‘Strategic Consultation’ Concept – Streamlining Our Project

06 March 2019 / 09:00 AM / 2.06 Bush House

  • With Rosa.

Strategic Consultation Idea

Following on from our previous meeting where we honed in on our aims for the presentation and decided to situate our utopic ideas within previous explorations of Utopia in London, we decided to construct our ‘strategic consultation’ in a deliberately problematic way, which can be pulled apart and interrogated afterwards. It will perhaps be overly bias or too optimistic; we will need to think about the specifics of this in the next meeting and in our document works.

This not only engages with the methodological and theoretical issues underpinning  ideas of Utopia but also allows us to explore the topic without committing to a single vision of Utopia, which we were finding difficult to achieve. We found there were problems in coming up with answers to huge utopian questions such as ‘How should people live and work in the city? The scope was too broad to explore in this project and we would only be able to produce surface-level ideas. This lead us onto thinking about exploring utopian thinking by asking questions as a consultancy for the council to those who work, live and interact with ‘The City’, as a way of developing an interactive concept. Furthermore, thinking of the questions to ask for the purpose of city development allows us to engage with Utopian ideas in an imaginative and broad manner.

In a consultation we would raise all the issues we currently see with work and life in ‘The City’ and ask participants what they find is problematic. Then we would ask questions relating to how we can reform the situations and imagine a future alternative that engages is utopian in nature. We imagine that this would draw fragmented visions from the various different people involved, who may be residents, tourists or city workers.

Where would the Strategic Consultation take place?

Vinya suggested that our ‘strategic consultation’ could be staged in the park St Dunstan in the East Chuch Garden, near to Monument and in the centre of ‘The City’.

The idea would be that we would ask questions to people passing through the park about their work, and/or life in The City. This would help us understand life and work in ‘The City’ in the 21st Century (this is theoretical in the role play setting of the council, not something we will actually carry out).

However, we then decided to focus on specific groups because we realised that different  people inhabit different parts of the ‘The City’ and for different reasons. There would perhaps be an unequal distribution of a certain kind of people in the garden, which would not provide our ‘council’ with a comprehensive understanding of people’s desires and visions. Furthermore, by talking to people, for instance, who live in The Barbican area and then to those who work in The Gherkin, we will address how the ‘The City’ is inherently fragmented in demographics, architecture and lifestyle. Indeed, creating solutions to current issues which were ‘utopic’ to these different actors was one of the reasons we decided not to come up with the solutions ourselves but rather interrogate the people who would be affected by city changes. This employs democratic agency in the space, which is our aim as a ‘council’, to represent and serve the people of ‘The City’.

Looking To Current Council Planning and Strategies

We then started to think how a council would actually frame a new plan or strategy to london and how the word ‘Utopia’ would be an unlikely term to use. Instead, we could think about ‘ideals’, ‘visions’ or even specific ‘London 2050’ futures. We could ask things like ‘What is your vision for a future London?’. In line with this, we will also identify in our role play as a council that we have a broad range of issues we want to address but we only have x time and x money so we will focus on x issues’. The exact issues to focus on will need to be decided by us next week.

Using Case Studies

Last session we came to the conclusion that utopias are informed by the past and present.  This is why we would like to provide ‘case studies’ such as The Barbican to consultation participants.

Below is Vinya’ post to our Facebook group regarding The Barbican:

‘The city was depopulated by the bombings and destruction of ww2. There were plans to reconstruct with a bit emphasis on commerce shops businesses etc but concern that they would lose their political status without inhabitants: ‘historically a unique administrative entity’

They weren’t sure if they wanted ‘all those people’ living there but that evolved. The barbican was radical as a neighbourhood concept with residences schools a church shops and the arts centre. Radical also because it was inspired by utopian thinking like from the architect le corbusier.

‘The City wanted to make a statement about bringing back life into the boundaries of the financial City’.

Link to our skyscraper interest: barbican was the tallest residential building in the country for decades.

Link: http://www.barbicanlifeonline.com/hist…/our-concrete-utopia/

Sunday as a Focus

Vinya suggested focusing on Sundays in particular as a day where, commercially, things aren’t going on and there is an absence of city workers. The square mile becomes a site for tourists to explore both the history and modern dimensions of ‘The City’. We need to confirm if we wish to centre the vision for the city on Sundays or more generally.

