Architecture in the Making
Architecture as a Making Discipline
and Material Practice

Meta-Urbanism and Utopia-driven Projective Research

Nel Janssens

Project Contact:
Project Type: Postdoc
Project Period: 201302-201402


In general terms, Meta-Urbanism delineates a (problem) area in which the aim is to look beyond the urbanocentrism of our times and to focus on a diversification of concepts of inhabitation of the world, therefore turning the attention to the potential of more ambivalent landscapes of settlement.
The main guiding perspective from which this problematic is approached, is the notion of the Commons. The Commons are of specific relevance in a globalized, largely privatized and commoditized world in which one crisis (i.e. climate change) follows another (i.e. political, economic, social …) at an ever increasing pace. As a result, we can notice an increased systemic unsettlement of previously stable concepts on what the world is and how we can inhabit it. One of the reactions to this situation is the now widely spread sustainability discourse to which the concept of the Commons can offer a particular perspective. In the field of Meta-Urbanism, the condition of unsettlement is the driving force to critically question but also actively enhance the Commons by means of spatial concepts. Meta-Urbanism has to be understood as a space of sense-making, offering urbanism a laboratory where continuous shifts, adaptations and creations of ways to inhabit the environment are explored.

The research approach in the area of Meta-Urbanism emphasizes an iterative knowledge building process that oscillates between theory and design practice – establishing an interaction between discursive intelligence and design intelligence. Therefore, the utopia-driven projective research (UDPR) – as developed in my doctoral thesis – is used, which brings a series of interrelated conceptual design projects into interaction with theories. In this approach, the design projects serve to explore possible new directions for theory development. Such theory-through-design approach relates to a type of poetic knowledge building, which assigns to artifacts the role of carriers and generators of concepts and the power to act as discursive statements.


Nel Janssens is an architect-spatial planner, teaching at the Faculty of Architecture, LUCA, campus Sint-Lucas Brussels and Ghent, University of Leuven. Before she was a tutor at the Hogeschool Antwerp, Department of Audiovisual and Free Monumental Arts and coordinated the research group LAB4EAU (design research projects on the interface between architecture and urban design) at the Henry van de Velde Institute, Department of Design Sciences, Antwerp, Belgium. She worked as an architect at Deleu in Antwerp, was member of FLC extended, designers in free association, for the 2e Architecture Biennale Rotterdam 2005, design project Mare Meum/M.U.D. (the intentional rupture of the Belgian coast to induce the age of Multi User Dimension, FLC2005) and for the design research project COASTOMIZE!, funded by the Flemish Ministry of Science and Innovation. Currently she is a member of, (a non-profit collective that consists of an independent team of spatial and urban planners, architects, designers and intellectuals who investigate socio-spatial issues by means of design-based research), where she was part of the research project 'The Future Commons 2070 map', funded by the Belgische Stichting Roeping. She recently (june 2012) finalized her doctoral research at Chalmers University of Technology, Göteborg and the Faculty of Architecture, LUCA, campus Sint-Lucas Brussels and Ghent, University of Leuven. The topic of her thesis was ‘Utopia-Driven Projective Research: a design approach to explore the theory and practice of Meta-Urbanism'. She is now working as a postdoc researcher within the “Architecture in the Making” Strong Research Environment hosted at Chalmers, within the collaboration of Swedish Schools of Architecture and the research department in the field of Architecture within the Group Science, Engineering and Technology of the University of Leuven, Belgium.


BibBase janssens, n
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  2012 (1)
Utopian-driven projektive research exploring the field of Metaurbanism [Elektronisk resurs]. Janssens, N. Chalmers University of Technology, 2012.
Utopian-driven projektive research exploring the field of Metaurbanism [Elektronisk resurs] [pdf]Paper   link   bibtex   abstract  

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