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RCA Symposium asks how we can design intelligence into our cities

Back to better: A Design Research Symposium and Workshop 

19 and 24 June 2020 | online – in our homes and in our communities

Dan Phillips, GATEway Project Manager
Dan Phillips
What does it mean to design intelligence into our cities? What do we mean by intelligence and how does this differ from the smartness that has often been used to describe future cities? What does intelligent design mean in a post-pandemic city? Which parts of our society are truly valued and valuable and how might we reimagine our places and mobility in the future? Do we want to get back to before or go forward to better?

In our forthcoming design research symposium we hope to create a collaborative environment that helps us to answer some of these questions and to develop future facing and interdisciplinary research proposals which take the design of city-based services, environments and mobility systems in new and challenging directions. 

As part of our underlying research, we would also like participants and speakers to question what we mean by ‘designing for intelligence’ and to disrupt the ‘smart city’ paradigm which so often focuses on quantitative rather than qualitative measures of ‘city quality’; on systems for ‘efficiency’ rather than systems for ‘empathy’; on ‘exclusive’ experiences rather than inclusive and diverse lives. 

While definitions of intelligence vary from one theorist to the next, our current conceptualisation proposes that intelligence involves our ability to learn, to recognise problems and to create solutions. 

The theory of multiple intelligences differentiates human intelligence into specific 'modalities'. Howard Gardner initially proposed eight abilities that he held to meet these criteria:

  1. musical-rhythmic
  2. visual-spatial
  3. verbal-linguistic
  4. logical-mathematical
  5. bodily-kinesthetic
  6. interpersonal
  7. intra-personal
  8. naturalistic.

In 2009, he also proposed that existential and moral intelligences are also worthy of inclusion.

In contrast to Gardner’s multiple and diverse fields of human intelligence which have found traction in the field of education and developmental psychology, the smart city is conceived as a place where sensors collect and use data to manage assets, resources and services efficiently to support a range of city-scale services including:

  • traffic and transportation 
  • power and utilities
  • water and waste 
  • schools and libraries
  • hospitals and other community services
  • crime and urban risks

The Designing Intelligence into our Cities symposium asks how design might bridge the gap between our multiple human intelligences and ‘smart’ cities and technologies? It challenges design researchers to bring this to life through physical and digital artefacts and experiences that also answer the challenge of sustainable development and our post-pandemic world.

If you would like to participate in the symposium please complete our registration form by following this link.

For further information please email [email protected].


The symposium has been organised by the Intelligent Mobility Design Centre at the RCA with support from researchers across the research centres at the RCA and is supported by the Research and Knowledge Exchange. For more information contact [email protected]