City skyline

Tasks Going Forward

Moving forward we have decided to look at current pubic council documents to model our own agenda and creative approach. We will look at the language employed to help construct our own council documents and agenda.

We will need to come up with endings to the following sentence starters (or similar) as discussed in the meeting:

Through our creative exploration we are hoping to achieve …

We want to raise questions and illustrate…

This supports our general argument that…


Some further questions we interrogated in the session are:

  • What is the difference between positive thinking and Utopic thinking?
  • Is Utopic thinking a danger to mindfulness?
  • Does Utopia allows one to re-contextualise and lead to something new?

A Current Model for Presentation


  1. – Theory etc – 5 minutes – there is a history of… – what are the benefits of utopia as method – holistic – applicable to integrating physical/design & literary utopia.
  2. We have different audiences with different needs.
  3. Through the creative process we will show…


  • Give past Utopia as a reference point and say this was the vision, how does it correspond to your current ideal for this place?
  • Identify current issues & pose questions regarding this.
  • Create an ‘agenda’ to give out to our ‘funders’ / ‘council’ etc
  • Create a ‘big vision’ mission statement.


  • Interrogate analytically the issues with the consultation.

Action Items

  1. Write an introduction together engaging in methodology and theory.
  2. Write an agenda and vision – looking to current council documents for inspiration.
  3. Pick case studies to talk about in the consultation – The Barbican and The Gherkin?
  4. Identify current issues in the city and create questions around them.
  5. Critically analyse our consultation & address the ‘fragmentation’ of the project.

Next Meeting Agenda

We should work out our action plan for dividing the work above between us.

We should make it clear who we are pitching to – council or funders (are we a consultancy agency?).


Independent Group Meeting Summary (04/03/19 – rescheduled from 27/02/19)

Following a recap of our previous week’s discussions and research, we decided to focus our meeting of Monday 4th March upon clarifying our specific project aims, research question, methodology, and presentation structure (particularly the degree of ‘performance’ we would include.)

Prior to the creative, ‘performative’, main body of our presentation, we intend to briefly explore the scholarly history and current prevailing applications of the methodology of utopia, particularly concerning urban planning, development, and management. We shall thus provide necessary context within which to situate and justify our own interpretation and application of this still emerging academic methodology, alongside the research questions and core aims of our project. Following this brief theoretical introduction, we shall begin our role-play, enacting deliberation between various members of the City of London local authority concerning a utopic vision for future development.

Regarding the structure of the creative element, we discussed a number of possible approaches:

  • Each member representing a different utopic vision for the City of London founded in a thematic interest e.g. financial, holistic, environmental, cultural. These different viewpoints would enable conversation between different utopic visions, viewpoints which might conflict or cooperate, and their underpinning motivations.
  • The group cooperatively pursuing a single utopic vision for the City of London. This framework would enable us to explore the various components of our utopia in a more comprehensive, detailed way. Within this structure, we considered focusing upon a single building which encapsulates our ideas or a ‘day-in-the-life’ model focused upon a single individual’s experience.

Within either of these structures, our approach may involve: outlining a previous utopic vision e.g. the Barbican, relating this to particular contemporary issues e.g. homelessness, creating a novel utopic vision on the basis of these components. This method would highlight both that “any utopia is informed by the past and present” and that all any utopia is a critique of the past. Since, the methodology of the utopia might be applied to a vast range of fields/issues, we feel it would be necessary to limit any appraisal of modern-day issues to prevalent few, perhaps 1 per member.

Alternatively, we could begin with a hypothetical utopic design, adapt this according to present-day issues and previous utopic visions.

We intend to highlight and attempt to reconcile the largely distinct branches of current utopia methodology, namely, design utopia (altered artifacts and organisation of space) and literary utopia (social organisations and institutions). We might also consider the internal fragmentation of single utopic visions e.g. different motivations culminating in a singular concept.

Furthermore, we discussed the possibility of reflexive ‘asides’, wherein the role-play is frozen and the group member concerned breaks character in order to provide objective commentary upon our methodological approach, ethical concerns, and/or case studies of previous utopic visions within the City of London e.g. 30 St. Mary Axe, the Barbican etc. These objective ‘asides’ would be styled in an academic manner but might incorporate appraisal of inherent bias through anecdote etc.

