Why are designers so removed from the people they’re designing for? And why do we think architects alone can solve the current challenges of our cities?
This was Jeanette and Rasmus’ fundamental criticism of their profession, which led them to seek ways of changing the traditional approach to urban development. Wanting to ignite a new movement in design process, they founded arki_lab, an urban consultancy that rests on three pillars: co-creation, democratic design and a cross-disciplinary team
We identify as facilitators of collaborative processes, whether in the development of strategies, analysis or physical design. Our particular focus on translating ideas into final designs helps ensure that the citizens’ voices appear throughout the process.
Read more below about what we do, how we do it, what we offer, and the people who make it happen!
What makes arki_lab's process different from other design processes?
We want to change the linear and top-down approach to design through “designing cities with people” instead of “designing cities for people”. Co-creating spaces with the end users not only helps establish more democratic and inclusive societies but also builds a strong sense of ownership over these spaces.
“Foundational values about community-driven urban planning are second to none, but more importantly these values are backed by genuine quality of engagement and listening.”
- Pascal Perez, Director at SMART Infrastructure Facility
Why citizen involvement?
We believe that users are the key to the short term and long term success of a project. Citizen involvement creates a space for dialogue and discussion, building a strong and inclusive foundation for any project. Activating people and integrating their ideas in the design builds a sense of ownership of their neighborhood and strengthens community values. It’s a win-win situation where the project succeeds through being embedded in its context and the citizens get solutions for their wishes and needs. And isn’t that the ultimate purpose of any design project?
How does arki_lab's interdisciplinary nature translate to the projects?
We believe that today’s challenges such as climate change, population increase, scarcity of resources can’t be tackled through a single discipline. Through our multidisciplinary structure we want to break the barriers between different fields to have more comprehensive and creative dialogues. This structure also strengthens the translation of the collected knowledge from the involvement phase into the final design.
“The process helps develop some soft skills like strengthening the students' ability to engage in their communities in the future, by giving them some tools that they wouldn’t have otherwise gotten through normal school curriculum.”
-  Nabil Zacharias Ben Chaabane, Integration Consultant at
What is co-design?
Co-design is an ambitious socio-political project that aims to restore people’s right to the city and their power to shape everyday spaces. Our cities are changing us, so why shouldn’t we be able to change our cities? arki_lab’s take on co-design aims to bridge the existing gap between users and designers to create more viable projects. Our unique approach comes from creating a common language between the end-users and designers to establish more democratic and non-hierarchical dialogues.
Who does arki_lab collaborate with?
We see ourselves as facilitators of the collaborative process, often acting as the link between citizens and various professional groups connected to the field of architecture. Our clients range from municipalities, area renewal associations, developers to different public institutions and schools. Within design teams we act as a bridge, between the proposal and its end-users, to ensure that the project is rooted in its context. Due to the wide scope of our projects we collaborate with different partners such as architects, urban planners, landscape architects, engineers, institutions and think tanks.
“We can see that arki_lab brings real value to the challenge of developing creative solutions to fit the needs of complex sensitive organisations.”
-  Simon Parsons, PTW Architects
“I'm confident that the process, leading up to the different products, has opened the eyes of the young participants to the legitimacy of their contributions in larger contexts.”
-  Søren Myrup, Fritidsborger board member, Asnæs
What is the value of working with young people?
We believe that democratic engagement processes can create better liveable environments not just today but also for generations to come. Involving young people in the design process enables them to realize that their ideas matter and that they can actually shape their surroundings. We’re trying to equip the next generation decision-makers and citizens with the knowledge that they can play an active part in shaping the world.
Why design multifunctional spaces?
The increase in the scarcity of resources and spaces in cities, while posing a new set of challenges like the increase of informal settlements or lack of nature in cities, has also inspired creative solutions, such as multifunctional spaces. Besides addressing current challenges, multifunctional urban spaces also successfully reflect the diversity of our cities today. This design approach greatly aligns with our work, striving to design spaces that cater to different age and user groups.
What's arki_lab's take on placemaking?
“Placemaking” has become quite a buzz word and for a good reason, it aims to establish public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness and well-being. This sounds like music to our ears and greatly aligns with our studio’s ambitions. We believe our inclusive and democratic approach to placemaking ensures urban spaces that cater to all citizens. We aim to establish such urban spaces first and foremost through bringing all actors around the same table to generate constructive dialogues and strategically ensure that everyone’s voice is heard.
At what phase does arki_lab come in?
Our expertise are proven valuable at all phases of a project, from concept development to final design. The process is most constructive when we’re integrated in the project from the start because this gives us the ability to design the process and build a relationship with the citizens. However we offer numerous services such as data and site analysis, stakeholder mapping or translating local knowledge into final design, which are very beneficial, even if we’re not involved in the initial engagement phase.