meetings will be conveyed back to the locals. This cycle will be iterated and the graphic tools will be refined and synthesised into a design method. Furthermore, exhibitions will be set up in which the previous cycle’s results will be shown and tested, facilitating encounters between the locals and the stakeholders.

4) The project outcomes will be disseminated through print and digital media and practical workshops held at both local and international levels.


Historical Context

Since the 1970s some critics of post war urbanisation (Goodman, 1971) have argued that conventional top-down management of architecture and planning has shattered communities and produced ugly, alienating and isolating cityscapes. In response “social design” initiatives, that respond to local residents’ needs and aspirations emerged and has become a world wide movement (Sanoff, 2000). Design professionals have developed many different and creative methods to engage with locals and work with them rather than against them. Bottom-up community participation in urban design has been driven in the UK by public bodies such as the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), architectural practices such as Muf and Soundings, and small innovative researcher groups such as Proboscis and Glass House Community-led design.


Contemporary Context

King’s Cross is now in the midst of a transformation into a new neighbourhood for central London. New landmarks have appeared such as Granary Square and the new concourse and entrance to King’s Cross station. The area is undergoing massive change and the skyline and built-landmarks are shifting on an almost daily basis. This can be quite bewildering for both long term residents and newcomers. The rapid change makes Kings Cross a very fertile ground to explore the importance of built-landmarks and how residents and the stakeholders can have a dialogue about the significance of these landmarks.


Theoretical Context

This research refers to the contemporary work of the Los Angeles School. Particularly, the concept of Thirdspace (Soja, 1996) which will be relevant to my analysis of the image of urban-landmarks. Because the Thirdspace is the trans-disciplinary challenge to cut across all perspectives and modes of thought.

Also, Kevin Lynch’s criteria for imageability(1960) will be derived to analyse how landmarks function in the lives of urban dwellers.

   Visual Methodologies (Rose, 2003) clearly outlined how visual research can be conducted. Her methodologies such as compositional interpretation and photo-elicitation methods will be applied into the project.

I will also focus on Jeremy Till’s Spatial Agency which suggests other ways of doing architecture by architects and non-specialists.



Analysis of public engagement case studies, this will be complimented by interviews with public engagement practitioners to contextualise and inform the research.

An ethnographical approach will be adopted to identify specific local communities and to help draw out latent local perspectives towards built-landmarks. The main anticipated target groups are: people living in King’s Cross since before the rapid regeneration started, people commuting to the area for business and social purposes, and students and staff of CSM.

The data from this human, spatial and historical research will inform the visual story by the graphic tools to be presented to the community to provoke reaction and encourage engagement.

In the series of workshops, using techniques of co-design, the graphic visualisation will be developed into the graphic tools that will enable locals to tell their stories visually. All activities in the workshops, and the way of recording will be continuously transformed to develop a co-participatory strategy for recordings. The recorded materials and practices, such as drawings, photographs and verbal stories will be analysed to synthesise creative guidelines to allow participants to express their own narratives as design fictions through the use of the graphic tools.

These outcomes will be presented at meetings and exhibitions for comment from the stakeholders.

The graphic tools and the guidelines will be tested in the workshops and could also be evaluated in exhibitions as open debates.

This project will be disseminated through a regular on-line report and a dossier containing documentation of all the conferences, workshops and exhibitions. In order to facilitate opportunities for encounters between locals and the stakeholders, the space of the exhibitions will be discovered during the progression of the project.


Prediction of the Form of the Final Presentation 

An exhibition and exhibition catalogue documenting of the process, and a written thesis.