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Effrosyni Roussou

ESR9

Effrosyni Roussou is an architect hailing from Nafplion, Greece. She holds a BSc and MSc degree from Democritus University of Thrace in Architectural Engineering (2015), and an MSc degree from Chalmers University of Technology in “Architecture and planning beyond sustainability” (2018). She is currently undertaking the challenge to illustrate the benefits of and provide the tools for employing hands-on participatory design methodologies in architectural education through transdisciplinary design-and-build education.

She has worked as a research assistant in several projects as well as a course assistant, coordinator, and project manager for the design-and-build summer course “Dare to Build” at Chalmers University of Technology.

She advocates for bottom-up processes, collaboration and participation in architecture and strongly supports community-building practices through and in the design fields. Her main interests in her field revolve around the interplay between politics, social perspectives, architecture and sustainability and its impact on the shifting role of the architect. Her master thesis at Chalmers (“Co-existing in a crisis-ridden city: Exploring architectural ways to induce commoning practices within an economic crisis context”) aimed at questioning the role of the architect within an alternative way of space production; the architect as an instigator and crossbencher, as an active and equal part of the process, alongside the community.

Research topic

Updated sumaries

April, 11, 2022

September, 17, 2021

From creator to enabler: the underpinnings and implications of the co.design.build studio

 

Despite the significant proliferation in the understandings of an architect’s role within a multitude of (spatial) agencies, architectural education remains relatively isolated and impermeable to a radically political interpretation of architecture within the real world. While affordable and sustainable housing & neighbourhoods (ASHN) become an increasingly pressing need towards a sustainable future, the neoliberalisation of strategic visions for the future, such as sustainability, provides a fertile ground for the fragmentation of contemporary challenges in ASHN, leaving room for vague, disconnected and ultimately ineffective responses. In this neoliberal context, rethinking architectural education and bridging the gap between design practice and studio pedagogy becomes imperative.

 

Praxis, as opposed to a traditionally simulative approach, in the form of design-and-build and/or co-creation studios, have been exploring alternative approaches in an attempt to break the isolation of architectural education from contemporary challenges and (re)introduce architecture schools as crucial actors in local communities, especially in northern European and north American contexts. Exposure to real contexts, through co-creation (people needs) or design and build studios (construction/material needs), has aided students in gaining a better understanding of the implications of design for ASHN. There is, however, limited research on the theoretical and methodological underpinnings, as well as the impact of a co-creation and co-design and build studio, especially in the European South.

 

Drawing from critical theories mainly on urban commons, (commoning), participation (cross-benching) and social ecology, the main questions explored through this project are as follows:

 

  1. What are the underpinnings and pedagogical impact of an effective, engaging and impactful transdisciplinary studio that combines critical co-creation methodologies with a design and build learning environment (co.design.build)?
  2. How can a co.design.build studio become an important actor within a more radical understanding of affordable and sustainable housing systems/networks especially in the context of the European South?

 

This project will adopt an action research methodology consisting of four main components: (1) planning, i.e. positioning the project idea within the literature, identifying and analysing relevant study cases, understanding the context and developing the components, strategies, methods and structure of the (2) action, where the idea/pilot syllabus will be tested. During this part (3) systematic data collection will take place, through e.g. observation, interviews, questionnaires in different facets of the process, which will be followed by (4) reflection, analysis, evaluation of the collected data, and the subsequent synthesis into a revised syllabus to be re-tested.

 

The expected outcome of this research is a theoretical and methodological framework for an effective, engaging and impactful co.design.build studio that promotes a radical understanding of sustainability through transdisciplinary, direct action from co-conception to co-construction, and also insights both on the opportunities and implications of its implementation in a southern European context, but also on its applicability in others. Finally, this project aims to contribute to the ongoing discussion on the role of architecture schools -and academic institutions in general- within the affordable and sustainable neighbourhoods vision; as active co-stakeholders, able to achieve a direct and positive impact with and for the communities they are situated in, universities could provide high quality and meaningful education while contributing to a paradigm shift towards a sustainable future.

Reference documents

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The Research Process

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From creator to enabler: the underpinnings and implications of the co.design.build studio

 

Contemporary architectural education, especially in southern European contexts, remains widely ineffective in addressing the increasingly complex and ever-shifting realities that urban dwellers are called to face. While economic fluctuations, climate change and the various political agendas are spawning challenges that are profoundly transforming living environments and reshaping contemporary housing provision, architectural education remains widely unchanged. Persisting normative approaches result in the architect as a detached figure, operating top-down, in a purely theoretical plane and completely cut off from the socio-cultural aspects and implications as well as the end users of their work.

 

Even though design-build courses, as part of architectural curricula around the world, have shown promising results in challenging the archetype of the architect as an omnipotent creator the current focus is -to a large extent- on the development of students’ technical and managerial skills. This project aims to explore the opportunities for radical change within architecture schools, especially in the European south, through the implementation of transdisciplinary, collaborative/multistakeholder co.design.build courses within a social and environmental sustainability framework and a focus on acupuncture interventions on the neighbourhood scale.

