User Representation in Architecture

Course Leader

Alan Lewis

In our modern, capitalist society, architects rarely have the opportunity to engage with those who will occupy their buildings. Architects’ clients are often building contractors, speculative developers or public bodies, rather than individuals who will inhabit the completed buildings. This can make it difficult for architects to understand building users’ needs and aspirations.

This elective course looked critically at the term ‘user’ as employed within architecture. Drawing on Akrich and Latour’s concept of user representations and scripts, the course explored strategies for understanding the aspirations and needs of building users. The strengths and weaknesses of each approach were examined. The difficulties of designing buildings for unknown users, who might differ from the architect in terms of age, gender, class and ethnicity, was discussed along with the risks of reducing potential users to stereotypes.

Through taking the course, students developed an understanding of the needs and aspirations of building users. They enhanced their knowledge of the cultural, social and intellectual histories and theories that influence the design of buildings, in relation to user-centred design. Specific learning outcomes include:

  • students have a critical understanding of the term ‘user’ as employed within architecture.
  • students are aware of a range of strategies for understanding the needs and aspirations of building users.
  • students know the history of the development and use of these strategies.
  • students evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of these strategies.
  • students developed new architectural and urban designs through the appropriate application of these strategies.


Raiyhan Alvi

Joanna Bulaong

Karishma Dayalji

Megan Dinsley

Danish Farooqui

Lucy Hobbs

Arif Izzuddin Bin Arif Ismail

James Jones

Oliver Porter

Su Qinze

Agrima Sharma

Ayesha Sharma

Rebecca Skelton

Maira Tini

Hanna Batrisyia Binti Che Zulkhikam