Unlocking Interstices: Multiple lenses enriching the participatory design of urban leftover spaces

Sitong Luo, Saskia de Wit

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review

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Opening leftover spaces for the participation of local initiatives is prevalent in current urban design practice. While these cases reanimate the vacant land for diverse public appropriation, little attention is paid to the inherent qualities of each site. As terrain vague in the urban territory and as ‘intervals’ of urban transformation, leftover spaces can be valued for their indeterminacy that allows co-existence and open interpretation. From this perspective we might question if a design that simply transforms a leftover space according to a single social perspective, is truly responding to the space’s potential. In this article we plea for understanding multiple qualities of leftover spaces in their interstitialness, before the entering of the design. It is from such a mindset that the design could engage the continuity of the place, and initiate a transformation that accommodates, orchestrates and encourages what is embedded in the existing. Specifically, we propose four lenses: the morphological, social, ecological and material lens. The four lenses will be illustrated by a temporary urban vegetable garden PROEFTuin (Delft, NL), implying what might be overlooked in its design transformation. In the end we will discuss how this approach could open up for the participation of leftover spaces: by juxtaposing different lenses, the design invites the potential use while simultaneously triggers the perception and imagination of the place. It is because of this a bond with the place is nurtured and the continuous appropriation of the site could take place.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the ECLAS Conference Ghent 2018
Subtitle of host publicationLandscapes of Conflict
EditorsS. Delarue, R. Dufour
Place of PublicationGhent, Belgium
PublisherUniversiteit Gent
ISBN (Electronic)9789491564130
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventECLAS Conference 2018: Landscapes of Conflict - School of Arts of the University College Ghent , Ghent, Belgium
Duration: 9 Sep 201812 Sep 2018


ConferenceECLAS Conference 2018


  • Leftover space
  • interstice
  • site specific
  • design transformation
  • participation design


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