- fostering sustainable urban development through participative design- 

The aim of Urban Ascension is to contribute to a sustainable development of urban settlements. This will be realized by redeveloping urban areas (especially small and medium public areas; and Brownfield sites) using sustainable urban design solutions that are discussed and decided upon together with the local community. I have named this participative process 'Co-Urban' development, because it combines characteristics from cohousing communities and urban sustainability. These will be detailed below.

I) The concept of cohousing

'The cohousing concept appeared during the 70s in Denmark; now being widespread throughout North Western Europe, North America, and Australia. It consists of developing small communities (mini-neighbourhoods) that offer their residents an enhanced sense of community, while allowing them to keep their personal privacy as well. Cohousing communities emerged following the rising social isolation felt by many residents of large Western urban agglomerations during the last decades (e.g. Sullivan-Catlin, 1998). 
The future residents are involved throughout the whole design and development process of the community. This means that the emerging community corresponds to the needs and desires of its residents. Following the construction process, they become responsible for certain aspects related to the maintenance, organisation, and development of the community. 
Studies (e.g. Meltzer, 2005; Williams, 2005a; Poley, 2007; Markle, 2013; Sundberg, 2014; Cojan, 2017) have shown that such a form of development can bring benefits consistent with the tree axes of sustainable development: the social, the environmental, and the economic one.

II) Applying the concept for a larger scale
The key concepts underpinning the development of cohousing communities are currently used as part of some urban development projects in Sweden and Denmark. The research of the author (Cojan, 2013; Cojan, 2017) confirms this trend, revealing a number of common characteristics between cohousing communities and one of the few sustainable neighbourhoods in Europe: the French quarter in Tübingen, Germany. The latter represents an example of sustainable urban development at a scale much larger than that of cohousing communities. Among these characteristics, we can list: 
- the involvement of the residents in the development and design process; 
- a site design that encourages social interactions among the residents, while also allowing them to have privacy; 
- spatial solutions that reduce the dependence on motorised transport vehicles; thus encouraging pedestrianisation and cycling, and enhancing the safety of children and adults alike; 
- local facilities devised to suit the needs of the locals, that become part of their responsibility; 
- developing closer bonds among neighbours; which results in a higher sense of community and more involvement from the part of the locals.

III) The emergence of 'Co-Urban development'

Considering the potential benefits associated with cohousing communities, but also the possibility to adapt their key characteristics for a larger scale, I propose the concept of 'Co-Urban' development that combines cohousing and urban sustainability charactersitics.

Therefore, the Co-Urban concept is based on a participatory design approach, involving interested residents in the (re-) development process of a specific urban area. Various sustainable spatial solutions will be proposed, discussed, and decided upon together with the residents. Techniques used during this participative process include: group working based on certain themes; interactive three-dimensional visualisations of proposed solutions; mockups for 'hands-on' adjustments of the proposed solutions; presentations and discussions/mediation techniques aimed at reaching a consensus of solutions.

The final product will be represented by architectural plans that will reflect the results of this Co-Urban process; and that will be used for the physical development of the site. As such, this approach leads to the redevelopment of urban areas through sustainable solutions discussed and decided upon together with the local community. 
About me:

I am dr. arh. Horatiu-Cristian Cojan (Hori), the founder of Urban Ascension. So far I have studied, done research and completed design projects in the fields of architecture; urban design and urban regeneration; landscape architecture; and sustainable development, in three European countries (Romania, United Kingdom and the Netherlands). Urban Ascension offers all stages of design, planning and consultancy services in the fields of urban design, development and regeneration; architecture; landscape design; and participative processes. I have also developed and applied the „Co-urban development” process, based on the findings from my PhD study in Cardiff, United Kingdom and Master's study in Nijmegen, the Netherlends. In 2020, I have been awarded with the distinction 'Chartered Town Planner' by the Royal Town Planning Institute (MRTPI), and also became an affiliate member of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

You can see some albums with recent projects on this page; or visit the following Facebook page:  @urban.ascension.2019
SERVICES/ Benefits

"There is a central quality which is the root criterion of  life and spirit in a man, a town, a building, or a wilderness. This quality is objective and precise, but it cannot be named [...]. It is not possible to make great buildings, or great towns, beautiful places, places where you feel yourself, places where you  feel alive, except by following this way"

- Christopher Alexander about the 'Quality without a Name'- 

In accordance with Alexander's view about creating places that have a 'quality without a name', the Co-Urban process represents a holistic approach to urban deveopment that yields benefits on the three axes of sustainability: 

- in terms of social sustainability, it helps: develop solutions for more functional communities adapted to the needs of their residents; develop spatial solutions that encourage social interactions among neighbours; develop a higher sense of belonging to the local community, also combating social isolation through the participative process; diminish social-cultural barriers by also involving vulnerable categories and minorities in the process; and educate participants about sustainable development;

- in terms of environmental sustainability, it helps: develop spatial solutions aimed at encouraging non-motorized transport modes; develop spatial solutions that increase the proportion and use of green areas; develop solutions that encourage recycling, composting and sustainable practices; for a better understanding of active and passive sustainable systems, and of their potential for the discussed area; 

- in terms of economic sustainability, it helps determine the possibility for the development of some 'mini community centres' that would be available for the local residents and would encompass functions desired by them. Furthermore, it supports the local economy and increases the value of the surrounding area.

Building upon Alexander's quote and the benefits of the Co-Urban approach, I provide the following services in English, German, and Romanian. These services are based on my passion and experience with: designing architectural and urban development projects; full project and multi-disciplinary team management;  conducting participative workshops; public speaking, poster presentations and community engagement; in-depth qualitative research, analysis of complex data, and academic writing; visual analysis using GIS software (AutoCAD Map 3D); software for 3D modelling (3ds Max + Vray), architectural purposes (AutoCAD/ ArchiCAD), and image editing (Photoshop). 

I) Complete services for Urban Regeneration and Sustainable Development Projects, based on the Co-Urban development model

- Full project management;

- Community outreach, education and social media strategies/ processes;

- Participative design workshops that make use of hands-on models and interactive computer visualisation of proposed solutions/ themes;

- Public events and interactive presentations;

- Complete design of urban architecture projects for the following phases:
                 - Pre-feasibility study
                 - Feasibility study
                 - Planning permission and complete technical project.

II) Community education and engagement

- Community outreach, education and social media strategies/ processes;

- Participative design workshops that make use of hands-on models and interactive computer visualisation of proposed solutions/ themes;

- Public events and interactive presentations.

III) Architecture, Urban design, Interior Design, and Landscape Architecture projects

- Complete design of projects for the following phases:
                 - Pre-feasibility study
                 - Feasibility study
                 - Planning permission and complete technical project.

IV) Research

- Creating academic papers, White papers, and Field reports;

- Visual analsis and GIS-based scenario development. 

V) Consultancy services

- Dissemination of good practices and innovative strategies related to sustainable development, participative processes, and urban regeneration;

- Knowledge sharing.

Presentation boards/ Articles

Urban Ascension

E-mail address: info@urban-ascension.com

Facebook page: @urban.ascension.2019

- All images and information are copyright Urban Ascension, unless otherwise stated