Research: The Curatorial Method

Engagement of local actors and stakeholders in urban areas is increasingly considered a prime leverage point for transitions towards sustainability. In practice it is a field imbued with complexity and conflict and awkward to navigate. While planning practitioners increasingly accept complexity as a fundamental challenge within the transition processes, they struggle with tools and approaches that accommodate it. Drawing on the notion of the curatorial from art and design, we are exploring a novel approach that engages directly and constructively with complex problems evident with multi-scalar, multi-actor and multi-dimensional urban planning projects.


While much has been written about potential tools for system thinking, considerably less is written about influential roles that can facilitate it, as individual approaches or assemblages, within a participatory setting. Roles like organiser, facilitator, or moderator tend to reflect the logic of simpler problems that can be ‘fixed’ through analytical decomposition and are not relevant for system thinking. We propose that local authorities adopt a curatorial role, a position that deals with complexity and conflict using multiple approaches, methods and logics.

This method was developed for dealing with complex multi-stakeholder projects where there is no clear problem area to begin with.  The method was part of the 2015, 51st ISOCARP conference in Brussels.