Contributing towards a unique, preservationist, approach to the utopia methodology, these case studies would enable conversation between our own utopic vision(s) and those which have previously been enacted in the City, emphasising the area’s composition as a patchwork of different utopic fragments.

As a development constructed in the wake of WWII bombing, the Barbican represents a particularly interesting case of holistic utopic planning, directed by necessity in certain senses and exerting a lasting influence upon urban design.

In relation to a possible argument or research question, we considered the following:

  • ‘Any utopia is informed by the past and present’/’To what extent are utopias informed by the past and present?’
  • Utopic visions need not eliminate all others, but could be preservationist in certain senses/’How might a future utopia incorporate past utopic visions?’
  • ‘How effective is the methodology of utopia in effective urban planning/design/maintenance?’

Prior to our upcoming session with Rosa on Wednesday 6th March, we shall each read the introduction to Ruth Levitas’s Utopia as Method: the Imaginary Reconstitution of Society (2013) (https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/kcl/detail.action?docID=1330923) and Martin Meyerson’s journal article Utopian Traditions and the Planning of Cities (1961) (https://www.jstor.org/stable/20026647?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents). These readings shall inform our understanding of the methodology of utopia and guide our ideas, further informing our presentation structure and approach.

Urban utopias: 13/2/19 meeting with Rosa

We introduced our idea for a creative presentation which explores potential urban planning futures for the City of London as a way of integrating different aesthetic, sensory, social, political, economic, psychological aspects this space.

By playing a ‘council’ we will be able to use the forward-looking planning perspective to draw on both the past and present as well – as points of critique and inspiration for our reimagining(s). Methodologically it looks like our broad exploration up to now is successfully grounded and structured through the concept of ‘Utopia as Method’ (Levitas) and its relevance to urban studies/planning (an example is Meyerson, 1961).

Core to using utopias as a method is that they capture ‘the desire for being otherwise, individually and collectively, subjectively and objectively’; this is always connected to our positionality and,  thereby, reflects not only a “dream for the future” but also a critique of the present (Levitas, 2013: xi-xiv). Levitas highlights that there are multiple implicit utopias in our society which can be revealed archeologically by analysing their fragments. An example we discussed in relation to this is that skyscrapers and the ambition of London as a ‘global city’ contain both an explicit and implicit vision for a capitalist, consumerist, neo-liberal, globalized ‘human flourishing’.

  • The fragments of visions and intentions and reality: the different utopias in particular buildings.

Meyerson (1961) provides interesting reflections on two traditions of utopia: the literary (concerned mainly with institutions, political systems, social relations etc) and the design (space, architecture, etc as primary because it is seen as shaping or even determining the social, political, and relations more broadly). He argues that applying utopian thinking to city planning could and should allow these traditions to meet by combining an imagination for economic/social policy and physical design (183)

Some parts of our own utopia/anti-utopia exploration

  • The physical environment.
    • There have been important political and economic changes behind London building upwards – Skyscrapers in the 80s (Thatcher de-regulation, growth of financial sector) and the early 2000s (newly position of mayor of London: Livingstone’s pro-business orientation)
    • Aesthetics of skyscrapers: Star architects and ambitions as a global city – skyscrapers as icons but also generic in some way.
    • How might art and architectural movements be integrated into an imagined new skyscraper? E.g. Natali’s interests in modernism and postmodernism’s influence on architecture
    • Archaeological approach- excavating the intentions and visions that are relevant for our space
      • E.g. Natali: Decorative arts like baroque contain a religious utopia
      • What is the political agenda behind a utopia?
    • Rosa’s article in guardian : NY skyscrapers people buying the air above buildings – limit of space – trading the feet of air to others so they can build up.
    • Sensory experience: does the visual experience of space have to be primary? What is a utopian city from an aural perspective for example?
      • Rosa: Oxford noise complaint app where you can record sounds. (maybe police was overwhelmed by noise complaints)
  • Social/political/economic
    • How to integrate racial and gender diversity
      • The black skyscraper in Chicago: book by Adrienne Brown – Rosa’s tip about architecture and race
    • Daniella’s research on the City: people not being able to see themselves working in the City because the dominant white male image associated with legal and banking professions
    • Alex mentioned that social problems like the lack of ethnic and social diversity in the City’s financial world could be contrasted with other areas in the ‘square mile’ like the Barbican. Understanding the diversity of this relatively limited area including who lives there, what the varied people’s needs are, could look at mental health, homelessness.
  • Resources: Using the reports from the city planning website on consultations.

