NSCPHD1119 Constructing criticism: Methods for studying what spatial design does

Årgang 2016/2017
Engelsk titel

Constructing criticism: Methods for studying what spatial design does



PLEASE NOTE         

The PhD course database is under construction. If you want to sign up for this course, please click on the link in order to be re-directed. Link: https://phdcourses.ku.dk/nat.aspx


Subject area:

Landscape Architecture, Architecture, Urban Design, Urban Planning, Research Methods, Criticism, Relational studies

Scientific content:

The aim of this PhD course is to strengthen PhD students in their ability to construct criticism of architecture, landscape architecture, urban design or larger urban planning schemes.

The course explores design critique through three tracks:

  1. PhD students get feedback on selected parts of their ongoing research; where they analyze or critique design work. Experienced researchers will respond to their mode of analysis, their textual and visual representation and the research trajectories that the critique suggests.

  2. PhD students are offered insights into theoretical and methodological issues concerning critique, particularly from the angles of performative aesthetics and actor-network-theory through key note lectures by international experts.

  3. A design-driven workshop in which students develop critique on the urban space Superkilen in Copenhagen (Big, Superflex, Topotek1), ending with an exhibition and mutual reflection.


Research in landscape architecture, architecture, urban design and urban planning has a long tradition for applying criticism – analysis, assessment, interpretation –to existing design work as a method of producing new knowledge. Design critique is part of most PhD research within the field. Therefore we need to train and critically reflect upon how we construct criticism.

From the point of view of art theory, Irit Rogoff differentiates between three approaches to criticism which also describe a historical development; 1) criticism is concerned with ‘finding faults’ and judging whether, for example, a given piece of architecture is ‘good’ or ‘bad’; 2) critique is concerned with examining constituting logics in order to explain how a given piece of architecture has come about; 3) criticality, finally, is concerned with what the work does in the present. By rearticulating relationships between makers, objects and audiences, criticality strives to ‘actualise the potential’ of a given piece of architecture rather than revealing faults. In short, criticality proposes a relational approach to studying design and planning work.

In recent years, we can observe an increased interest in studying the performative capacities of design and planning work; how it affects users and usages and transforms spatial contexts over time. Relational studies of what design and planning work do become increasingly relevant to inform, for example, strategic planning or user-driven design, and they require new methods, investigative techniques and forms of representation. Moreover, representation – as a core activity in landscape architecture, urban design and planning – can also be a matter of criticism. Representations can potentially show more than static physical form: models, drawings and texts may also give voice to and report the heterogeneity and dynamism of urban practices and material contexts.

The PhD course will thus focus on emerging theoretical frameworks and methods to study and communicate what design and planning work does; how people and places are being affected by design. Specifically the course draws on two influential theoretical frameworks for relational studies; performance theory from art and cultural studies and actor-network theory from science and technology studies. 

Invited guest lecturers will introduce theoretical frameworks and methods for conducting relational studies of design or planning work. PhD students will develop a relational study of design or planning work in relation to their own PhD research (draft before course, feedback during course, and finalization after course). In a design-driven, experimental workshop convened by architect and researcher Rana Haddad from the American University of Beirut, we will collaboratively carry out a relational study on an internationally acclaimed new urban space: Superkilen in Copenhagen (by BIG, SUPERFLEX and Topotek1). The results of the workshop will be exhibited at the end of the PhD course and we aim at publishing the workshop results.

Learning outcome:

The course will give the participating students state-of-the art knowledge of theories and methods for relational studies of spatial design and planning work. By developing an individual relational study in relation to the students’ own PhD research and presenting it in written form and through oral presentation, the participants will gain new methodological skills and competencies for theoretical reflection, whilst simultaneously being offered a unique opportunity to expand upon, reflect on and fine-tune analytical sections of their dissertation.


The design-driven workshop will enable participants to collaboratively test and train an experimental approach to critically study and represent an existing design work. Finally, the participants will benefit from broadening their academic network.


Relevant literature will be selected by the responsible teachers from UCPH and guest lecturers, and handed out to the participants in advance of the course.

Preliminary reading list:

Rogoff, I. (2005). Looking away: Participations in Visual Culture. In Butt, Gavin (ed.), After Criticism. New responses to art and performance. Blackwell Publishing, p. 117-134.

Avermaete, T. et al (eds.) (2010) Constructing Criticism, Special issue of Oase Journal of Architecture, #81 2010.NAI Publishers

Latour, B. (2004). Why has critique run out of steam? From matters of fact to matters of concern. Critical inquiry, 30 (2), 225-248.

Latour, B. & Yaneva, A. (2008). Give me a gun and I’ll make all buildings move. An ANT’s view of architecture. In Geiser, Reto (ed.), Explorations in Architecture: Teaching, Design, Research. Basel: Birkhäuser, pp. 80-89.

Lieto, L., & Beauregard, R. A. (2013). Planning for a material world. Crios, 3(2), 11-20.

Lieto, L., & Beauregard, R. A. (eds.) (2015). Planning for a material world. Routledge research in urban planning and urban design.

Tietjen, A. (2011). Towards an urbanism of entanglement: Site explorations in polarised Danish urban landscapes. Arkitektskolens Forlag.

Yaneva, A. (2009). Making the social hold: Towards an actor-network theory of design. Design and Culture, 1(3), 273-288. doi: 10.2752/174967809X12556950208826


Day 1: keynote lectures (1+2), paper session (1)

Day 2: keynote lectures (3), paper session (2+3)

Day 3: workshop

Day 4: workshop

Day 5: concluding session/exhibition


  • Anne Tietjen, Associate Professor, Landscape Architecture and Planning, University of Copenhagen

  • Svava Riesto, Associate Professor, Landscape Architecture and Planning, University of Copenhagen

  • Henriette Steiner, Associate Professor, Landscape Architecture and Planning, University of Copenhagen


Guest lecturers:

  • Tom Avermaete, Velux Professor at UCPH, Professor of Architecture, Department of Architecture, Technical University Delft

  • Rana Haddad, Assistant Professor of Architecture and Design, Department of Architecture and Design, American University of Beirut

  • Laura Lieto, Professor of Urban Planning, Department of Architecture, University "Federico II" Napoli

  • Kristine Samson, Associate Professor of Visual Culture and Performance Design, Roskilde University

Date: 22-26 August 2016

Venue: Rolighedsvej 23, 1958 Frederiksberg

Number of participants:  12-16 PhD students

ECTS credits: 5 (Workload: Reading literature and writing papers 100 hours, Participation 40 hours)

Course fee: DKK 1.000 for common lunches and one common dinner

Sign up: Please submit an abstract of your planned paper presentation (max. 300 words) per mail to Anne Tietjen, atie@ign.ku.dk.

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