Katherine Knowles is currently working towards a PhD, supported by a BRE scholarship. Her academic background is in modern languages and town planning. She completed a BA Hons degree in Spanish at Bristol University in 2005, and an MSc in Planning Practice and Research at Cardiff University in 2006. She worked for 2 years in a planning consultancy in Bristol, specialising in major planning applications, the Environmental Impact Assessment, and sustainability consultancy. She also enjoys the practical side of sustainability, and is actively involved with local projects relating to food networks and cycling.
She has a general research interest in sustainable design, and in how people interact with and modify their local environments. She is particularly interested in urban areas, and how existing cities can be adapted to respond better to the needs of the people who live there, especially in terms of their sustainability.
This PhD seeks to increase the understanding of how these groups address local sustainability issues and how they design improvements for their local area. A particular focus is on how the physical environment of the locality contributes to visions and activities. The research will cover a range of sustainability issues where action is being taken, and will begin by looking at a case study project based around food cultivating, distribution and education. The research seeks to understand the situations in which projects and solutions emerge and the process through which they develop. It also seeks to evaluate the role of the physical environment within the overall project, and the implications of this for built environment and design practice. The research seeks to improve the effectiveness of community action by generating greater understanding amongst participants, as well as providing a useful insight for other parties within the public and private sectors who may work alongside community groups.
An ethnographic methodology is being used for this project, involving in-depth interviewing and participant observation with community projects in the UK.