"Design supports transdisciplinary co-creation by forging relationships between scientists, engineers, communities and the many hands and minds of city makers"


Design is the second of the four pillars (Science, Design, Engineering and Governance) founding the Future Cities Laboratory Global research programme.

Design plays a crucial role in shaping our cities and communities. It is not just about creating visually appealing spaces; it's a multifaceted process that involves various disciplines like architecture, urban planning, landscape architecture, engineering, and product design. With the rapid advancements in technology, especially in information and communication technology (ICT), the field of design has expanded significantly.

Future Cities Laboratory Global - Resilient green-blue Infrastructures - Proposal embedded into a culturally shaped landscape.

At its core, design is a creative practice that balances solving problems with identifying new ones. It tackles complex issues by finding innovative solutions that consider environmental sustainability, profitability, comfort, convenience, identity, security, satisfaction, and desire. This holistic approach ensures that different, often conflicting, demands are met in a balanced way.

To achieve this, design encourages collaboration across different fields and disciplines. By using diverse methods such as visual, auditory, textual, animated, interactive, and immersive media, designers can think in new, non-linear ways. This approach helps break down traditional barriers between disciplines, fostering more integrated and innovative solutions.

Experts from various fields contribute to this expanded sense of design. They include specialists in human-environment interactions, urban studies, technology, ecology, and communication, among others. These diverse perspectives help create designs that are not only functional but also responsive to human needs and environmental considerations.

Unsplash - Stephan Sorkin

For instance, the fields of wayfinding and human-computer interaction prioritise human experience and cognition. They consider how people move, perceive, and interact with spaces, taking into account motor skills and cognitive abilities. This human-centred approach ensures that designs are accessible and user-friendly.
Urban design is a prime example of how design can adapt to both general systems and specific local needs. It incorporates the growing role of digital infrastructure—the idea of a 'city of bits'—while also focusing on creating unique, liveable spaces. This dual focus ensures that cities are both technologically advanced and deeply connected to their local context.

Urban designers work to bridge the gap between large-scale systems like streets, infrastructure, and airports, and the everyday experiences of neighbourhoods. This helps create cities that are not only efficient but also vibrant and liveable.

Unsplash - Tobias C.

Technology, especially ICT, is transforming design practices in many ways. Big data and artificial intelligence (AI) are introducing new forms of design, such as 'parametric', 'procedural', and 'generative' design. These methods use data to create more precise and adaptable designs, offering new solutions to urban challenges.
Moreover, technology is fostering greater collaboration through online platforms and peer-to-peer networks. These 'open' approaches to design enable widespread participation, allowing communities to contribute to the creation of their urban environments. This democratisation of design ensures that it is inclusive and reflective of diverse needs and perspectives.

In Future Cities Laboratory Global DESIGN emerges as a central theme, intricately woven into the fabric of various research projects. Design is not just an end goal but a multifaceted process that encompasses collaboration, innovation, and practical application. It serves as a tool for addressing complex challenges, integrating diverse perspectives, and pushing the boundaries of conventional methodologies. It profoundly influences the work of the research projects, driving them toward sustainable and impactful outcomes.

Design is a dynamic and iterative process. It is characterised by its ability to adapt and evolve through continuous feedback and collaboration. Each FCL Global research project brings a unique perspective to the concept of design, showcasing innovative approaches that address specific challenges within their domains. Across all projects, the theme of collaboration stands out as a crucial element in the design process. The interactions and exchanges between different projects foster a rich environment for innovation. For example, the collaboration between the projects Dense and Green Cities and Powering the City exemplifies how interdisciplinary cooperation can lead to more comprehensive and effective design solutions.


Future Cities Laboratory Global - Agropolitan Territories of Monsoon Asia


The Agropolitan Territories of Monsoon Asia project exemplifies this with its bio-inspired design. We explore settlement systems that incorporate agricultural practices, aiming to create environments where agriculture and human well-being flourish. By studying natural systems, such as the intricate ecosystems maintained by leaf-cutting ants, we draw parallels to how urban-rural integration can be achieved. These ants demonstrate a symbiotic relationship, using leaves to cultivate fungi that feed their colony, showcasing a model of sustainability and cooperation. 

