Short-stories about time in the making of participatory projects

  • Luísa Alpalhão The Bartlett, University College of London
Keywords: time, public spaces, appropriation & ownership, participatory projects, process, social & spatial legacy


Five short stories that occurred during the development of different urban interventions, aka participatory projects for the making of shared public spaces, initiated by atelier urban nomads will be described in this paper Each of the five projects share the intention of being catalysts for the social and spatial transformation of neglected urban spaces aiming to enhance the life quality of the inhabitants of those territories, providing alternative modes of social interaction that differ from the proliferation of social media platforms that solely allow interaction in a parallel reality with ambiguous spatial settings. Each story illustrates a different approach to time in the development or delivery of the interventions - time becoming a core element for an understanding of the intentions and outcomes of the urban interventions themselves. Together, all stories intend to challenge the ubiquitous paradigm conferred to participatory projects as supposed means of exerting democratic values and of promoting a fairer way to create our built environment. The different stories will scrutinize some of the complexities ingrained in interventions of this nature: participatory and situated at the intersection between art, activism and urban space.

Author Biography

Luísa Alpalhão, The Bartlett, University College of London

Luísa Alpalhão is a London and Lisbon based architect & artist and founding member of the architecture, art & design platform atelier urban nomads. Her work focuses on bringing together different creative fields through projects where cities are perceived as playing grounds to create new shared spaces that allow us to read and experience the city as collective social and spatial constructions.


Her projects, developed with the atelier, follow a holistic design process that emphasizes the importance of building a collective and site-specific spatial narrative through storytelling. 


Luísa is currently doing a PhD at the Bartlett, University College of London, with a scholarship from Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia. Her research consists on the development of a methodology for the making of participatory projects in order for it to potentially become a pedagogical tool for the inhabitation and understanding of urban shared spaces. Each step of the process leads to the documentation of a site adopting the ethnographers’ eye; to the making of objects, stories and interventions that reflect the character of the place and of its people bringing together people of all ages and cultural backgrounds.


Luísa is also a lecturer in Interior Design at the University of East London.



Bishop, C. (2012), Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship, London: Verso

Bishop, P., Williams, L. (2012), The Temporary City, London: Routledge

Blundell Jones, P., Petrescu, D., Till, J. (Eds.) (2005), Architecture and Participation, London: Spon Press

Bourriaud, N. (1998), Relational Aesthetics, in C. Bishop (Eds), Participation, London: Whitechapel Gallery

Debord, G. (1994), The Society of the Spectacle, New York: Zone Books

Harvey, D. (2012), Rebel Cities : From the right to the city to the urban revolution, New York: Verso

Ingold, T. (2013), Making: Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture, London, Routledge

Jason, J. (2016), ‘Minecraft for Android: Explore Randomly Generated Worlds and Build Amazing Things from The Simplest of Homes to the Grandest of Castles’, Roonby, Available at:, accessed on 16.10.09

Lefebvre, H. (2003), The Urban Revolution, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

muf (2001), This is what we do, a muf manual, London: ellipsis

Potrč, M. (2011) ‘Interview with Marjetica Potrč’, Skor Foundation, Available at:,

Potrč, M. (2016), ‘On-Site Projects’, Available at:

Schneider, T (2013), ‘The paradox of social architectures’ in ed. K. Cupers, (2013) Use matters: an alternative history of architecture, New York: Routledge

Sennett, R. (2008), The Craftsman, London: Penguin

Dossier Articles