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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Unearthing the political: differences, conflicts and power in participatory urban design

Calderon, Camilo


This paper aims to advance the development of participation in urban design from a substantive standpoint. It departs from a prevailing focus on ideals of participation and describing participatory methods and processes. Instead, the paper stresses the need to acknowledge 'the political' nature of public spaces and how this challenges participatory urban design processes. This leads to a substantive exploration of differences, conflicts and power in the planning and design of public spaces, i.e., unearthing the political. The case of a participatory process in a neighbourhood of Barcelona illustrates the theoretical discussion. This helps bring forward a much-needed critical and reflective, rather than idealistic, theorization and practice of participation in urban design.


Involvement; local communities; public space; participation; urban design; decision-making processes

Published in

Journal of Urban Design
2020, volume: 25, number: 1, pages: 50-64

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Urban and Rural Development

UKÄ Subject classification

Landscape Architecture
Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified

Publication Identifiers


URI (permanent link to this page)