 

The research approach that will be followed is community-based participatory action research (CBPAR), which will unfold in two stages: (1) co-creation of the course structure, aims, objectives and approach through workshops with faculty and prospective students and (2) course implementation and testing in two separate iterations (spring & autumn 2023). The second part will involve close monitoring of participants’ (students, teachers, local stakeholders) views and perceptions on the course and their own involvement, before, during and after the completion of each iteration.

 

The expected outcome of this research is a set of strategies in creating and running a transdisciplinary, multistakeholder co.design.build course that “thinks globally but operates locally” as well as a thorough and reflexive evaluation of the experimentation process.

Blog

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Kick-off of a new adventure!

Posted on 18-07-2021

So, this is it. I am here, in 40°C Nicosia, and I’m -digitally- surrounded by awesome people who are going to be my peers and colleagues for the next three years. I must say, I feel a mixture of awe and agitation at what lies ahead of me in this journey. This is why I paired this text with an image of Bilbo Baggins, about to leave Hobbiton behind; because I see a bit of myself in him: clearly out of my comfort zone but nonetheless excited to join this journey! On the 3rd of July we began our 4-day kick-off sessions as a digital meet-and-greet and tuning-in workshop. It felt quite awkward in the beginning, as it is expected when 40+ people meet online for the very first time, but very productive too. I was happy to listen to different perspectives on the meanings of key terms in this endeavour, such as sustainability and transdisciplinarity and try to understand or imagine where everyone’s definitions and opinions come from, what has influenced their way of thinking and steered them in a certain direction. But I was more than happy to already feel a sense of community with my team members, the 14 ESRs with whom I will be working. Through our shared confusion on what happens next, the everyday struggles to settle in new places, surround ourselves with new people and build a new “home” and the hints of insecurity peeking through those moments of sharing all the aforementioned, made me realise that I am indeed not alone in this, neither professionally, nor mentally. And there’s nothing better than finding such ties, or “making kin”, in a world that pushes us to compete, so that the strongest can survive and succeed. After all, as Jack Halberstam* once pointed out, the notion of a universal definition of success is rooted in the western economic system under which we live. But to not wander further away, I’ll just say that it was a highly enjoyable 4-day session, albeit overwhelming at times and I’m looking forward to delving deeper into everyone’s insights on this complicated task we are called to tackle. I really look forward to sharing knowledge and learning from everyone and that’s what I’m primarily here to do. I am here to learn, and the truth is I will never stop being “here to learn”. I will leave you with a quote from a beloved book that has accompanied me since I was a teenager:                 "[…] I will face my fear.                  I will permit it to pass over me and through me.                 And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path.                 Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."  - Frank Herbert, in Dune   *If you’d like to delve deeper into how our perception of success is shaped by heteronormative capitalism, check out Halberstam’s book “The queer art of failure”.

Workshops

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Case studies

Contributions to the case study library

Vocabulary

Contributions to the vocabulary

Co-creation

Sustainability

Area: Community participation

In a broader sense, co-creation means the joint effort of bringing something new to fruition through acts of collective creativity (Sanders & Stappers, 2008) which can be manifested in both tangible (making something together) or intangible (learning something together) outcomes (Puerari et al., 2018). Recently, the concepts of co-creation or co- production have been applied to describe the processes of participation in urban planning and design. Both terms place particular emphasis on the partnerships formed between citizens and the public sector, in which a high level of citizen involvement is pivotal. Participation has been defined through its different levels of citizen involvement, ranging from non-participation to greater degrees of citizen control (Arnstein, 1969) indicating the different levels of influence a participant can have on a participatory process. From the perspective of urban planning, citizen participation is beginning to be described as co-creation when citizens’ roles become more prominent, presenting aspects of self-organisation, increased commitment and a sense of ownership of the process (Puerari et al., 2018). Recent research is exploring new methods of urban planning in which citizens, the municipality and private organisations co-create new planning rules (Bisschops & Beunen, 2019). However, co-creation along with co-production and participation, often used interchangeably, have become popular catchphrases and are considered as processes which are of virtue in themselves. Furthermore, while there is substantial research on these processes, the research conducted on the outcomes of enhanced participation remains rather limited (Voorberg et al., 2015). This highlights the ambiguity in terms of interpretation; is co-creation a methodology, a set of tools to enhance and drive a process, or a goal in itself? (Puerari et al., 2018). There have often been cases where participation, co-creation and co-production have been used decoratively, as a form of justification and validation of decisions already made (Armeni, 2016). In the provision of public spaces, co-creation/co-production may specifically involve housing (Brandsen & Helderman, 2012; Chatterton, 2016) and placemaking: “placemaking in public space implies engaging in the practice of urban planning and design beyond an expert culture. Such collaboration can be described as co-creation.” (Eggertsen Teder, 2019, p.290). As in participation, co-creation requires the sharing of decision-making powers, the creation of  joint knowledge and the assignation of abilities between communities, while urban professionals and local authorities should draw attention to the active involvement of community members. Furthermore, co-creation does not take place in a vacuum, but always occurs within socio- spatial contexts. This points to the objective of co-creation as a tool to influence locally relevant policy through innovation that is “place-based”. To conclude, co-creation can be perceived as a process that is both transdisciplinary in its application, and as a tool for achieving transdisciplinarity on a broader scale through a systematic integration in existing standard practices in urban planning, housing design and architecture. Despite the persisting ambiguity in its definition, co-creation processes can provide more inclusive platforms for revisiting and informing formal and informal knowledge on sustainable and affordable housing.

