Innovation School MDes Design Innovation & Service Design

Kirsten Nicholson (She/Her)

With a background in urban geography, planning and placemaking, my design practice aims to combine my previous human centered research skills with the creative methods newly experienced throughout the MDes programme – forming a unique intersection between these two fields of interest.

My practice focuses on the relationship between people and the spaces they live in, and the potentiality for creating positive pathways in our neighbourhoods and cities.

For me, design is about possibility – the intersection between research and imagination where future avenues can be discovered.






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Vacant Toolkit: A Creative and Community Led Planning Process

Vacant Toolkit: A Creative and Community Led Planning Process

One third of the Scottish population live within 500 metres of a derelict or vacant landsite. Such sites make up 7% of our urban landscapes, in part due to a legacy of de-industrialisation across Scotland.

Although a visible issue in our cities and towns, there is a lack of solutions aimed at helping their rejuvenation. These sites visibly represent missed opportunities in Scotland’s urban landscape – spaces which could be reclaimed for economic, social and environmental benefits.

Currently, through the Community Asset Transfer Planning Process, communities in Scotland are legally able to bring these derelict sites into communal ownership, prompting the question – what more can be done to encourage and support communities into making these transfers?

Vacant is a toolkit and supporting digital platform designed to assist communities in coming together to plan and vision for a proposed asset transfer of a derelict land site. The toolkit is comprised of creative methods intended to facilitate group engagement and visioning.

The toolkit ‘demystifies’ the planning process, helping make a bureaucratic procedure more engaging, playful and inclusive for all ages, education levels and abilities.

The toolkit allows the community’s needs, resources and skills to shape the future of their derelict site to become a source of community empowerment and resiliency.

This design solution aims to empower communities to define their own needs and visions, rather than imposing a solution upon them without consideration.

The toolkit thereby encourages grassroot action rather than a result which aims to respond to a community without fully understanding, or being part of, the locality.

Each exercise in the toolkit is shaped around direct feedback from research engagement with varied stakeholders as to what would be helpful and engaging when working with communities in this work.

It is an architecture of creative engagement for communities to work through the planning process for asset transfers together. By making the planning process more accessible, interactive and visionary through the use of creative methods – Vacant represents an innovative potential to engage communities in their neighbourhoods to create more empowered, locally respondent initiatives: transforming derelict land into sites of community action.

Toolkit Prototype

Vacant Toolkit Process