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Dr Patricia Lopes Simoes Aelbrecht

Dr Patricia Lopes Simoes Aelbrecht

Senior Lecturer in Urban Design and Intercultural Studies

+44 (0)29 2087 5735
2.100, Glamorgan Building, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3WA


I am a Senior Lecturer in Urban Design and Intercultural Studies, Co-Founding Director of the Public Space Observatory Research Centre and Research Co-Lead of SPACE - Spatial Planning and Analysis in City Environments Research Group. I am also Editor in Chief of URBAN DESIGN International, a Palgrave Journal. My research sits at the intersection of urban design, environmental-behavioural studies, intercultural studies, and human geography. I have published widely on the design and sociology of the public realm with a particular focus on informal social practices in public space and the role of public space design and management in promoting social cohesion and intercultural dialogue. I have explored among other issues how social practices and activism in public space shape and redefine the meanings and uses of public spaces in a wide range of European contexts. My recent work has also dealt with mega-events as catalysts of urban regeneration and the contested regeneration of post-war modernist cityscapes.

Before turning to academia, I worked for a decade as an architect and urban designer in several international well-known practices in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Portugal. I gained experience in public space design, masterplanning, and in designing and building of small-scale housing projects and exhibitions, and large-scale and complex architectural projects such as museums and concert halls. This experience certainly contributed to enrich my professional and academic background, and to make many international contacts and gain proficiency in a good number of European languages. More importantly, it made me more sensitive to cultural specificities of planning and design policies and practices when undertaking research.


Education and qualifications

  • Certificate of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, The University of Sheffield (2016)
  • PhD Urban Studies, The Bartlett School of Planning and Geography (Urban Lab), University College London (2013)
  • MSc. International/ Comparative Planning, The Bartlett School of Planning, University College London (2007)
  • MArch in Architecture, Faculty of Architecture, Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal (2001)
  • BArch in Architecture, Faculty of Architecture, Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal (1998)

Professional memberships

  • Fellow, Royal Anthropology Institute, UK (2020 - Present).
  • Fellow, Higher Education Academy (2016 - Present).
  • Member, Urban Design Group (2015 - Present).
  • Member, Architectural Humanities Research Association (2009 - Present).
  • Member, Portuguese Architectural Association, OASRS Portugal, RIBA Accredited (2001 - Present).

Academic positions

  • Lecturer/ Senior Lecturer, Geography and Planning School, Cardiff University (2016 - present)
  • Visiting Scholar, RMIT, Australia (2018).
  • Teaching Fellow in Urban Design, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, The University of Sheffield (2014 – 2016).
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, Bartlett School of Planning, University College London (2013).
  • Research Fellow, Geographical Institute Humboldt University, Berlin (2012).
  • Course Tutor in Urban design, The Bartlett School, University College London (2009 – 2012).

Speaking engagements

  • Keynote speaker, AESOP Roundtable: Public Spaces - Knowledge Transition Between Research, Policy and Practice, as a part of the City Street 4 Conference ‘Streets for 2030: Proposing streets for integrated and universal mobility / Ljubljana Urban Planning Institute of the Republic of Slovenia / 23 & 24 September 2020.
  • ‘Keynote speaker, My/Your Cardiff Public Space Campaign’, Public Uni Event on 28th February 2020, organised by Cardiff University and Swansea University, Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff.
  • Keynote speaker, 'Public Space Design and Social Cohesion: lessons from the Global North and Global South’, 'Interface to Place: Remaking Divisive Lines into Shared Spaces' Conference on 12th August 2019 and Summer School between 13-16th August, organised by Queen’s University Belfast, the Department of Justice and Max Planck Institute.
  • Keynote speaker, ‘What role does the design of public spaces play in enhancing social cohesion?’, RMIT, Urban Design Public Lecture Series, Alumni Event, Australia.
  • Keynote speaker, ‘The Multiple Legacies of the Expo 98’ Urban Model’, Research Seminar ‘Mega-events and Culture:  Arts/ Artists engagement in event-based regeneration, resistance and research, Regional Studies Association Research Network on Mega Events, Timber Lodge Café, Olympic Park, London(17th June 2014).