Our presentation

Title idea: Fragmented urban utopias: the case of 21st century London

Structuring our presentation: start our presentation with an overview of the utopia theory. One or two examples to illustrate these theoretical underpinnings (Gherkin?)

  • We can start writing things down to make a draft and arch within our presentation.
  • Including examples in our presentation (short examples are good) – focus on case studies
  • Tasks: start writing and start categorizing our parts/themes – theoretical introduction (don’t let it take over too much) – how everyone’s parts can refer to the method?
  • Maybe we should incorporate aspects of our group meetings as evidence of the council’s deliberations via a video? (max 5 minutes)
  • Alex: Question is our audience – is it a group of investors or the constituents.
  • A positive spin? Are we glossing over other issues: are homeless people being moved away, etc
  • How to refer to scholars in our presentation in a creative way: sources can include newspapers, films, screenshot etc if we like
  • We can use a handout for reference (maybe a marketing report for the examiners or another creative concept)
  • Fake trial from post-truth example: their aims and method in two minutes and then the trial was most of the time.
  • 10 minutes are Q&A: always some questions on interdisciplinarity

Weekly Meeting Notes: Fragmentation Group D

Notes from last week’s meeting:


  • Repetitive and superfluous? 
  • What is the point of walking around with a camera? Why can’t we use images already taken?

This was an interesting point as this is what most of us believe; that a city with images that never change, when the images are completely static and the prime tourist spots never seem to change, why take new images? Why are we contributing to an endless archive of banality? I think that walking around the city with our cameras, consciously aware of where we have positioned the camera and understanding the city with an optical eye could inspire a different understanding of the city if we pushed ourselves to find something new.

Waves of Tall Buildings being approved

  • City and skyscrapers
  • Oppositions to having tall buildings 
  • Preservationist keep historical centres alive 
  • Early 2000s first Mayor of London — 
    • Gherkin influence etc 
    • Should we have sky scrapers or not vs what sort of skyscrapers
    • Skyscrapers to assert Global Power 
    • Privatisation of public spaces 
      • Areas around them become private by Public space 
  • Urban development and civil rights correlation  
    • Economic development of the city 
    • Gossip is so important in cities – need to meet each other talk to each other – semi-social 
  • Work and play restaurants blurred lines 
    • Directed purely to economic interest and not social 
    • Transformation of building of communities
    • Appropriating social knowledge and using for other ends – commercialisation 
    • Financialization = everything is integrated into financial system 75p goes between systems which are funded by a bigger company and people can get away with tax evasion 


  • Sound walking 
  • Sense walking 
  • Related to design in urban spaces 
  • Emergent area 
  • Avoiding negative sound 
  • Positive soundscapes project 
    • Nature and social noises food etc 
    • Record feelings etc 
    • Chatty maps? 
    • Visual icons 

After a discussion, we came to the conclusion that soundscapes would be difficult to pursue as we did not have the necessary equipment/there were other things we were more curious to explore. We have put this idea on hold for now.  

  • Ocular centrism 
    • Visual in western society 
    • Over-focusing on visual stimuli 
    • Idea of what spurs or what are the main aims provocations 

This was an important idea that coincides with any ideas we might have about the city, as it is an urban frenzy of stimulation and is completely image-centric. Even though there may be an array of noises at our every disposal, we tend to drown these out because we are more focused on seeing. I wonder why?


  • Overwork 
  • 3 main sectors
  • International non-UK
  • Social tasks in work time work tasks in home time (blending) — 
  • 13% more weekends
  • 48 hours 
  • 4 day working week 
  • Demotivated 

It was interesting to note that the workplace in the city is different as it ‘blends’ home time with work time. More specifically, both areas inform one another and one’s work environment bleeds outside of the office and into work drinks or social tasks necessary to sustain a certain image in the workplace. Again, this links back to the idea of ‘image’, even if metaphorically, as we are not only interested in the construction of images in our environment but similarly in constructing our own, like architecture to put on display.

