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

 On residences’ emotional security


Subject Area

This project investigates the life cycle of built landmarks in order to develop a design tool, which can accelerate public engagement. The design tool will act as graphical visual translator to encourage association of specialists and inhabitants, developing specialists’ understandings for local voices, and to facilitate non-specialists more say. Hence this tool will be applicable and supportable to a wide range of design activities.



  1. Finding a way of explores and develops new tools in public engagement, by looking at how life cycle of built landmarks in London, how they have been understood and re-understood in local’s perspectives.
  2. To open a dialogue with all stakeholders in urban regeneration, how the urban regeneration are perceived and given meanings by the inhabitants.
  3. To demonstrate the roll of landmarks in place making, how built landmarks provide emotional security for inhabitants.



*A1. To find elements for creating design tools through multiple case studies and social research.

*A2. To create design tools from *A1, which will be based on graphical and visual communication techniques.

*A3. To analyse how users and designers together can have more say in changing the landscape of the city, to authorities such as councils and developers via design tools.

*A4. The tool will be shared and found by design educators and design professionals. Also it will be shared with architects and developers. Test how it can be extended to assist other regeneration projects in UK and Japan.

*B1. To find a community groups and explain this project to the reader of the community groups.

*B2. To collect analyse local dwellers’ stories about built landmark in King’s Cross.

*C1. To analyse the life-cycle of landmarks in London to derive a context from King’s Cross.

*C2. To investigate the current urban re-generation strategy and process for King’s Cross and role of landmarks in providing emotional security among residents.

*C3. To analyse the life cycle of urban landmarks in London, through the analysis of historical examples by interview with locals.



**A1. To analyse how a landmark can be narrativised by its inhabitants, *B1 And *B2 Will be held in King’s Cross.

**A2. Creating design tools by applying information visualisation method.  Also I will derive from Laurel (2003), to consider designers’ knowledge about stakeholder’s need, such as an individual fulfillment of desire, pleasure and enhance capability, also in business sectors, such as sustainability and profitability.

**A3. Creative workshop with local participants will be held at CSM, to try and test how people’s narrative can be visualised as a representative of local voices.

**A4. To seek possibility of dissemination of design tools, creative workshop will be held in Japanese art and design universities with Central Saint Martins.

**B1. By using ethnographical approach, I will try to withdraw real local opinions toward the on-going urban regeneration at King’s Cross, by proactively joining local activities and infiltrate into locals.

**B2. To obtain personal narratives toward local landmarks, ask inhabitants to write a story about “when you are getting lost in this area?” as a psychographical analysis research approach. It will be proceeded in local communities in King’s Cross.

**C1. Visiting site research based on Kevin’s methods, analysing his research methodologies and modifying them to fit my research area, landmarks.

**C2. To conduct multiple case studies, finding memorable built landmarks for ordinary inhabitants as targets.


Possible target groups

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



Historical Context

  1. To research about the history of the movement of public engagement, analysis Public Works and Proboscis’s activities. Also, the Highline in New York is famous public space the design of which was led by local residents.
  2. “Public Consultation” could be a counter context for this project because of their top-down methodology.
  3. 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 emotional 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. Creating “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. Currently, there are some possibilities to hold collaborative workshops at Japanese universities with this project. Also, the generated methods will be demonstrated during the exhibition as a participatory workshop.


Work Plan

  1. Case studies and historical research, for half a year.
  2. Analysis and Theorization, for half a year.
  3. Application of theories, for one year.
  1. Evaluation for creative industries and education, for one year.
  2. As a conclusion, the thesis writing will be included in parallel, as the verification of the new creative design tool.








Main Study List and Bibliography

  • Park, E. Ernest, B. Roderick, M. (1967) The City. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • 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>
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  • 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>
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