Critical indirectness as a design approach in participatory practice: Spatialities of multivocal estrangement in three engagements with public cultural institutions around participatory projects in Gothenburg
Doktorsavhandling, 2019

Contributing across the domains of open transdisciplinary inquiry and transdisciplinary- and practice-oriented architectural and urbanism research engaging critically with participation in urban contexts, this research proposes critical indirectness as a multivocal design approach in participatory practice, developed through conceptual-analytical inquiry into three cases involving engagements between external art and design practitioners and public cultural institutions around participatory projects in Gothenburg.

It joins with calls for art and design practitioners' greater engagement with public sector institutions as way of working towards a more durable and wider impact, with calls to model a more de-centered 'urban-combinatory' practice on the plurality, hybridity, discontinuities, and contingencies of the contemporary city, and with calls for more multiple, contradictory approaches. Its methodological approach, open transdisciplinary turn-taking, likewise pursued these aims via alternating engagements between institutional and external actors, my own and others' practices, and theory from multiple fields.

The primary aim is to explore how art and design practitioners (including researchers and institutional actors) can develop greater capacity to critically wayfind within the complexities of engagements with public cultural institutions in and around participatory processes. This is supported by two interrelated inquiries, the first reworks monovocal understandings of participation, critique, institutions, and actors as multivocal—simultaneously collective, complex, and involving actors' critical and creative trajectories of agency. The second conceptualizes multivocal relations as having their own critical efficacy through potentially estranging effects, which can be both reflexively perceived by practitioners and furthered by design. These two inquiries combine in the use, in case analyses, of alternating voices, transversing voices, and wavering voices—conceptual-analytical lenses enabling focus on the critical and creative potentials of spatialities of multivocal estrangement generated by differential interrelations between 'voices'.


multivocal design approach




transdisciplinary architectural research

critical spatial practice



design approach

SB-H5 lecture hall, Sven Hultins gata 6
Opponent: Professor Ramia Mazé, Aalto University, Finland


Jonathan Geib

Chalmers, Arkitektur och samhällsbyggnadsteknik, Stadsbyggnad

"In these 'crisis-riddled times', we need to learn how to become paradoxical and contradictory..." — Petrescu & Trogal 2017:8

An indirect and direct approach to the complexities of participatory practice and societal challenges

There is growing recognition that it will take more than the sum of individual action to address today's interrelated urban and ecological crises. Larger-scale structures and effects need to be brought to the fore and engaged with. Doing so, however, challenges habits of pursuing simple, single solutions based on short-term cause-and-effect relations. Required instead is conceptualizing and handling increasing complexity and uncertainty. From a perspective of socially-engaged art and design practice engaging with participation, this thesis proposes that artistic-, cultural-, pedagogical-, and transdisciplinary-oriented perspectives are well-suited to this task when combined with architectural and urban thinking, and further with concepts from literary theory—multivocality and estrangement. These enable formulation of a composite 'multivocal' design approach, developed through analysis of three cases in Gothenburg which involved engagements between art and design practitioners and public cultural institutions around participatory projects. By being able to take both complex and clear—and collaborative and individual—views at once, practitioners can gain capacity to critically wayfind within the complexities of the field of engagement, while aiming the creative and critical potentials of such composite frameworks towards greater societal impact.

Training Art and Design Researchers in Participation for Public Space (TRADERS)

Europeiska kommissionen (EU) (EC/FP7/608299), 2013-09-01 -- 2017-08-31.






Hållbar utveckling


Building Futures (2010-2018)



Doktorsavhandlingar vid Chalmers tekniska högskola. Ny serie: 4688



SB-H5 lecture hall, Sven Hultins gata 6

Opponent: Professor Ramia Mazé, Aalto University, Finland

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