Our module seeks to emulate this natural efficiency, promoting inclusivity and community engagement through participatory design approaches, ensuring diverse needs are met effectively. This approach not only demonstrates innovation but also highlights how design can be informed by nature to create sustainable and resilient solutions.


The Urban BioCycles Mycelium Digitalisation project focuses on transforming agricultural and industrial biomass into valuable construction materials through the use of fungi and digital fabrication. This transformative approach aims to shift architecture and construction towards climate mitigation by replacing traditional materials with bio-based alternatives. These materials include terrestrial and marine plants, biogenic residues, and waste containing lignin and cellulose. By utilising solid-state fermentation, we convert waste into construction materials, promoting hyperlocal design practices and encouraging sustainable, multi-use applications beyond the building itself. This innovative use of waste materials showcases how design can intersect with biology and technology to create sustainable construction practices.

Future Cities Laboratory Global - Urban BioCycles Mycelium Digitalisation


Future Cities Laboratory Global - Dense and Green Cities


The Dense and Green Cities project uses design as a methodological tool to test urban transformation scenarios. By employing tools like the City Energy Analyst, developed by the Powering the City team, the project evaluates the energy performance of different urban designs, incorporating both social and physical factors. We utilise a design research loop, which involves identifying prototypes that set new benchmarks in design, assessing their performance, and validating their initial claims. 

The feedback from this evaluation informs subsequent design iterations, ensuring continuous improvement. This process includes summarising research findings into general rules, creating scenarios, and evaluating their performance. Social factors are also integrated to understand the impact on urban space, behaviour, and energy use, guiding future urban planning and transformation strategies.This iterative design research loop exemplifies how design can drive urban planning by integrating continuous feedback and collaboration among various stakeholders. The project’s approach highlights the role of design in creating more sustainable and efficient urban environments.


The Architecture Cognition in Practice project uses design not only to comprehend how architectural design influences human experience but also to actively influence the design process itself. Our efforts aim to translate research findings into practical tools usable during early design stages. For instance, our recent work involves a tool for modelling crowd distributions. This provides designers with predictive insights about human movement within architectural spaces, balancing robustness and usability to make it accessible for designers, enabling them to incorporate human behaviour into their designs. This innovation underscores the importance of user-centric design and its potential to enhance the functionality and experience of architectural spaces.

Future Cities Laboratory Global - Architectural Cognition in Practice


“DESIGN is a process for transformation embedded within an existing ecosocial context.”

This is the definition given by the Resilient green-blue Infrastructures project, which have theorised the Science-Design-Loop as the basis of a participatory approach to develop and build resilient and sustainable cities.

This approach draws from TOPOLOGY, which stands for a deep understanding of the site in its physical, functional and even symbolic states.

A prospective digital modelling method is used, which draws on geometric MEASURES, investigates the IMPRINT, and builds the RESOLVE between the present and future.

[MEASURE: Urech, Philipp R.W., Aurel von Richthofen and Christophe Girot. "Grounding Landscape Design in High-Resolution Laser-Scanned Topography." Journal of Landscape Architecture 17, no. 1: 58-69.

IMPRINT: Rhine straightening, Tulla 1831

RESOLVE: Proposal embedded into a culturally shaped landscape]


The fiduciary role of design, a concept often overshadowed in architectural studies, parallels the responsibilities held by lawyers and doctors. This role emphasises the ethical and societal duties of designers to represent and improve society through their work. In architecture, where artistic expression often dominates, this responsibility can be neglected. However, design researchers in FCL Global take this fiduciary role more seriously. We not only create but also critically assess and quantify design using scientific methods, engineering solution and governance principles. This approach ensures that design standards evolve responsibly and it guides designers to uphold ethical standards and contribute positively to societal development.

Sustainable Development Goals

Find out more about SDG's on the offical United Nations website.

Who can tell me more?

Agropolitan Territories of Monsoon Asia

Urban BioCycles Mycelium Digitalisation

Dense and Green Cities

Powering the City

Architectural Cognition in Practice

Resilient blue-green infrastructures

Engagement Platform

Future Cities Laboratory Global

Welcome to FCL Global, an interdisciplinary research programme that seeks to address the worldwide circumstances of rapid urbanisation. Our ultimate goal is to promote more equitable and livable urban futures, by bringing together Science, Design, Engineering and Governance.

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