Curating consensus: exploring the designer’s role in co-visioning urban regeneration using nature-based solutions in the ‘UPSURGE’ project

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


As co-creation methodologies continue to become more embedded in the regeneration of cities, the designer’s role changes to that of a consensus curator, merging and translating citizen-centred ideas, knowledge, and experience into a cohesive and deliverable place-based proposal. This paper explores the tactics, strategies and learnings of a design-research team who facilitated the co-creation of nature-based solutions (NBS) for a demonstration site in Belfast in 2022. Forming part of the EU Regenerative Urban Lighthouse project, ‘UPSURGE’, which brings together five European cities to test NBS for pollution alleviation and regenerative development, this paper addresses three interconnected research questions; [1] how to give a voice to quiet or silent actors, such as a native wildlife species, during the cocreation process, [2] how considering the needs of natural actors impacts the dynamics and decisions made by citizens and designers, and [3] how can designers consolidate loud, quiet and silent ambitions into a proposal that fosters consensus rather than compromise.
This research unpacks the structure, outcomes and unexpected learnings from three co-creation workshops held by the ‘UPSURGE’ design-research team at Queen’s University, Belfast. Hosted over five months, each workshop had around forty participants including residents, academics, local authorities, businesses, environmental groups and urban designers, to agree on a brief and vision for the site’s future. The outcomes of the project’s co-creation process indicate the importance of co-creation workshops to create a network of ideas and connections between participants as well as trust and openness with the design-research team. It also theorises how co-created design propositions can and should function as a flexible scaffold for a dynamic programme of current and future and the role of playfulness and positivity in forming a brief that caters to all kinds of urban inhabitants.

PeriodJun 2023
Event titleEcocity World Summit
Event typeConference
LocationLondonShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Co-Design
  • co-creation
  • nature-based solutions
  • City
  • Urban design