Flourish | Session 1 | Intersections
20 October, 2020









People shape places, and, in turn, places shape people.

How can we create cities that better contribute to human flourishing?

Conscious Cities London is bringing together diverse voices from the science, design and creative communities to inform, inspire and agitate ideas of how we can reimagine our urban environments by putting people and planet first.



Tuesday, 20 October (2:00-6:00pm BST / 9:00am-1:00pm EST)

How can we bring together research in neuro, cognitive and social sciences, with everyday design practice to create more positive experiences for people?





Physical Distancing and Social Spacing: Creating Sociality
Nick Tyler (Chadwick Professor of Civil Engineering, UCL and Director of UCL Centre for Transport Studies)

Starting from the principles of Proxemics, which refer to distances between people at which certain activities were observed to occur, this talk looks at the implications of these for the design of spaces for people. Key to doing this is a different conception of time, in which it is seen to move at several speeds at the same time, but which need to be aligned in order to achieve a sense of sociality. A very simple example is given to show how this might affect the design of a social space.


Uneasy Cities
Kate Jeffery (Professor of Behavioural Neuroscience, University College London)

When we move around in our environment we assimilate the layout and the content of our surroundings - what things are located where, what are the paths that connect one place to another etc, and in doing so we form a mental map. We are now starting to understand the neurobiology of this map and in doing so are discovering the importance of the environment in shaping it: in particular, we are finding that some environments aid mapping and some hinder it. In this talk I will argue that poor mental mapping leads to an emotional state I call "spatial unease" - the feeling of not knowing exactly where you are in relation to your wider surroundings. This leads not just to poor navigation but perhaps, more broadly, to a poor sense of ownership and belonging with respect to the city. I will lay out some principles deriving from the neuroscientific study of mental mapping that may help reduce spatial unease and aid in the design of cities that are both easier and more pleasant to navigate.


Designing with Behavioural Science in Mind
Ed Gardiner (Behavioural Design Lead, Warwick Business School)

Good design brings together what is desirable from a human perspective with what is technologically feasible and economically viable. It understands people’s underlying needs to create products, services and places that make life better. Behavioural science is broadly the study of how and why people behave the way they do, drawing on insights and methods from psychology, economics and neuroscience. While design is a traditionally a bottom up process, behavioural science is more top down, but both have people at their heart. Only by combining these methods can we create truly positive experiences for people.


Interacting Pandemics and Structural Oppression: How they shape our inner worlds and how to resist, survive and even thrive
Joshua Miller (Professor of Social Work, Smith College)

This presentation will consider how COVID, Structural Oppressions (e.g. white supremacy), economic downturn and inequality, political threats and climate change interact and affect individuals and communities. What helps people to survive these pandemics and can even lead to thriving? What role can architects, urban planners, engineers and designers play in supporting people amidst so many threats and challenges to their wellbeing?


Chadwick Professor of Civil Engineering at UCL and Director of the UCL Centre for Transport Studies

Professor Nick Tyler CBE FREng is the Chadwick Professor of Civil Engineering at UCL and the Director of the UCL Centre for Transport Studies. He is working extensively with bodies such as Transport for London, national and local governments, and civil society to help create an accessible, adaptive and sustainable urban realm which is responsive to all people and their needs. He has recently created PEARL (People-Environment-Activity Research Laboratory), part of the UK national research facility for infrastructure and cities. He is a co-investigator of the UCL Ecological Brain Doctoral Training Programme. Nick combines highly diverse fields in his research, from civil/transport engineering and architecture to neuroscience, psychology, physiology, ophthalmology, audiology, orthopaedics, lighting, sound and acoustics.

Professor of Behavioural Neuroscience at University College London

Kate Jeffery is Professor of Behavioural Neuroscience at University College London. Her scientific research explores how the brain makes an internal map of space for use in navigation and memory. She heads the Institute of Behavioural Neuroscience in the Division of Psychology and Language Sciences at UCL, and is co-director of the electrophysiology company Axona Ltd. She is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology, Fellow and Vice-President of the Royal Institute of Navigation, in which she also chairs the Cognition and Navigation special interest group. She is interested in making and communicating links between scientific research findings and real-world societal problems - notably urban design for navigation, and also the climate crisis.

Behavioural Design Lead, Behavioural Science Group, Organising Healthcare Research Network, Warwick Business School

Ed Gardiner is Behavioural Design Lead at Warwick Business School (WBS), applying insights and methods from behavioural science to support the design of products and services with a social purpose. He joined WBS to setup and run the Behavioural Design Lab, a partnership with Design Council. He now focuses on ways to support collective action, helping people work more effectively together to achieve their own and common goals. He teaches across a range of programmes at WBS and is Course Director for the Behavioural Science in Practice executive education programme. Ed is also a Founding Member of Common, a problem-solving collective that brings a diverse suite of skills to today's increasingly complex social issues. Previously, Ed worked for the advertising agency, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe / Y&R, managing creative campaigns for private and public sector clients. He holds an MA in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge and an MSc in Cognitive and Decision Sciences from UCL.

Professor of Social Work, Smith College

Joshua Miller, Ph.D. is a professor of social work at Smith College who has been teaching and writing about racism and white supremacy for many years.  He links structural racism with internalized racism and white supremacy and works with white people to help them to recognize, understand and respond to structural racism.  He is co-author of Racism in the United States: Implications for the helping professions, which will soon be in its third edition.

He also specializes in helping individuals and communities to recover from disasters, war and violence and is the author of Psychosocial capacity building in response to disasters. His model of intervention integrates trauma theory, positive psychology, Eastern philosophy and liberation psychology.  Prior to teaching, Miller spent 20 years as a community organizer, family therapist, group worker and researcher, and was the director of public and private nonprofit child and family welfare agencies.