Kolding – We For Design Life: embedding a new design culture into urban regeneration

Guy Julier, Malene Leerberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since 2008, or so, some conventional approaches to design-led urban regeneration have begun to unravel. The global financial crisis has produced pressures on municipal budgeting and undermined a property-led financial model of urban development. This has been met by important developments in the status and application of design. There has been a growth in the importance of discourses of participation and co-creation in design and design as a tool for policy and strategic thinking on several scales. This has opened up a space in urban policy where design’s role is more to process thinking and action within networks of material resources and human assets, than to solve problems. Kolding is a small city with 57,600 inhabitants located on the southeast coast of the Danish peninsula of Jutland. On 10 December 2012 the Kolding Municipal Council unanimously adopted a new vision for the city and municipality: ‘Together, we design a better life through entrepreneurship, social innovation and education’. Later this became ‘Kolding – We Design For Life’. Design was to be at the centre of all city development activities within a 10-year programme. As such, the Kolding case provides a ‘living test lab’ for the experimentation of new forms of social welfare, cultural, educational and commercial practices. In a broader context, it opens design-led regeneration onto more open-ended, processual conceptions that provide a departure from more orthodox approaches both in policy and design terms. This article begins with a critical review of those ‘traditional’ approaches to design-led urban regeneration, revealing something of a policy vacuum, created not least by the global economic slowdown. It then reviews broad shifts in design practice over the past 10 years that signal possible future directions. The envisioning of Kolding’s new regeneration programme is then recounted to establish its place against these wider directions and demonstrate the emergence of a new form of design culture. This is then contextualised in Danish questions of governance, political economy and regeneration. The research draws from a critical reading of urban regeneration and design thinking literature, the primary material builds on Leerberg’s work within the Kolding municipal organisation. This material was supplemented by a series of research workshops organised by Julier; these brought together key academics, municipal officers, representatives of cultural institutions and business.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-56
Number of pages18
JournalThe Finnish Journal of Urban Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2014


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