Design seen from the outside: an ethnography of institutional participatory design for the city-making

Mayane Dore*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article is situated in the intersection between anthropological and design knowledge, seeking to understand from an anthropological perspective the practice of participatory design (PD) in city-making projects. The research focuses on an urban redevelopment process in Sydney, critically analysing the cultural and socio-political frameworks where PD operates. In doing so, it highlights the challenges to the democratic ideals of participation while working inside democratic institutions. This study expects to support the need for a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of the social, economic, cultural, and environment dimensions that shape the design practice in an increasingly complex world. Moreover, it builds on the acknowledgement that institutions are challenging arenas of work, but also potential sites for change. As a result, this report offers an exploratory framework to analyse participatory design projects from a cultural and political perspective. It suggests four exploratory areas: the social productions of neighbourhood; urban imaginaries; actors and governance; and everyday life authoritarianism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)663-672
Number of pages10
JournalDesign Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • city-making
  • design anthropology
  • institutioning
  • participatory design


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