Committees and reviewing

  • Editor-in-Chief of URBAN DESIGN International, Palgrave Journal (2021 - present)
  • Editorial Board, Urban Design Journal, Urban Design Group, UK  (2021 - present)
  • Topics editor, Journal Sustainability (2020 - present)
  • Journal reviewer for several Journals including: Journal of Urbanism: International Research on Placemaking and Urban Sustainability; GeoForum; Space and Culture; Urban Design International; Sustainability; Journal of Intercultural Studies; Planning Practice and Research.
  • Vice-Chair of National Urban Design Student Awards - Urban Design Group (2021 - present)
  • Academic member of the Executive Committee, Urban Design Group, UK (2020 - 2022)

















Current teaching

I contribute to the following modules:

  • CP0370 Design Guidance in Planning Practice
  • CPT867 Designing Cities
  • MAUD Autumn/ Spring Studio
  • MAUD Dissertation

Research interests

My research interests encompass a wide range of areas:

  • The Design and Sociology of the Public Realm
  • Planning and Designing with Social Cohesion and Intercultural Dialogue in mind
  • Privatization and Control of Public space
  • Minorities and Disadvantaged user groups in Public Space
  • Conservation and Regeneration of Post-War Modernist Architecture and Planning

Research Centres and Groups

  • Co-Founding Director of the Public Space Observatory Research Centre, a joint venture of the School of Geography and Planning and Welsh School of Architecture (2019 - Present)
  • Research Co-Lead of SPACE Research Group, Geography and Planning School, Cardiff University (2021 - Present).
  • AESOP Thematic Group Public Spaces and Urban Cultures (2018 - Present)
  • Cities Research Centre, Cardiff University (2017 - Present)
  • Social and Cultural Geography Group, Cardiff University (2016 - Present)
  • SPACE, Cardiff University (2016 - Present)
  • Inclusive Cities Impact Group, Cardiff University (2016 - Present)

Current research projects

I am currently working on the following projects:

Public Space Observatory Research Centre (PSO) (2019 - present): In October 2019, myself and Dr Hesam Kamalipour from the School of Geography and Planning (GEOPL) and Dr Nastaran Peimani from the Welsh School of Architecture (WSA) co-founded the Public Space Observatory (PSO) a knowledge exchange platform in public space research, practice and policy. The PSO’s mission is to bring together local, national and international academics, practitioners and policymakers engaged with the provision, design, management and use of public space. Its primary aim is to build new partnerships and collaborations, share resources, promote knowledge exchange, empower local communities through education, training and capacity building, and advance cutting-edge knowledge in public space design, management and use theories, practices and policies.

My/your Cardiff Public Space Campaign (2019 - present): This campaign is one of our first PSO’s projects. Its primary aims is to raise public awareness on the social, cultural, economic and environmental values and benefits of well-designed, used and managed public spaces. By doing so, it aims to promote community engagement and empowerment  through education, training and capacity to improve public spaces and respond to a significant reduction of public sector expenditure in local authorities’ provision and maintenance of public infrastructure and services. This project is funded by an ESRC Impact Grant. The project team includes PI: Patricia Aelbrecht (myself), and Co-I: Wes Aelbrecht.

Urban Design and Spaces of Encounter (2018 - present): This project examines the role of urban public spaces in supporting opportunities for people to experience, develop and maintain a sense of social cohesion in contexts where cohesion is under threat from the increasing cultural and economic differences. It focuses on three award-winning public space projects in Copenhagen, London, and Rotterdam to evaluate whether these public space projects and their design approaches have succeeded in promoting positive social encounters and achieving social cohesion. The gained knowledge will be used to provide guidance to future policies and design practices for urban public spaces and inform wider areas of social and cultural policy and service delivery. This project was initiated with internal funding from Cardiff's Cities Research Centre and RMIT and is endorsed by the Greater London Authority and Rotterdam municipality. The project team includes PI: Patricia Aelbrecht (myself), and Co-Is: Gary Bridge, Richard Gale and Quentin Stevens (RMIT).

