Bursting housing bubbles and the agency of urban design activism

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This chapter provides a conceptual and methodological framework for studying the agency of design activism in urban space. By definition ‘activism’ entails a strong notion of agency with subjects protesting to make change happen independently of state power, capitalism, and control. However, I argue that if agency is conceptualised strictly in terms of a sequential model of causality between activists’ intention, the action itself and a given power of authority one cannot avoid amputating the epistemology of urban design. Instead, I draw on design research and critical urban theory in order to introduce a broader notion of agency that extends the unit of analysis to include also more-than-human agents, material processes and heterogenous artifacts. Moreover, I argue against studying designerly acts of protesting as a form of revolt against some generalised image of power. Rather, the method of inquiry needs to be firmly grounded in context-specific cases to carefully examine how urban activist practices are inextricably entangled with political power and capitalist forces. In the last part of the chapter, the reader will find a case study of urban activism in Denmark and I exemplify how various methods can be of value for researching the agency of design activism.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge handbook of urban design research methods
EditorsHesam Kamalipour, Patricia Aelbrecht, Nastaran Peimani
Publication date2024
ISBN (Print)9780367768058, 9780367768065
ISBN (Electronic)9781003168621
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Design activism
  • Urban studies
  • Citizenship
  • Neoliberalism
  • Agency


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