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Fertilising the ground for sustainable urban future through transdisciplinary approaches

By Jieling Liu

I was delighted to be able to attend the Intrepid Barcelona Training School on interand transdisciplinary urban research earlier this year in mid February. The level of organisation of this event was very high, both in terms of the content and administrative arrangements. I was deeply impressed by how well the training school combined both advanced and powerful knowledge base and practical problems solving examples. The participants too, are truly knowledgable, open minded and curious people that show appreciation to other disciplines.
One of the most inspiring parts for me, was the cluster of five competences in transdisciplinary researches presented by the two professors from the Leuphana University. They are system, normative, anticipatory, strategic and interpersonal competences. The brainstorming exercise that we did — trying to see how each competence plays out in the three processes: co-design, co-production and re-integration, was highly intriguing. I was excited to find out how the exercise was leading me to look at the interconnectedness of different disciplines and fairness between stakeholders. The extending thoughts from rationale-based decision making to reflections of morality resonate with my cultural values in the oriental world.

I especially enjoyed the city tour on the third day of the training course, when we were taken to visit the Superilla project, to witness how the city of Barcelona conducts urban public space management and participatory decision-making in real life. The insider knowledge shared by the municipality representatives were exciting, avant-garde and motivating. It is fascinating to witness with my own eyes, how the city has always been marching ahead in the rally of designing and building urban future, using elements of art, technology, architecture and nature, that maximise urban services and social inclusiveness. Resistance exists a part of the progress, as always. The fact that resistance has been expressed and displayed fully showed the compatibility of the project and Barcelona’s urban planning department; and it allows consensus to grow in the future, when the concept of Superilla will be accepted by more citizens. It was impressive to learn how much the city appreciates nature and try to maximise the ecosystem functions, so that it can contribute high quality urban life services to the citizens – green corridors, community gardens, public transport, etc. A friend who has been living in Barcelona for two years told me that it’s not easy to choose a means of public transport in this city – because there are so many types of transport services!

This training course definitely changed my perception about academic researches in general and the methods to conduct urban/sustainability researches. It also reshaped the way I wanted to design my own case study. I learnt to look at research projects as ongoing dynamic processes, rather than predefined projects to be evaluated. The notions of social inclusiveness and diversity are essential to meaningful researches on sustainable urban future.

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