CFP: Design & Environment. An Intensive, Interdisciplinary, and Output-Oriented Workshop

Wednesday 28 February and Thursday 1 March 2018, University of Leeds.


Abstract deadline: 13 October 2017

3 to 5 page essay deadline: 12 January 2018



Wendy Gunn (Senior Research Fellow at the Research[x]Design Research Group, Department of Architecture, KU Leuven)


Clare Rishbeth (Lecturer in Landscape Architecture at the Department of Landscape, The University of Sheffield)


This two-day workshop seeks to critically rethink how design and environment inform each other. Architects, designers, and environmental scholars from a range of disciplines are committed to sustainability. However, the relationships between these fields of inquiry and production are not self-evident. How are design and environment intertwined, or when does environment become design and vice versa?


It has long been recognised that spatial planning and design are not just matters of aesthetics or convenience, but can have major consequences for how an environment functions in social terms. The examples of destructive socio-spatial segregation are ample, as are those of fragmented ecosystems. The workshop invites reflections on the troubled relationship between design and environment beyond conventional “Design for the Environment” (DfE) frameworks (focussing on the environmental impact of products or processes) and seeks to defy the idea that design altruistically works ‘for the betterment of all’. Acknowledging instead the normativity and embeddedness of design in power structures, can serve to expose the intentionality of environmental changes. In turn, environmental changes, as well as contemporary understandings of the socio-material configuration of space, can produce surprising understandings of how design processes work and allow for more inclusive, and perhaps empowering conceptualisations of design. The emerging field of design anthropology in particular has been “concerned with how people perceive, create, and transform their environments through their everyday activities” [1], thus developing a broad conceptualisation of design as a way of making the world.

Where do (studies of) design and environment meet, and what kinds of understandings does this offer? What are the pitfalls and challenges this encounter brings forward? How do the temporalities and materialities of design and environment align or clash in working towards a sustainable future?

Anthropologists, geographers, designers, architects, humanities scholars and others, at all career stages, are invited to contribute to this two-day workshop. Possible topics for discussion include, but are not limited to:


• Temporalities in/of environment and design

• Environmental crisis and disaster

• Design, destruction, and (spatial) inequality

• Urban and rural landscape architectures

• Controlled environments

• Aesthetics, representation and critique

• (Post)colonial environments

• Utopia and social engineering

• Sustainable design and environmental management

• Dwelling and everyday design



This will be an intensive, interdisciplinary and output-oriented workshop. Apart from public keynote lectures by Wendy Gunn (KU Leuven) and Clare Rishbeth (The University of Sheffield), the workshop will be closed to people who are not presenting to improve commitment within the group. The workshop is limited to a maximum of 20 people.


Those interested are kindly asked to send an abstract (max 200 words) outlining their ideas to Arvid van Dam ( before 13 October 2017.


Invited participants will then be asked to submit a 3 to 5 page essay well before the workshop and all participants are expected to read the essays in their panel. In addition, they will be asked to send 1 to 3 thematic questions with their essay, which might inform the panel discussions. During the meeting, each participant will give a pitch rather than a full presentation, focussing on the main argument of their essay (creative approaches are welcome), and allowing for in-depth discussions. There will be no parallel panels. Various sessions will be directed, each in their own way, at coming up with collaborative output based on the discussions and presentations.


[1] Gunn, W., T. Otto & R.C. Smith (2013). Design anthropology: Theory and practice. London, New York: Bloomsbury. (Page xiii).



Arvid van Dam

Doctoral fellow

Disaster studies | Design Anthropology | Environmental Humanities


University of Leeds

Leeds Humanities Research Institute

Room 1.04 | 29-31 Clarendon Place +31 6 15275313 | +44 113 34 32025