Humphris, Imogen

Humphris, Imogen

Research Fellow

Department of Spatial Planning and Environment, University of Groningen, the Netherlands

Research Interest

Throughout my RECOMS fellowship I will be exploring the transformation potential of radical civic initiatives and their interaction with traditional, formal modes of production in the city.


Formally trained in architecture, I explore the bottom up emergence of resilience in urban contexts and the responsive role of designers. Over the last 10 years my work has become increasingly focused on civic initiatives, both formal and informal, acting as a participant, community planning facilitator and researcher. Education and youth empowerment are also particular passions of mine in the effort to engender more socially just cities in the future. In this vein, I additionally trained as a secondary school teacher through which I have worked closely with particularly vulnerable communities over the past 5 years.

Project summary

This research project is concerned with the transformational impact created by experimental civic initiatives working within the context of the post-industrial city. Vacant and underused spaces in these urban areas are defined as ‘edgelands’ and the analysis seeks to unpack why some of these locations provide fruitful hotspots for experimental civic activities to emerge. Using a sociological institutional lens, the research seeks to explore how such activities use construction practices to redefine dominant institutions of the city and, in so doing, communicate new spatial paradigms. Through physical adaptation of the space, it is argued that such groups generate new meanings for the edgeland site that may further influence the development trajectory of the city at large. In light of complexity theories of self organisation, it further explores the mechanisms by which these activities may affect dominant, cultural institutions across the broader urban area through the generation of symbolic markers. The project will develop methods around the ‘deep mapping’ approach to layer observations of the physical manifestations of space appropriation together with pluralities of applied meaning and temporal change.