Created on 16-02-2022

Author: A.Panagidis (ESR8), E.Roussou (ESR9)

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Area: Community participation

Sustainability is primarily defined as “the idea that goods and services should be produced in ways that do not use resources that cannot be replaced and that do not damage the environment” (Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus, n.d.) and is often used interchangeably with the term “sustainable development”(Aras & Crowther, 2009). As defined by the UN, sustainable development is the effort to “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (United Nations, 1987) and is often interpreted as the strategies adopted towards sustainability with the latter being the overall goal/vision (Diesendorf, 2000). Both of these relatively general and often ambiguous terms have been a focal point for the past 20 years for researchers, policy makers, corporations as well as local communities, and activist groups, among others, (Purvis et al., 2019). The ambiguity and vagueness that characterise both of these terms have contributed to their leap into the global mainstream as well as the broad political consensus regarding their value and significance (Mebratu, 1998; Purvis et al., 2019), rendering them one of the dominant discourses in environmental, socio-political and economic issues (Tulloch, 2013). It is, however, highly contested whether their institutionalisation is a positive development. Tulloch, and Tulloch & Nielson (2013; 2014) argue that these terms -as they are currently understood- are the outcome of the “[colonisation of] environmentalist thought and action” which, during the 1960s and 1970s, argued that economic growth and ecological sustainability within the capitalist system were contradictory pursuits. This “colonisation” resulted in the disempowerment of such discourses and their subsequent “[subordination] to neoliberal hegemony” (Tulloch & Neilson, 2014, p. 26). Thus, sustainability and sustainable development, when articulated within neoliberalism, not only reinforce such disempowerment, through practices such as greenwashing, but also fail to address the intrinsic issues of a system that operates on, safeguards, and prioritises economic profit over social and ecological well-being (Jakobsen, 2022). Murray Bookchin (1982), in “The Ecology of Freedom” contends that social and environmental issues are profoundly entangled, and their origin can be traced to the notions of hierarchy and domination. Bookchin perceives the exploitative relationship with nature as a direct outcome of the development of hierarchies within early human societies and their proliferation ever since. In order to re-radicalise sustainability, we need to undertake the utopian task of revisiting our intra-relating, breaking down these hierarchical relations, and re-stitching our social fabric. The intra-relating between and within the molecules of a society (i.e. the different communities it consists of) determines how sustainability is understood and practised (or performed), both within these communities and within the society they form. In other words, a reconfigured, non-hierarchical, non-dominating intra-relationship is the element that can allow for an equitable, long-term setting for human activity in symbiosis with nature (Dempsey et al., 2011, p. 290). By encouraging, striving for, and providing the necessary space for all voices to be heard, for friction and empathy to occur, the aforementioned long-term setting for human activity based on a non-hierarchical, non-dominating intra-relating is strengthened, which augments the need for various forms of community participation in decision-making, from consulting to controlling. From the standpoint of spatial design and architecture, community participation is already acknowledged as being of inherent value in empowering communities (Jenkins & Forsyth, 2009), while inclusion in all facets of creation, and community control in management and maintenance can improve well-being and social reproduction (Newton & Rocco, 2022; Turner, 1982). However, much like sustainability, community participation has been co-opted by the neoliberal hegemony; often used as a “front” for legitimising political agendas or as panacea to all design problems, community participation has been heavily losing its significance as a force of social change (Smith & Iversen, 2018), thus becoming a depoliticised, romanticised prop. Marcus Miessen (2011) has developed a critical standpoint towards what is being labelled as participation; instead of a systematic effort to find common ground and/or reach consensus, participation through a cross-benching approach could be a way to create enclaves of disruption, i.e. processes where hierarchy and power relations are questioned, design becomes post-consensual spatial agency and participation turns into a fertile ground for internal struggle and contestation. Through this cross-benching premise, community participation is transformed into a re-politicised spatial force. In this context, design serves as a tool of expressing new imaginaries that stand against the reproduction of the neoliberal spatial discourse. Thus, sustainability through community participation could be defined as the politicised effort to question, deconstruct and dismantle the concept of dominance by reconfiguring the process of intra-relating between humans and non-humans alike.

Created on 08-06-2022

Author: E.Roussou (ESR9)

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