CONFERENCE | Design as caring in an urban world

Posted on 10/01/2014


I quite liked this call for papers (RGS 2014 Conference) as it succinctly and thoughtfully – even carefully – captures some interleaving of design and care (as care). It’s in keeping with some of the terrain covered during the Long Time, No See? Project. The questions are particularly important for reflecting on the project’s trajectory of participation, community building and web/app development, and embraced care as an integrated, even driving, element of the project form, design and process.

This is also a set of ideas that are important for planning – without an underlying ethos of care, planning is just a framework for property development rather than a meaningful narrative, articulation and practice of stewardship and governance.


In his essay, “Building, Dwelling, Thinking”, Heidegger considers the interrelationships between care and design by arguing that we are only capable of building well when we know how to dwell, that is, cultivating attachments to our environments and, through this cultivation, giving and receiving care. Recent work in areas such as urban and cultural geographies, and science and technology studies, has further elaborated on this connection between care and design by exploring the affective and relational work that goes into shaping and repairing the fragile attachments between the human and non-human materials that compose the urban world. At the same time, the materiality of urban environments is often found to be inattentive to human difference and diversity, and rarely shaped by, or exposed to, a caring design ethic.

In this session, we seek to bring concepts and practices of care and design into a closer dialogue with one another in order to develop new ways of thinking about the (co) production of urban environments. It is our belief that now, more than ever, a rethinking is required about the relationships between urban design and care, as issues such as sustainability and inclusivity ask for modes of designing and dwelling that convey the affective and relational sensibilities and values of caring.

We are interested in stimulating an exchange of ideas and inspirations between urban design and care by engaging with the ways in which caring skills and sensibilities can become expressed through design practice and thinking, and also the ways in which caring knowledge can be a resource for reconfiguring urban spaces. The questions explored in the session include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • How is caring embedded and expressed in daily encounters between people and urban environments, including buildings, spaces and technologies?
  • What kinds of skills and values of urban design do these encounters cultivate and what can be done to make public and support these?
  • How can an ethics and politics of care and caring be instilled into the design of places and what does a caring design ethic refer to and entail for practice?
  • What are the pedagogic and practical challenges in creating caring design values and practices?
  • How could an ethics and politics of care be mobilised as a form of constructive critique of current urban design discourses where the sensibilities and values of care have often received less attention?

Session convenors: Charlotte Bates, Rob Imrie, and Kim Kullman

Format: Two 100-minute sessions, comprising eight 20-minute papers and one key note address by an international leader in the field.

Please send a proposed abstract of 200-300 words to Charlotte Bates ( or Kim Kullman ( by February 14th 2014.