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Placemaking for the Civic University: Interface Sites as Spaces of Tension and Translation

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Reframing the Civic University

Part of the book series: Rethinking University-Community Policy Connections ((REUNCOPOCO))

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This chapter examines the role of place within the developing civic agenda for universities, focusing on ‘interface sites’: places where institutional resources, structures and employees come together with civic stakeholders and communities, to engage in shared concerns through programmes of research, teaching and knowledge exchange. It explores three case studies: an urban room, a law clinic, and a natureculture lab. These build on historic precedents, but extend and refine them in relation to their institutional and civic context and aims. These sites are interesting to consider in relation to placemaking because they must function for diverse publics and hybrid programmes, and are continually recalibrated and reconfigured to support emerging relationships and activity. The chapter argues that their scale and necessary responsiveness allows for crucial feedback that not only results in better spaces in relation to their particular civic agenda, but also can support wider institutional learning in ways that can transform the university. It considers how places may be produced in ways that enable civic activity to flourish. The reason for this is to establish a civic agenda not as something a university ‘does’ to place, but rather something that must emerge in collaboration, changing the university as much as it changes the world ‘outside’.

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  1. 1.

    This is a working title for the new campus.

  2. 2.

    Our understanding of this project has developed through conversations with Liz Dew, Refugee Rights Hub Project Officer; Professor Sital Dillon OBE, Head of Department of Law & Criminology and Director of the Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice; Clare Tudor, Director of the Refugee Rights Hub, and through a visit to site, and we would like to extend my thanks to them for their generosity and insights.

  3. 3.

    Live Works operates within a national network of urban rooms which involves universities, local councils, civic societies, community groups and arts organisations. It is also a part of the campaigning organisation Place Alliance promoting design of buildings, streets and urban spaces to enhance quality of life.

  4. 4.

    Key examples include; The Architectural Association’s Hooke Park, a woodland campus in Devon that is ‘an educational facility for design, workshop, construction and landscape-focused activities’ (“AA Hooke Park”, 2014); and Sheffield Hallam University’s Langsett Living Landscape Laboratory which seeks to develop a Lakeland landscape partnership to support knowledge exchange, research and community engagement, and Lancaster Landscape Lab.

  5. 5.

    Led by Dr Heather Barnett, Prof Carole Collet and Andreas Lang.

  6. 6.

    Internal document prepared by Barnett, Collet and Lang, shared with the authors by Andreas Lang during the writing of this chapter, 2022.

  7. 7.

    This project can be understood as allied with, and informed by important non-institutional natureculture programmes such as Floating University (“FLOATING BERLIN”, 2022); Climate Care by Soft Agency (“Climate Care”, 2019), and R-Urban (“R-Urban English”, 2014), which have been at the cutting edge of practice based research on commons, and art and design-led ecological remediation work, and share overlapping protagonists and methodological approaches.

  8. 8.

    In conversation with Andreas Lang during the writing of this chapter, 2022.


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Correspondence to Julia Udall .

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Udall, J., Holder, A.W. (2023). Placemaking for the Civic University: Interface Sites as Spaces of Tension and Translation. In: Dobson, J., Ferrari, E. (eds) Reframing the Civic University. Rethinking University-Community Policy Connections. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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