Spatial transformation as social movement


Lecturer(s) :

Declerck Joachim Walter I




Every year


November 26th, December 2


The course looks at how the disciplines of architecture, urban design and planning could reposition themselves to accelerate implementation of the broader transitions we are facing in terms of health and inclusivity, climate and biodiversity, economy and mobility.


By presenting and confronting "frameworks" (theoretical and societal analysis and vision), "practices" (eight types of transformative practices), and "programs" (of strategic projects with transformative capacity), the course invites the participants to document and formulate a hypothesis, working principles and pathways forward for "transformation as a practice of societal change".


Together with other societal players, from policy-makers, to climate scientists, economists, entrepreneurs or citizen initiatives, also the design discipline is facing a lock-in. While global  and local strategies and political  accords  show a clear direction, while science underpins the need to change our behaviour and adapt our ways of living, working, moving and producing, we are faced with a gridlock situation: the louder the plea for fundamental and fast changes, the stronger the resistance "up till outright denial" from growing parts of our societies and elites (see political directions). Clearly, the idea that science and knowledge on the one hand, and clear goals and agreements (points on the horizon) on the other hand, lead to action are wrong assumptions. These "theories of change" do not sufficiently work: the "landing" of these goals and changes in our streets, neighbourhoods, or landscapes is not happening, while each of the major transition goals require their fundamental adaptation and transformation. Can we reverse the logic:  in stead of continuing to work from the major and often abstract objectives to the facts on the ground, can we explore the mobilizing capacity of the transformation and improvement of local environments and multiply those projects so that together they effectively realize ambitious, supra-local goals?


This is the hypothesis for a "practice of change" that will be documented and sharpened in this course. Three complementary fields of knowledge will constitute the building blocks: (1) societal and theoretical "frameworks" (2) new types of "practices", and (3) the design of new "programs" of strategic projects. In parallel to the course material and conversation, the group of participants will collectively build a virtual exhibition of thoes "programs" of transformation projects in Europe (documenting several concrete cases and projects, formulating their joint ambitions and principles as a transformation program).


A subject for a specific essay (making the bridge between the individual PhD subject and the course's subject) will be determined in exchange with PhD participants. A specific working-session with PhD participants will be organized.


Transformation, Designing the Future, Government, Climate, Social movement, Innovation, Moonshot, Typologies, Investment program, Theory of Change, Practice of Change.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, the student must be able to:

In the programs

Reference week

      Exercise, TP
      Project, other


  • Autumn semester
  • Winter sessions
  • Spring semester
  • Summer sessions
  • Lecture in French
  • Lecture in English
  • Lecture in German