Chalmers Conferences, Transvaluation: Making the world matter

Beyond Best Practice. Re-valuing mindset and re-imagining research models in urban transformation
Lisa Babette Diedrich, Andrea Kahn, Gunilla Lindholm

Last modified: 2015-08-17


”Beyond Best Practice” takes aim at accepted value-systems and conventionally silo-ed working methods grounding two types of practice activity: professional practice and academic practice. It uses a study of planning and design mindsets structuring urban transformation processes to raise methodological questions related to academic research and knowledge-production models. The authors claim “best practices”, typically applied, limit innovation and obscure site-specific values. They elaborate their position that urban transformation tasks demand a new form of relational practice by explicitly reflecting on their own transareal, team-based research activity. The paper outlines a framework of research operation: a process developed through “Collaborations”, a method based in “Conversations”, and a mindset deploying “Speculations” and design thinking. The authors demonstrate the application of this research model through two “Revaluations” and conclude by arguing the value of professional and academic practices that engage divergent points of view and acknowledge their own blindspots.


urban transformation; best practice; design thinking; critical conversation


Archer, L. B. (1965), Systematic Method for Designers (London: Council of Industrial Design)

Ascher, F. (1995), Métapolis ou l’Avenir des Villes (Paris: Odile Jacob)

Barad, K. (1996) “Meeting the Universe Halfway: Realism and Social Constructivism without Contradiction, Feminism, Science and the Philosophy of Science (Great Britain: Kluwer), 161- 194

Barthes, R. (1979), “From Work to Text”, In: J. Hariri (ed.), Textual Strategis, Perspectives in Post-Structuralist Criticism, (Cornell University Press), 73-81

Braae, E. (2015), Beauty Redeemed. Recycling Post-Industrial Landscapes (Basel/ Berlin: Birkhäuser)

Brown, T. (2009), Change by Design. How Design Thinking Transforms Organisations and Inspires Innovation (New York: HarperCollins)

Burns, C. and Kahn A. (2005), Site Matters: Design Concepts, Histories and Strategies (New York: Routledge)

Cross, N. (2007), Designerly Ways of Knowing (Basel: Birkhäuser)

Diedrich, L. (2013), Translating harbourscapes. Site-specific design approaches in contemporary European harbour transformation. PhD thesis (University of Copenhagen)

Dell, C. (2011), Replay City. Improvisation als urbane Praxis (Berlin: Jovis)

Deming, E. & Swaffield, S. (2011), Landscape Architecture Research. Inquiry, Strategy, Design (Hoboken: Wiley)

Ette, O. (2011), Roland Barthes, zur Einführung (Hamburg: Junius)

Fraser, M. (2013), Design Research in Architecture (London: Ashgate)

Gratton L. & Ghoshal S. (2005), “Beyond Best Practice”, In: MIT Sloan Management Review, Spring 2005,, accessed 2015-03-30

Mayor of London (2012), Green Infrastructure and Open Environments: The All London Green Grid. Supplementary Planning Guidance,, accessed 30-3-2015

Hensel, M. (2013), Performance-Oriented Architecture: Rethinking Architectural Design and the Built Environment (London: Wiley)

Hillier, J. (2007), Stretching Beyond the Horizon: a multiplanar theory on spatial planning and governance (Surrey: Ashgate)

Hyde, R. (ed.) (2012) Future Practice: conversations from the edge of architecture. (New York: Routledge)

Kahn, A. et al. (2007), Constellations: Constructing Urban Design Practices (New York: GSAPP Columbia University)

Kermode, F. (1963), The sense of an ending: studies in the theory of fiction (New York: Oxford University Press)

Krippendorf, K. (1989), “On the Essential Contexts of Artifacts, or on the Proposition that Design is making Sense (of Things)”. Design Issues 5 no. 2, spring 1989: 9-38

Latour, B. (2008), “What is the Style of Matters of Concern?” Spinoza Lectures. (Aassen: Van Gorcum)

Lawson, B. & Dorst, K. (2013) Design Expertise (New York: Routledge)

Lindholm, G. (2012), “Visible Gestures – on landscape perspectives in urban planning”, Planning Theory, Vol. 11, no. 1: 5-19

Overmeyer, K. (2007), Urban Pioneers. Temporary Use and Urban Development in Berlin (Berlin: Senatsverwaltung für Stadtentwicklung/Jovis).

Pascale, R., Sternin, J. and M. (2010), The Power of Positive Deviance (Boston: Harvard Business Review Press)

Ramirez, J.-L. (1995), Skapande mening. En begreppsgenealogisk undersökning om rationalitet, vetenskap och planering. (Stockholm: Nordiska institutet för samhällsplanering), dissertation 13:2

Rittel, H. and Webber, M. (1973), “Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning”, Policy Sciences, Vol 4, 155-169

Roy, A. (2009), “The 21st Century Metropolis: New Geographies of Theory, Regional Studies, 43:6, 819-830

Schön, D. (2008/1982), “The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action” (New York: Basic Books)

Seggern, H. v. et al. (2008), Creating Knowledge: Innovation Strategies for Designing Urban Landscapes (Berlin: Jovis)

Sieverts, T. ( 1997), Zwischenstadt. Zwischen Ort und Welt, Raum und Zeit, Stadt und Land (Braunschweig/ Wiesbaden: Bauwelt Fundamente)

Sieverts, T. (2008), ‘Von der unmöglichen Ordnung zu einer möglichen Unordnung im Entwerfen der Stadtlandschaft‘, disP The Planning Review 169/2: 5–16.

The Delegation for Sustainable Cities (2012) Take Action Now! Conclusions from the government assignment September 2008 – December 2012 (Stockholm: Swedish Government Inquiries) 13:2

Tietjen, A. (2011), Towards an Urbanism of Entanglement. Site Explorations in Polarized Danish Urban Landscapes (Copenhagen: Arkitektens Forlag)

Tracy, D. (1987), Plurality and Ambiguity (San Francisco: Harper and Row)

Thienen, J. von, Meinel, C. and Nicolai C. (2014) “How Design Thinking Tools Help To Solve Wicked Problems”, Leifer, Plattner and Meinel (Eds.) Design Thinking Research, Building Innovation Ecosystems (New York: Springer)

White, H. (1982), “The Politics of Historical Interpretation: Discipline and De-Sublimation”, Critical Inquiry 9:1

Full Text: PDF