Occupied By Design: Evaluating Performative Tactics For More Sustainable Shared City Space In Private-led Regeneration Projects

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This paper investigates alternative approaches to statutory consultations in privateled regeneration projects. It explores decision-making processes for more locally relevant, place-based investments in shared urban space. It presents practice-led research about performative tactics, open-ended investigative action, to influence traditional processes of development and statutory consultation toward greater social sustainability. It focuses on the example of a temporary legal street-occupation, an activention, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The occupation responded to proposals to create a new public square as an “iconic meeting place” to spur regeneration in an existing marginalized neighbourhood. The paper argues that the formal proposals were based on top-down strategies that set-out limiting detailed designs based on the input of “key stakeholders” and consultants. Using anonymous surveys from event participants and public-private stakeholders, the paper compares and contrasts perspectives about more experimental visioning and consultation tactics, drawn from global thinkers and practitioners. It aims to foster deeper public-private-government conversations about existing public space qualities and place-driven potential. Through a reflective discussion, the author’s actions as an architect are also considered. An evidence-based argument, contextualized within UK and wider global discourse on sustainable communities, sets out how open-ended and performative strategies are perceived as a positive foil to more closed development decision-making, and can contribute to more proactive engagement with the public. Findings also support a greater focus on performative skills as means for architects to (re)frame their creative knowledge as tools for more transformative practices in complex city contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-452
Number of pages12
JournalWIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sep 2014


  • lighter-quicker-cheaper activention
  • place
  • public space
  • Belfast sustainability
  • regeneration
  • participation
  • architecture
  • performative tactics

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  • Profiles

    No photo of Saul Golden


    • 1 Organising a conference, workshop, ...
    • 1 Other
    • 1 Invited talk

    Trademark: Urban Research Lab -UK00003171005

    Saul Golden (Other)

    22 Jun 201622 Jun 2026

    Activity: Other

    Occupied by Design

    Saul Golden (Organiser)

    21 Feb 2013

    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventOrganising a conference, workshop, ...


    Research Output

    Open Access
  • Mapping the expanding and fracturing field of architecture

    Golden, S., 16 Feb 2017, Architectural Research Addressing Societal Challenges. Couceiro da Costa, M. J. R., Roseta, F., Couceiro da Costa, S. & Lages, J. P. (eds.). Lisbon, Portugal: Taylor & Francis, Vol. 2. p. 705-712

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

    Open Access
  • 31 Downloads (Pure)

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