Skip to main content
Patricia Lopes Simoes Aelbrecht

Dr Patricia Lopes Simoes Aelbrecht

Senior Lecturer in Urban Design, Planning and Intercultural Studies

School of Geography and Planning

+44 29208 75735
Glamorgan Building, Room 2.100, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3WA
Available for postgraduate supervision


I am a Senior Lecturer in Urban Design, Planning and Intercultural Studies, Co-Founding Director of the Public Space Observatory Research Centre and Research Co-Lead of SPACE - Spatial Planning and Analysis in City Environments Research Group. I am also Editor in Chief of URBAN DESIGN International, a Palgrave Journal dedicated to urban design theory and practice. My research sits at the intersection of urban design, planning, landscape architecture, and human geography. I have published widely on the design and sociology of the public realm with a particular focus on informal social practices in public space and the role of public space design and management in promoting social cohesion and intercultural dialogue. I have explored among other issues how social practices and activism in public space shape and redefine the meanings and uses of public spaces in a wide range of European contexts. My recent work has also dealt with mega-events as catalysts of urban regeneration and the contested regeneration of post-war modernist cityscapes.

Before turning to academia, I worked for a decade as an architect and urban designer in several international well-known practices in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Portugal. I gained experience in public space design, masterplanning, and in designing and building of small-scale housing projects and exhibitions, and large-scale and complex architectural projects such as museums and concert halls. This experience certainly contributed to enrich my professional and academic background, and to make many international contacts and gain proficiency in a good number of European languages. More importantly, it made me more sensitive to cultural specificities of planning and design policies and practices when undertaking research.


















Book sections





Research interests

My research interests encompass a wide range of areas:

  • The Design and Sociology of the Public Realm
  • Planning and Designing with Social Cohesion and Intercultural Dialogue in mind
  • Social infrastructure
  • Privatization, Control and Militarization of Public space
  • Minorities and Disadvantaged user groups in Public Space
  • Conservation and Regeneration of Post-War Modernist Architecture and Planning

Research Centres and Groups

  • Co-Founding Director of the Public Space Observatory Research Centre, a joint venture of the School of Geography and Planning and Welsh School of Architecture (2019 - Present)
  • Research Co-Lead of SPACE Research Group, Geography and Planning School, Cardiff University (2021 - Present).
  • AESOP Thematic Group Public Spaces and Urban Cultures (2018 - Present)
  • Cities Research Centre, Cardiff University (2017 - Present)
  • Social and Cultural Geography Group, Cardiff University (2016 - Present)
  • SPACE, Cardiff University (2016 - Present)
  • Inclusive Cities Impact Group, Cardiff University (2016 - Present)

Current research projects

I am currently working on the following projects:

Public Space Observatory Research Centre (PSO) (2019 - present): In October 2019, myself and Dr Hesam Kamalipour from the School of Geography and Planning (GEOPL) and Dr Nastaran Peimani from the Welsh School of Architecture (WSA) co-founded the Public Space Observatory (PSO) a knowledge exchange platform in public space research, practice and policy. The PSO’s mission is to bring together local, national and international academics, practitioners and policymakers engaged with the provision, design, management and use of public space. Its primary aim is to build new partnerships and collaborations, share resources, promote knowledge exchange, empower local communities through education, training and capacity building, and advance cutting-edge knowledge in public space design, management and use theories, practices and policies.

My/your Cardiff Public Space Campaign (2021 - 2023): This campaign is one of our first PSO’s projects. Its primary aims is to raise public awareness on the social, cultural, economic and environmental values and benefits of well-designed, used and managed public spaces. By doing so, it aims to promote community engagement and empowerment  through education, training and capacity to improve public spaces and respond to a significant reduction of public sector expenditure in local authorities’ provision and maintenance of public infrastructure and services. This project is funded by an ESRC Impact Grant. The project team includes: Patricia Aelbrecht, Wes Aelbrecht and Jessica Richmond.

