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Work Package 3

Ethics of research 


Work package 3 - Ethics of Urban Research Practice, aims to develop a situated ethics approach that supports knowledge co-production for urban equality. This approach is conceptually-driven, theoretically-informed, practice-led, action-orientated, relational, dialogic and participatory. It will be developed in the light of the current debates relating to ethics of urban research and planning with specific focus on urban inequalities.

How can we develop a situated ethics approach that supports knowledge co-production? 

There are overarching debates concerning the relation between applied and situated ethics, which will form a conceptual backdrop to the work. Important debates concerning the ethics of situated knowledge and site-specific practice, and how these relate to fieldwork as a situated and ethical practice, inform our methodology. We aim to contribute to this discourse by focusing on how the issues of urban inequality necessitate a new type of ethical methodology.

We will analyse the overarching ethical codes/procedures for research in the global south and the ways in which these acknowledge (or not) urban inequality. We will then reflect on these issues in relation to questions of ethics and inequality in two cities from the KNOW project. Through situated research fieldwork and workshops, we will look at the connections between the overall codes and the situated conditions on the ground, identifying commonalities and specifics relating to the creation of pathways to urban equality. Our aim will be to contribute to the formation of pathways to urban equality by formulating tools and guidelines, based on the case-studies, to deal with ‘situated ethics’. Such tools are intended to be useful for other cities as well, both within the KNOW project and beyond

WP3 about

Practicing Ethics: Guides 


These guides, curated by the Bartlett’s Ethics Commission in collaboration with KNOW, and edited by WP3 Lead Investigator, Jane Rendell, offer insights by experienced researchers into how to negotiate the ethical dilemmas that can arise during a research project. The aim is to help you practise built environment research ethically. David Roberts (Bartlett Ethics Fellow 2015-20) devised the format and structure of these guides to follow the ethical issues that arise during the development of a research process – from planning, to conducting, to communicating and producing outcomes – and Ariana Markowitz wrote some of the introductory text that runs across all guides. The guides focus on the different kinds of ethical issues you might encounter as a result of using specific processes or methods, and pay attention to the particular contexts and ways in which these methods are practised. Because when practising research, methods and context inform one another, we consider this series of guides as embedded in a mode of applied ethics called situated or relational ethics. Where you see words that are highlighted, they refer back to our definitions of key ethical principles and to terms contained in institutional protocols as found on Practising Ethics. 

What does ethics mean to you?


At an early stage in the research of KNOW Work Package 3 (The Ethics of Research Practice), during the second KNOW Workshop in Havana (February 2019), we asked all KNOW collaborators the question ‘What does ethics mean to you?’.


Their responses are combined in this short video.
Edited by Ulrikke Andersen, 2019

Researching Architecture and Urban Inequality: Toward Engaged Ethics, Yael Padan 


This paper reflects on approaches to conducting “ethical research” on architecture and urban (in)equality in cities in the global south. It focuses on two themes: the formalization of institutional ethics procedures and protocols for conducting such research, and the need to move away from ethical frameworks that emerge from western structures for knowledge production. The paper will question whether ethical principles are universal or specific, and how they affect the possibility of knowledge co-production and its potential to generate pathways to urban equality. These questions arise from the history of contemporary research ethics procedures, which are rooted in the social norms of western modernity that views researchers and research participants as “autonomous individuals.” The paper will suggest that exploring the relation of the individual to the collective and understanding social existence as relationality, is fundamental in formulating an alternative type of ethics methodology.

Suggested citation 

Yael Padan (2020): Researching Architecture and Urban Inequality: Toward Engaged Ethics, Architecture and Culture, DOI: 10.1080/20507828.2020.1792109

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'Practising Ethical Research in the Urban Global South' (2015)


Watch now 'Practising Ethical Research in the Urban Global South' (2015), a film made in 2015 by DPU researchers and their partners for ‘Practising Ethics’, a Bartlett-funded conference chaired by Professor Jane Rendell for the Bartlett Ethics Commission. The video was curated by Prof. Adriana Allen, Dr Michael Walls and Matt Wood-Hill, and provides a good spring board for the work of WP3. 


Through a series of interviews with colleagues in Ethiopia, India, Tanzania, Peru and Bolivia, various challenges are raised, specifically: relationships between researchers and participants; interpersonal sensitivities; the wider consequences of ethical practice beyond research, and how to build ethics into work. 

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Ethics in the Built Environment 

The Bartlett Ethics Commission seeks to develop an understanding of the sensitivities of ethical issues in built environment research and professional practice.

The Bartlett Ethics Commission is led by Professor Jane Rendell, Director of Architectural Research (2004-11) and Vice Dean Research for the Bartlett (2010-13), and Dr David Roberts, Bartlett Ethics Fellow. It brings together researchers and practitioners from across The Bartlett and UCL with collective expertise in action-based, humanities, participatory, practice-led, social science and science methods. 

The Commission expands understanding, raises awareness and collectively develops approaches of ethical practice targeted to the methodologies chosen by built environment researchers and practitioners and their relation to disciplinary specificities and institutional settings. 

Hotspots and Touchstones:
From Critical to Ethical Spatial Practice


This essay starts with an event – what I have come to call “an ethical hotspot” – a moment in which my value systems were challenged and I found myself unable to continue to act as before, until I undertook some critical reflection. Marilys Guillemin and Lynn Gillam (2004) describe what they call “ethically important moments,” 1 which for them mark the “ethical dimension” of decision-making around the day to day dilemmas of research practice. For Guillemin and Gillam negotiating these dilemmas and their relation to institutional ethical procedures requires a degree of reflexivity on the part of the researcher. In this essay, I start by describing the ethical hot-spot that occurred in my life and then discuss how, by reflecting on these issues and the practices that I developed out of them, it might be possible to develop modes of ethical practice that I call – following Foucault – basanic.

Suggested citation 

Jane Rendell (2020) Hotspots and Touchstones: From Critical to Ethical Spatial Practice, Architecture and Culture, DOI: 10.1080/20507828.2020.1792107

Site Writing as Critical Practice. Reflections and readings from Jane Rendell. 


As well as supporting practice-led research, I understand research as a form of practice, and writing to play a core role in that practice. In 2004, as Director of Architectural Research at the Bartlett, part of my role was to create an institutional environment and culture that supported designers in submitting their projects as research for the RAE2008. I wrote a paper for ARQ – ‘Architectural Research and Disciplinarity’ – reflecting on how design is a form of architectural research, and how design as one kind of practice-led research relates to the other humanities-based, social scientific and scientific methodologies used in other built environment disciplines.


In my own work as an art/architectural/urban critic, historian and theorist, I argue that since critical writing takes place somewhere, it also needs to be grasped as a type of critical spatial practice. The desire to work with variations in voice to reflect and create spatial distances and proximities between works and texts, subjects and objects, writers and readers, became the motivation for Site-Writing, a collection of essays and documentations of essays and text-works produced between 1998 and 2008 which question and perform notions of situatedness and spatiality in critical writing. I summarised this work for two edited collections published by Ashgate in 2013, in ‘A Way with Words: Feminists Writing Architectural Design Research’, for Murray Fraser’s Architectural Design Research, I highlighted writing as a form of feminist critical spatial practice, and in ‘The Siting of Writing, and the Writing of Sites’, for Matthew Carmona’s Explorations in Urban Design, I looked at a range of work produced by MA and PhD students who take my site-writing module, which redefines how theory is taught through an experimental and improvised practice-led approach that I call site-writing.. 

wp3 team

Lead Co-Investigator WP3

Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL 

Research Fellow WP3

Bartlett School of

Architecture, UCL 

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