Utopian-driven projektive research exploring the field of Metaurbanism

University dissertation from Chalmers University of Technology

Abstract: In this thesis a design-based approach is developed to address the issue of reconceptualising urbanisation. The approach is called utopia-driven projective research and is the result of a process of reflection on a number of conceptual design projects the author participated in. The research builds on the idea of 'theory-through-design' and shows how the projects are brought into interaction with theoretical frameworks that serve as another kind of design perspectives. Through the process of abstraction and extraction that is thus set in place, the core elements, both on the level of the subject-matter and on the level of the design approach, were distilled from the projects and developed into a research topic and research approach. The development of utopia-driven projective research must be seen against the backdrop of the general condition of unsettlement our society finds itself in – a condition that raises the issue of how to maintain the habitability of our world(s). The assumption made in this thesis is that in a context of systemic changes (economic, environmental, political) there is a growing urge to make sense of the situation. Sense-making involves to an important degree the revising and restating of values, and it is an issue of learning from the future. In this situation the default mode of thinking is imagineering and projecting and this type of thinking is characteristic to a critical and utopian designerly thinking. Through utopia designerly thinking gets a model-theoretical character, useful to future-orientated sense-making, stance-taking and hypothesis-development. Hence, utopia-driven projective research is proposed as a way to investigate the futurity of the way we inhabit our environment. Utopia-driven projective research is orientated to the integration of scientific modes of knowledge production and design-based, poetic modes of knowledge building, which are particularly relevant in a context of sense-making. The field, in which this specific research approach is operative, is called Meta-Urbanism. Meta-Urbanism studies how the worldview of a people generates deep rooted form-giving principles of urbanisation. It is a transdisciplinary field in which urbanisation is investigated against a context of worlding. Worlding concerns the development of concepts of territory that differ from the currently dominant one of growth and consumption of space. Meta-Urbanism offers urbanism a ‘laboratory’ for collective future-orientated sense-making about alternative ways to inhabit the environment.