Interpretive Flexibility as an Approach to Designing Inclusive Urban Space: Learning from Medellín and Beirut

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Geirbo, Hanne Cecilie; Lisbet Harboe; Kristian Hoelscher & Sobah Abbas Petersen (2022) Interpretive Flexibility as an Approach to Designing Inclusive Urban Space: Learning from Medellín and Beirut, Nordic Journal of Urban Studies 2(2): 141–160.

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​In this article, we examine how urban design can promote inclusion by simultaneously accommodating multiple expressions of interests and identities and providing common ground for interaction between different social and cultural groups. Borrowing from science and technology studies, we use the concept of ‘interpretive flexibility’, which recognises multiple and incongruent perspectives as a resource in design and extend this by drawing on the architectural notion of ‘generality’, which supports the ability of a design to accommodate change in usage without a change in its properties. We illustrate the potential of interpretive flexibility as an approach to designing inclusive urban space with a comparative case study of Medellín, Colombia and Beirut, Lebanon. This approach treats architectural considerations about materials and form as an integral part of planning interventions for social change. In discussing this approach, we identify key insights from our cases and their relevance for Nordic and other urban contexts

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