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Green Buildings

Designing Alternative Urban Scenarios

Students work in groups to develop imagined future urban spaces and then build material prototypes of them.

Activity Outline

Please note: this is an example of how I ran this activity. I invite you to use this as a guide and to experiment with your own class. 

1.  Room preparations

For this activity, it is especially important that the classroom is set up to convey to students the expectation that they will be creative, experiment and work with their hands. This can be done through providing different materials, playing music or providing snacks.


2. Build your dream house (warm-up exercise)


To get students into a more creative mind set, I gave everybody a handful of Lego and asked them to build a model of their ideal house of the future. 


3. Explain workshop objective


I explained scenarios as stories of possible futures used by designers to imagine and prototype new ideas, in this case about alternative urban futures. To also introduced some broad guiding questions: 

What do we want future urban spaces to look like? 


How can we get there? 

Who will participate and in what ways?

4. Building

Keeping with the topics of the overall module, the scenario focused on Brighton, with specific focus on issues of governance, infrastructures and conviviality, envisioning that 

‘In 2050, Brighton will be a self-sustaining, hospitable and generous city. Its environmental footprint is minimal, it is welcoming of diversity and assures all its residents a decent quality of life.’

Students started by mapping all the existing institutions in Brighton relevant for their topic and then imagined additional actions, things, ideas, laws, behaviors needed to achieve their specific scenario. They also built prototypes of their scenarios with the materials at hand.


5. Shareout and debrief


We finished the activity by visiting each table and groups explaining their build and what it manifested. Each creative activity also needs to followed by a collective discussion session in order to draw out students’ learning and connect it to the larger topics of the class. I often do that in the following class, after sending students a short survey with some reflection questions.

Student Word/ks

Reading Suggestions

Section from the Creative Universities Book

Pages 70-77

These are the readings my students do for the classes connected to the activity


Amin, A. (2006). The good city. Urban studies, 43(5-6), 1009-1023.

Purcell, M. (2014). Possible worlds: Henri Lefebvre and the right to the city. Journal of urban affairs, 36(1), 141-154.


Schwittay, A. (2019). Designing urban women’s safety: an empirical study of inclusive innovation through a gender transformation lens. The European Journal of Development Research, 1-19. (this also introduces students to some of my own research)


World Charter for the Right to the City (World Social Forum 2005) (can link to this)



Here is an article on teaching with manifestos that might be helpful in preparing the activity. 

Fahs, B., 2019. Writing with Blood: The Transformative Pedagogy of Teaching Students to Write Manifestos. Radical Teacher, 115, pp.33-38.

Other Teaching Resources


Personal Diverse 

Economic Portfolios



Future Food

Bag of Fruits



Designing Alternative Urban Scenarios

Green Buildings
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