Possible site of exploration: Metropolis by Fritz Lang

  • Urban planning linked to economic growth 
  • Mayor included positive soundscape 

Upon finishing our discussion, we left with several pathways for exploration before next week:

  1. Vinya – Utopias (the prospect of a utopic society, and what follows the human fascination for idealism) 
  2. Natali – Architecture in London as communication within the city 
  3. Alex and Dani – Modern Living (gender, class, achieving parity) 

First City visit


Short visit to the City of London

Vinya on 3/2/19: A few observational notes from the first Sunday visit to the City. Images are on Google Drive.

Walking across the bridge: London bridge is calm. Most people are enjoying the sun and taking pictures of the Thames and tower bridge in the distance. The city is not the focus for these tourists.
An Asian woman and her daughter pose by a sign that reads London Bridge and then turn their back to the Shard while the husband uses a large expensive-looking camera to snap these tourist shots.

The first person I see that seems to be working here is a window cleaner.  This window cleaner working in front of Wells Fargo says they only clean on Saturday or Sunday.  He does not want to be in any photos.

As I walk further and take a few more photos of the skyscraper, I think about the pictures constantly being taken. This space and its buildings seem overrepresented and I don’t want to take more photos. Skyscrapers are asking to be photographed. The city is hyper-visual and about asserting power and dominance visually.

I see a few people walking through the city and multiple people taking pictures of the Walkie Talkie.

  • For our discussion and research: we discussed documenting visits to the City, do we need to contribute to the masses of images of the City? How might we use these pre-existing images and analyze them as a phenomenon?
  • Urban studies/Architecture –  to what extent is the City designed for a visual experience and conveying/asserting visual power? Could ‘ocularcentrism’ be an interesting concept to consider?

Soundscaping: I hear construction, traffic, and people speaking Spanish, French and English in the same 5 minutes.

The fancy cafe Folly next to House of Fraser is open all weekend. It is the first place I encountered where you can sit or hang out on a Sunday. Pret and Pod and other chains are closed.

Fragmentation Group D: Meeting Summary (30/01/19)

In this meeting we began to interrogate our key themes further: feeling that what is integral to our project is what can guide it. However, Rosa suggested flexibility is useful in such a project, where we may stumble upon certain information and shift our direction accordingly. We decided it will be important to visit the space as a group or alone, to think about what resonates with us and get a first-hand experience of the place.

Key Themes:

  1. Experience
  2. Wellbeing
  3. Urban
  4. Individual

These core idea keep occurring in our discussions, which highlights their value in our project. We asked questions related to these words such as ‘What is it like to work in ‘The City’ today? After the financial crisis? On a Sunday when it is ghost town? We started to think about our focused space (The City of London) as both a place of work but also as an experientially unique location. As Alex noted last week, the architecture of the space was discussed in relation to individuals and their wellbeing.

We discussed the idea of absence in a place often exemplified as a modern, neoliberal space: how few people reside their, for instance, yet many work long hours there and can call The City home to an extent. This led us to thinking about modern living and the service industry: the people who work on the fringes of the big corporations. We discussed possibly interviewing cleaners or doormen who work in The City. As Vinya noted in our first meeting, we will need to think about the accessibility of interviews.

Temporality & Space

Time was another theme which we pursued. While The City is alive and kicking on a week day, we thought about the disjointed feeling of The City on a Sunday, where only tourist buses cruise past the towers of glass along with a few weekend workers. We considered the tourists’ perspective and experience of witnessing The City on different days. We considered interviewing them.

We also started to think about the history and geography of The City. It was much bigger than we imagined. This changed how we thought of The City, as areas such as The Barbican are vastly different to The Bank of England area. We talked about the different inner cultures within The City and this lead us to discussion on the history of the area.

We explored ideas of artistic expression and emotional experiences of urban spaces again. This led us to think about what disrupts modern living and ‘The City’ including art and other sources of recreation such as parks. This focused our thoughts on the urban living theme, which we feel could be informed by talking to a city planner.

This Week’s Research:

Our initial research from week two helped inform our discussions and spark inspiration. Topics included:

  • Damien Hirst’s Art & The City
  • A photo project after the 2008 financial crisis.
  • Smell Maps
  • Positive Sounds Project
  • Sound walking
  • Sculpture in the city
  • Work-Life Balance

We posted in our Facebook group, which has proved useful as a way of sharing research quickly and easily.

