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Åsa Wikberg Nilsson
Åsa Wikberg Nilsson, Associate Professor of Industrial Design at Luleå University of Technology. Photo: Melina Granberg View original picture , opens in new tab/window

"Modern urban planning needs a norm-critical approach"

Published: 3 May 2018

To build attractive, non-excluding and sustainable cities requires more than comply with the Planning and Building Act. With a norm-critical approach, will researchers at Luleå University of Technology develop a process model that ensures that more perspectives are taken into consideration in urban planning.

– Among other things, it is about avoiding the stigmatization that may occur. According to the Planning and Building Act, it is ok to have a wheelchair ramp at the back of a building. Therefore, it is sometimes placed where the rubbish is taken out or the goods are delivered. It is neither accessible nor attractive to the person in a wheelchair, says Åsa Wikberg Nilsson, Associate Professor of Industrial Design at Luleå University of Technology.

In the preliminary study funded by Vinnova, is Åsa Wikberg Nilsson and her colleagues collaborating with Kiruna City – a partner that is extraordinarily interesting in due to the ongoing city move.

– We will develop principles for a process model that can be used to build attractive, non-excluding and sustainable cities. The Planning and Building Act satisfies certain accessibility through functional requirements. For example, there must be handicap toilets and entrance doors must be at least 90 centimetres wide. But there is no social perspective and there are many rules that can be circumvented without consequences for the one who builds. We will review the current regulatory framework. In the long run, we hope that our research will affect the Planning and Building Act.

In recent years, the concept of universal design has been the prevailing ideal in the design world. Simply, it's about creating something that will work for everyone. In urban planning can for example a wheelchair ramp be a natural part of the entrance, and therefore not be perceived as a wheelchair ramp. But Åsa Wikberg Nilsson says that universal design does not guarantee that all perspectives are taken into consideration.

– We want to try to challenge universal design through norm-critical design methods, and see its shortcomings. We think it may come something new from it.


Åsa Wikberg-Nilsson

Åsa Wikberg-Nilsson, Associate Professor

Phone: +46 (0)920 491342
Organisation: Industrial Design, Humans and Technology, Department of Social Sciences, Technology and Arts