Dr Caroline Newton

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The Development Planning Unit conducts world-leading research and postgraduate teaching that helps to build the capacity of national governments, local authorities, NGOs, aid agencies and businesses working towards socially just and sustainable development in the global south. We are part of The Bartlett: UCL's global faculty of the built environment.



Caroline Newton is an architect, urban planner and political scientist. She completed her PhD in social geography at the K.U. Leuven (Belgium). Her work and research focuses on the socio spatial dimensions of design and critical spatial practices in Europe and the Global South. Her research interests are centered on the interrelation between societal processes and the built environment and she has written on informal dwelling and participatory upgrading, the challenge of design and planning in post colonial environments and also on the methodological and pedagogical challenges of a 'designerly way of knowledge production'. 

Caroline teaches in the MSc Building and Urban Design in Development and is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Housing and the Built Environment (http://www.springer.com/social+sciences/population+studies/journal/10901).

Research Summary

The core of Caroline’s research interests is the intertwinement of the notions freedom, public sphere, city and architecture and a certain notion of democracy. As such she is currently focusing on how mechanisms of power work on different scales and within distinct spatial settings, or using Foucault’s (1980, p. 149) statement: “a whole history remain to be written of spaces – which would at the same time be the history of powers (both these terms in the plural) – from the great strategies of geopolitics to the little tactics of the habit, institutional architecture from the classroom to the design of hospitals, passing via economic and political installations”.

Within this setting the role of the architect/planner/designer is being put under scrutiny. More than ever cities are more than built up space and morphological composition. They reflect the strong intertwinement of space and people, they are about lived realities, as, using the words of de Certeau, the city has truly become a “practiced place” (1984: 117). Working within a normative framework whereby the search for the just city and the right to the city are central, Caroline’s research stresses the opportunities a designerly way of knowledge production holds to address some of the challenges urban design in development is confronted with.

Design has its own ways of knowledge production, thinking and acting (Cross, 2001). A designerly way of knowing is able to reinterpret existing “problems”, or more broadly “questions”, and to develop solutions that have been unthought-of before. Our societies need creative/artistic research, not only because it is part of our humanistic heritage, but also because it helps to achieve, to realise, a high-quality human (humanistic) culture, which is only possible if we develop ideas/concepts/solutions that are not merely grounded in the current conditions and problems but that go beyond this, as such a Utopian attitude (not to be understood in the modernist’s sense, but Utopian as Bloch’s (1995 (1938–1947), p. 13) “experienced Not-Yet-Experience in every experience that has previously become”.

Research outputs

More than twenty years after the repeal of the Group Areas Act: housing, spatial planning and urban development in post-apartheid South Africa 2013 Newton C,Schuermans N
The peoples housing process … getting the quality in the quantity? 2013 Newton C
Waarom de leeuw aan het bouwen sloeg. Bouwstenen voor een zoektocht naar de grondslagen van het Belgisch/Vlaamse woonmodel. 2012 De Decker P,Newton C
Virtual Worlds and Architectural Education: A Typological Framework 2012 Pak B,Newton C,Verbeke J
Victoria Mxenge: a Story About More Than Women Building Their Community 2012 Newton C
Being a young and foreign researcher in South Africa: Towards a postcolonial dialogue 2012 Schuermans N,Newton C
Plannen voor mensen : handboek sociaal-ruimtelijke planning 2011 Loopmans M,Leclercq E,Newton C,Raeymaekers K
Vrouwen die bouwen 2010 Newton C
Ruimtelijk design vandaag: ontwerpen voor of met mensen? 2009 Newton C
Sociale Planning: Het ruimtelijk determinisme voorbij 2009 Loopmans M,Leclerq E,Newton C
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Research activities

Outcomes for Children with Complex Needs assessed for Communication Aids