Critical Spatial Perspectives

ACEX35​,Masters’ thesis direction, 2020/2021

Description and aim

The master’s thesis direction Critical spatial perspectives asks as a central question how architects and planners can analyse, intervene and design in space using critical perspectives. Such perspectives can be understood to point to the importance of social responsibility, environmental justice, intersectional feminism and norm-critique, democracy, participatory processes and human rights, and subversive and resistant spatial practices, in responding to political and socio-economic challenges connected to the built environment. The direction emphasises such perspectives because they are urgent. Indeed, as Jackson (2009) has pointed out we now live in “an age of irresponsibility” which currently is creating social polarisation, segregation, over-consumption and unsustainable living. Hence, at the heart of this thesis direction is the need to develop an ability to formulate critical questions of how power, spatiality and meaning are produced and reproduced.

Students in this direction can express their critical proposals through design projects, written academic work, or a combination. It encourages an expanded scope for spatial interventions at different scales, and accepts that ways of responsible and critical spatial inteventions are not limited to architecture/buildings or urban plans/design, but can include a wide range of interventions, including theoretical schemes, countercultural work, manifestos, collaborative design, and embodied spatial practices.

Method and process

Master theses within this direction use theory and design practice to explore a critical perspective. Common approaches within the studio are qualitative, discursive and regenerative approaches. We critically investigate how we talk about, plan and reproduce society and (natural) environment, but also how new approaches for the design professions can contribute to making a difference. Such critical spatial perspectives can for example imply an analytical focus on how inequalities materialise in the built environment, through urbanisation, gentrification or segregation processes, and thereby contribute to creating unsustainable spatial hierarchies between people and places. Critical spatial practices can also question how uneven development, damaging environmental and spatial practices, and unsustainable consumption, devastate natural environments.

Specific evaluation criteria

Relevance of research question/contribution to broader discussions in society; Relevance of suggested methods, suggested theory/literature survey, suggested case/empirical analysis/design proposal; Clearness of plan for own process; Level of independency.

Suggested literature and projects

• Architecture sans frontières International (2012). Challenging Practice: Essentials for the Social Production of Habitat. (retrieved from
• Awan, N., Schneider, T., & Till, J. (2013). Spatial agency: other ways of doing architecture. Routledge
• Ernstson, H. and Swyngedouw, E. (2019) Urban Political Ecology in the anthropoobscene: Interruptions and possibilities. Routledge.
• Fitz, A. and Krasny, E. eds. (2019) Critical Care. Architecture and Urbanism for a Broken Planet, Architekturzentrum Wien and The Mit Press
• Hamdi, N (2004). Small Change. About the art of practice and the limits of planning in cities. New York: Earthscan
• Harvey. D (2006). Space as a keyword. In Spaces of global capitalism. London, New York: Verso
• Mang, P., Haggard, B. & Regenesis (2016), Regenerative Development and Design. A Framework for Evolving Sustainability. Wiley.
• Massey, D (2006). London inside-out. Soundings. 32, 1, 62-71(10).
• Petrescu, D. and Trogal, K. (2017). The Social (Re)Production of Architecture. London, Routledge.
• Rendell, J. (2018) "Only resist: a feminist approach to critical spatial practice", The Architectural Review, 19 Feb 2018
• Sinclair, C., & Stohr, K. (2006). Design like you give a damn. Architectural Response to Humanitarian Crisis. London, Thames & Hudson Ltd.
• Till, J. (2009). Architecture Depends. MIT Press

Direction faculty

Marco Adelfio,​ Nils Björling, Emilio Brandao, Isabelle Doucet, Julia Fredriksson, Kristina Grange, Shea Hagy, Anna-Johanna Klasander.

Exemplary thesis projects

• Ahumada, Jorge (2019). Just Spaces: A study of a public space in Mexico City to apply the just city research in designing public spaces
• Arlid, Hedda (2019) Scenografy for transition: In search of utopian visions beyond growth. The thesis uses a scenographic perspective to understand the potential conflict between GDP growth and sustainable development in relation to a public space in Gothenburg
• Berg, Isabella (2019) In whose interest? A discourse analysis of the development of Karlastaden and its effects. The thesis is a theoretical work that investigates problem representations and their effects on the development of Karlastaden within the district of Lindholmen in Gothenburg
• Bell, Alicia (2020). Not just sorry, but thanks: an investigation into colonialism within Sydney’s Built Environment
• Björkman, Annsofi (2020). Exploring co.creation: for citizen participation and influence on public space
• Danckwardt Lillieström, Jakob (2017). DEMOCRATICITY Democratic Opportunity and the Planning of Public Space
• Fornaca, Allegra (2018) No retreat from change: A resilient flooding adaptation strategy for Henån (Orust). The thesis investigates land use and functions that can handle sea level rise and include different sea levels as new spatial qualities.
• Novik, Natalie (2017). Common Ground: A tool for dialogue and decision-making to encourage sustainable lifestyles in the city neighborhood
• Marttila, Johanna (2018). Towards Local Lab. Developing Tools for Short-term Practices to Become Regenerative and to Create Continuity in Participation
• Holtz, Klara (2019). Hello Stranger: exploring urban safety from the perspective of spatial equity.
• Pucolowska, Aleksandra (2020). Team Lövgärdet: Forming a collaborative framework for a local development in west Sweden.
• Röstlund, Ida (2017) Form follows material: Design with local resources. The thesis discusses how architecture can be developed from available local resources and materials, and uses a research by design process in order to test potentials in a design process
• Sandblom, Fredrika and Nilsson, Matilda (2018) Forming a Feminist Future: An exploration of design that allows young women and transgender to appropriate public space. The thesis investigates the right to the city and how public spaces can be designed for appropriation.
• Zorawska, Eve (2018). UN-seen cities: strategies for building community in transience.

Published: Wed 30 Sep 2020.