Constructing sites on a large scale: towards new design (education) methods

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningfagfællebedømt

Since the 1990s, the regional scale has regained importance in urban and landscape design. In parallel, the focus in design tasks has shifted from master plans for urban extension to strategic urban transformation projects. A prominent example of a contemporary spatial development approach is the IBA Emscher Park in the Ruhr area in Germany. Over a 10 years period (1988-1998), more than a 100 local transformation projects contributed to the transformation from an industrial to a post-industrial region. The current paradigm of planning by projects reinforces the role of the design disciplines within the development of our urban landscapes. At the same time, urban and landscape designers are confronted with new methodological problems. Within a strategic transformation perspective, the formulation of the design problem or brief becomes an integrated part of the design process.
This paper discusses new design (education) methods based on a relational concept of urban sites and design processes. Within this logic site survey is not simply a pre-design activity nor is it a question of comprehensive analysis. Site survey is an integrated part of the design process. By means of active site-construction designers simultaneously unfold local design issues, i.e. the design brief and possible design interventions. These non-linear explorative proceedings are similar to what researchers in science and technology studies have described as translation. Translation is a central concept within actor-network-theory (ANT). Transposed to large scale design, it allows us to conceive site and design in terms of active relationships between multiple heterogeneous actors. An actor can be any thing, idea or person that has an effect on the site; from the topography of the landscape over current development plans to significant stake holders in a given development area. Throughout the translation process these relationships are both studied and rearranged through design.
In the context of the master-studio Appearing and disappearing Landscapes. Jæren 2 at the AHO Oslo, we had the occasion to test an ANT based approach for setting the design brief in a large scale urban landscape in Norway, the Jaeren region around the city of Stavanger. In this paper, we first outline the methodological challenges and then present and discuss the proposed method based on our teaching experiences. On this basis, we discuss aspects of possible usages of an actor-network approach for design education as well as design practice on a large scale.
TidsskriftNordic Journal of Architecture
Sider (fra-til)64-71
Antal sider8
StatusUdgivet - 2011


  • Byplanlægning
  • Landskabsarkitektur - Actor Network Theory (ANT), design methods, Transformation, design education, regional scale, site-construktion

ID: 37569487