SLU news

Urban Forum - Practice Meets Academia - Design to raise awareness

Published: 18 March 2021
View  over a village in Austria.

On 12th March 2021, SLU Urban Futures and the Forum’s co-organizer, Urban Arena at Lund University hosted the second event of Urban Forum 2021, which brought together actors from practice and academia to share perspectives on contemporary societal and spatial challenges relating to the theme of “Responsibility of Design – Across scales”.

This theme sheds critical light on how design can contribute to building sustainable and socially inclusive urban futures, in different contexts, spatialities and social settings. The international project groups (from Bahrain, Denmark, Sweden and Austria) reflected both geographical diversity and a broad array of project concepts and themes relevant to the idea of scale in design. The six projects prompted discussion on issues ranging from traditional and new building materials, the Swedish housing crisis, to the role of nature in design.

Participants shared knowledge across disciplines and the academic/practice divide in a purposely fostered collegial atmosphere. The transdisciplinary group contemplated what defines conscious and high-quality design and how it can be achieved. As discussions unfolded, the Forum delved deeper into understanding the scope and purpose of design, recognizing that the responsibility of design lies in raising awareness, and not simply in problem solving. Design as activism emerged as a theme connecting actors from practice and academia, who agreed that we all share a responsibility to address immediate and emerging conflicts, complexities and crises relating to the transformation of urban areas.

Cultivating a safe, inclusive and mutually respectful space for dialogue is the central purpose of the Urban Forum. The digital format of this year’s Urban Forum presented extra challenges for creating this intimate environment. However, through careful planning and dedication from the Urban Forum team and participants, the event was as inspiring and enriching as ever. The successful event provided “inspiration and interesting perspectives” and a “diversity of topics and participants” according to attendees. Participants appreciated the friendly environment saying that “the great collegial atmosphere is very supportive and encouraging of new ideas”. In some ways the virtual Urban Forum allowed for a greater breadth of projects and participants, as guests logged in from all across the global.

The Urban Forum team is looking into developing this digital format further in future Urban Forums. Keep an eye out for future calls!

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