Public Space Toolkit for Wales (2021-2022): This project is a steppingstone towards innovative practices around placemaking for the public realm in Wales. It aims to co-produce with four LAs a web-based Public Space Toolkit for Wales in partnership with the Design Commission for Wales, Urban Design Group and Living Streets to help implementing the Welsh Placemaking Agenda. The project team includes PI: Patricia Aelbrecht (myself), and Co-Is: Francesca Sartorio, Wes Aelbrecht, Richard Gale, and Michael Corr and is funded by an ‘Innovation for All’ grant  from the HEFCW.

    Past research projects

    • Research project Achieve More ‘Re-imagining Sheffield’s Post-war Modernist Social Housing’, University of Sheffield (2015-16).
    • Research project: ’Rehabilitation of Post-war modernist masterplans’, UCL (2013-2014).
    • Research project ‘Knowledge Exchange between Theory and Practice in Urban Design: the Masterplan of Southbank Centre in London’, UCL (2013).
    • Research project ‘City Beaches in Germany’ led by Dr. Quentin Stevens, Humboldt University (2012).
    • Research project: ‘The after life of a Mega-event: Lisbon’s Word Expo 98’, UCL (2011).


    I am interested in supervising PhD students in the areas of:

    • The Design and Sociology of the Public Realm
    • Privatization and Control of Public space
    • Minorities and Disadvantaged user groups in Public Space
    • Environmental-behavior Relations
    • Experiential and Sensorial Urbanism
    • Urban Design Theory and Practice Nexus
    • Conservation and Regeneration of Post-War Modernist Architecture and Planning
    • Urban Design of Mega-events

    I am currenty supervising the following PhD students:

    • Primary Supervisor of Wenjie Li, Department of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University with PhD Thesis titled: 'Landscape Therapy: Urban Space Design in the Post Epidemic Era' (2022 - present). The second supervisor is Dr. Matluba Khan.
    • Secondary supervisor of Aysenur Bas, Department of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University with PhD Thesis titled: 'Transformative Urban Play: Exploring Transformation Potential of the Play in the Public Space for Social Well-being' (2022 - present). The first supervisor is Dr. Matluba Khan.
    • Primary Supervisor of PhD candidate Mehrnoosh Mansoorgarakani, Department of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University with PhD Thesis titled: 'Assessing and Designing Soundscapes: Lessons from the Bazaar and the Shopping Mall in the City of Tehran' (2017 - present). The second supervisor is Dr. Jonathan Prior.
    • Primary Supervisor of PhD candidate Ying Liao, Department of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University with PhD Thesis titled: Design for Ageing in the context of China (2018 - present). The second supervisor is Dr. Justin Spinney.

    Current supervision

    Mehrnoosh Mansoorgarakani

    Research student

    Ying Liao

    Ying Liao

    Research student


    Aysenur Bas

    Research student

    Wenjie Li

    Research student

    Past projects

    Completed PhD projects:

    • Secondary Supervisor of PhD candidate Mahsa Mohajer, Department of Landscape Architecture, The University of Sheffield with PhD Thesis titled: ‘Equity of Access to Public Open Space on the Waterfront of Caspian Sea in Iran, The Case of Anzali City’ (2014-2021). The first supervisor was Dr. Nicola Dempsey.
    • Secondary Supervisor of PhD candidate Yani Wu, Department of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University with PhD Thesis titled: Rethinking the Chinese Eco-city: the case of Tianjin (2016-present). The first supervisor was Dr. Li Yu.

    I was appointed external examiner of several PhDs candidates at UK and overseas universities including: University of Sheffield, Heriot-Watt University, Ghent University, and Université de Lausanne.