Urban Design and Cultural Practice
My research has an international focus and my interests lie at the interface between urban design and cultural practice. I work on how cultural values and norms influence the way we design the built environment and the way we experience space. Several recent projects have focused on these themes.
Work on the determinants of housing quality – including regulation, systems of finance and design innovation – examined quality outcomes in different countries and the ways in which constraint may activate design innovation. I am the author or co-author of several articles on this topic. I am currently exploring, through case study research, the way that Feng Shui – a system of beliefs leading to the selection of favourable sites to locate cities and buildings in a harmonious relationship with their surroundings - continues to exert an influence on the built environment. I am currently working on a book on this issue. Another line of research is the social life of small urban spaces. Ongoing research in the City of London, with colleagues from UCL, is seeking to understad how the material characteristics of space - designed and accidental - nurture particular behaviours and rescale and rehumanise the experience of cities.
Sustainable development and community involvement
I spent the first few years of my academic career working at the Sustainable Cities Observatory at the Politecnico di Torino, where I collaborated on a range of projects that focused on the role of community participation and action in achieving more sustainable patterns of urban development. I was co-author of numerous Italian language publications including a book, book chapters and many reports. This theme was taken forward in PhD research, completed in 2006, which looked at approaches to public engagement embedded in UK planning practice. Subsequent work in this area, funded by RICS, explored the impact of localism - post 2010 - on the allocation of new land for housing in England, asking whether a more localised and potentially more participative planning process will deliver additional housing in the years ahead.
Urban design pedagogy
I am interested in the pedagogy of urban design. An interdisciplinary approach to urban design is vital if students are to be better prepared to work in an industry which is in constant evolution; the capacity to bridge between different design cultures is essential for professional collaboration and effective place making. The Design Lab within our London Campus provides a setting for achieving that bridge and, in the years ahead, we hope to draw out lessons on collaborative teaching across planning, architecture and industrial design.