Dr Mirian Calvo

Lecturer in Participatory Architecture

Community Architecture, Urban Design & Planning, Co-design, Community Engagement, Placemaking, Mutual Learning, Design Innovation, Collaborative Theory & Methods


Mirian’s research explores other ways of doing architecture by strengthening community engagement in the transformation of the built environment. Such a transformation comprises the emergence of shared meanings, creating an environmental system that operates on symbolic and emotional levels.

Her core research draws a convergent path in-between the designing of spatial conditions and human agency with focus on activating genuine collaboration to support social innovations. Mirian leads research within the Community and the Public Sector Cluster at LICA (ImaginationLancaster) with particular focus on merging participatory architecture and co-design frameworks. Here participatory architecture stands for the democratisation of the production of social space. It employs designerly engagements to build a bridge between political, social and economic agents, and citizens.

Her doctoral thesis explored the intrinsic relationship between mutual learning and community-based co-design, focusing on how such a relationship influences the co-design process. She participated in several research projects such as Emotional City, The Political Lab, and Leapfrog. She also has experience as a co-design consultant for European non-profit organisations such as beentheretogether. Currently she is a co-investigator of the EPSRC project Embedded Intelligent Empathy in Design.

PhD diagram phase 3 of the theoretical framework: participants enacting genuine collaboration, 2019.

She has presented her work at international conferences such as the Design Research Society or the European Academy of Design and has had her work published in the Design Journal and the International Journal of Art & Design Education. She has also been invited to be part of the international review board of ServDes 2018 Conference.

Mirian has both an academic and a professional background in participatory architecture, urban planning, design innovation, design ethnography and co-design. Driven by her curiosity in understanding the symbiotic relationship between environmental conditions and people, she has acquired a unique set of design research skills and knowledge which enables her work at the edges of a wide range of disciplines, understanding and analysing their potentialities, and bringing their valuable contributions to animate and strengthen design research and architectural transformations.

Mirian is particularly interested in supervising research projects that investigate new radical collaborative practices in Design and Architecture, including technology-mediated engagement in participatory processes. Theoretical and methodological innovations in the development of distributed, practice-based transformative rural and/or urban environments are another key focus.


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