To progress our project we will research further into some of the key themes that emerged in this session. We have each taken a topic to look at this week but will switch around so as to get different perspectives in the research process.

Week 3 Research Task:

History of The City – from mid 20th century – Natalie
Soundscapes – Alex
Urban planning – Vinya
Lifestyle – Daniella

The interactions between the themes will be interesting starting point in our next meeting. 


Tutor-Led Group Meeting Summary (23/01/19)

We began our meeting of Wednesday 23rd January by discussing platforms and tools which might help to streamline discussion and on which to organise our collected materials prior to blogging. We considered Trello, but chose to create a Facebook group, given its ease of use and accessibility.

Following on from the recurrent theme of cultural and social elements of specific areas of London within our wide-ranging discussions last week, we decided to focus upon the City of London, a particularly interesting area in light of its apparent separation from our humanities-based studies.

Interesting themes and threads to explore included:

  • Urban fragmentation – the modern city as a composite of markedly different social and cultural spaces, traditionally associated with race and class divisions. Further to this, the possibility of a “hierarchy” of spaces.
  • Artistic expression within, or framing, the City of London and the emotional experience of urban spaces.
  • Architecture and its lyrical qualities, urban design influencing the behaviour of individuals within a given space.
  • Sound & Silence (“soundscapes of the city”) particularly variations between different parts of the City and the relationship to the intended functions and fluctuations of those spaces.
  • Memory mapping of spaces, drawing upon Kevin Lynch’s Image of the City (1960). (https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/image-city)
  • The different experiences of the tourist, resident, and transient worker.
  • Comparison between the City and other, culturally and socially distinct, areas of London e.g. Brixton – especially relating to differences in demographics and design.
  • The “financialisation” and interconnection of the urban environment – London as both political and economic centre of the UK.
  • “Psychospaces” – the influence of specific areas upon individuals, their emotions, and self-identification.
  • The “performance of finance” – differences in thought processes and approaches between finance and the humanities.
  • The City as a notably gendered space – suggested in architecture? Necessity versus vanity.
  • The historical development of urban spaces, changing conceptualisations.

At this session’s conclusion, we felt satisfied that this new geographic focus would provide a variety of interesting concepts to explore. We resolved to each research those strands in which we are most interested over the coming week, posting suggestions and articles to the Facebook group in order to develop our ideas further and to identify a particular theme for our project. During our next session, we hope to begin allocating research tasks concerning this theme, in relation to our specific areas of interest and expertise.

Fragmentation Group D: First Meeting

Last Wednesday (16/1/19) we had our first meeting to gauge what the team’s different interests are. While process of elimination won’t become our method of choice for identifying our topic, it was helpful to know that we were all eager to steer clear of Brexit and Trump. We are drawn to positive, creative, and inspiring takes on our sub-theme of fragmentation and discussed how our experiences of researching aspects of fragmentation for the essays could contribute to articulating this perspective (for example, organic fragmentation in biology containing the potential for growth). We are considering conducting interviews and/or site visit as part of our research and might focus on an aspect of London’s social and cultural fabric. Our group chat is helping us bounce ideas off each other at this point but we will probably expand to using other (more organized) tools. I predict that Dani will suggest Trello.

Initial ideas and thoughts include:

  • Black history in London: I had some ideas for the Notting Hill area based on a friend’s recommendations of the carnival arts center  YAA Centre and vibrant music venues like the Afro-Caribbean Tabernacle and the Mau Mau Bar. The Black history walks are also well established in that area.
    • Alex mentioned his experience researching at the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton – a different area with a vibrant history and an extreme experience of gentrification.
  • Multiculturalism: considering how food, music or art might be a way of gaining insight into a community in London. This could be by focusing on a venue, restaurant or museum as a nodal point.
  • Alternative lifestyles in London: Walter’s Way in Lewisham is an example of a sustainable and affordable housing concept and adaptable self-built homes. https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/sep/16/anarchism-community-walter-segal-self-build-south-london-estate
  • Visual arts: Mosaic as an example of fragments used to create a new whole.
  •  What is accessible to us? Who will allow us to interview them? Do we have connections to places, individuals, communities, etc that might be useful?