Urban Design and Spaces of Encounter (2018 - present): This project examines the role of urban public spaces in supporting opportunities for people to experience, develop and maintain a sense of social cohesion in contexts where cohesion is under threat from the increasing cultural and economic differences. It focuses on three award-winning public space projects in Copenhagen, London, and Rotterdam to evaluate whether these public space projects and their design approaches have succeeded in promoting positive social encounters and achieving social cohesion. The gained knowledge will be used to provide guidance to future policies and design practices for urban public spaces and inform wider areas of social and cultural policy and service delivery. This project was initiated with internal funding from Cardiff's Cities Research Centre and RMIT and external ERCIAA funding, and has been run in partnership with the Greater London Authority, Urban Design Group and Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design. The project team includes: Patricia Aelbrecht, Gary Bridge, Richard Gale and Quentin Stevens (RMIT).

Placemaking Toolkit for Wales (2021-2023): This project is a steppingstone towards innovative practices around placemaking for the public realm in Wales. It aims to co-produce with four LAs a web-based Public Space Toolkit for Wales in partnership with the Design Commission for Wales, Urban Design Group and Living Streets to help implementing the Welsh Placemaking Agenda. The project team includes: Patricia Aelbrecht (PI), and Co-Is: Francesca Sartorio, Wes Aelbrecht, Richard Gale, Michael Corr, Jessica Richmond and Sanjeev Kumar, and is funded by an ‘Innovation for All’ grant from the HEFCW. The toolkit has been profiled by the RTPI on its Research Matters website: RTPI | Placemaking Toolkit for Wales: Improving the public realm in our towns and cities

How do London’s public spaces function as social infrastructure?  (2023-2025): This project seeks to catalyse the impact of previous research. It does so by strengthening an ongoing collaboration with the Greater London Authority (GLA) to test with them the effectiveness of a method developed earlier to evaluate the efficacy of public spaces acting as social infrastructure, and the extent to which these are achieving the intended outcomes and supporting social cohesion. This addresses a lack of consistency in how social infrastructure is understood, assessed, planned, and delivered across London local planning authorities (LPAs) and supports the delivery of the Mayor’s social integration agenda and the UK’s national levelling up agenda. This project is a partnership with the GLA. The project team includes: Patricia Aelbrecht and Gary Bridge.

Past research projects

  • Research project 'Public Space Design and Social Cohesion', University of Sheffield and Cardiff University (2015-18).
  • Research project Achieve More ‘Re-imagining Sheffield’s Post-war Modernist Social Housing’, University of Sheffield (2015-16).
  • Research project: ’Rehabilitation of Post-war modernist masterplans’, UCL (2013-2014).
  • Research project ‘Knowledge Exchange between Theory and Practice in Urban Design: the Masterplan of Southbank Centre in London’, UCL (2013).
  • Research project ‘City Beaches in Germany’ led by Dr. Quentin Stevens, Humboldt University (2012).
  • Research project: ‘The after life of a Mega-event: Lisbon’s Word Expo 98’, UCL (2011).


Current teaching

I contribute to the following modules:

  • CP0370 Design Guidance in Planning Practice
  • CPT867 Designing Cities
  • MAUD Autumn/ Spring Studio
  • MAUD Dissertation


Education and qualifications

  • Certificate of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, The University of Sheffield (2016)
  • PhD Urban Studies, The Bartlett School of Planning and Geography (Urban Lab), University College London (2013)
  • MSc. International/ Comparative Planning, The Bartlett School of Planning, University College London (2007)
  • Diploma/ BA + MArch in Architecture, Faculty of Architecture, Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal (2001)

Professional memberships

  • Fellow, Royal Anthropology Institute, UK (2020 - Present).
  • Fellow, Higher Education Academy (2016 - Present).
  • Member, Urban Design Group (2015 - Present).
  • Member, Architectural Humanities Research Association (2009 - Present).
  • Member, Portuguese Architectural Association, OASRS Portugal, RIBA Accredited (2001 - Present).

Academic positions

  • Lecturer/ Senior Lecturer, Geography and Planning School, Cardiff University (2016 - present)
  • Visiting Scholar, RMIT, Australia (2018).
  • Teaching Fellow in Urban Design, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, The University of Sheffield (2014 – 2016).
  • Postdoctoral Research Associate, Bartlett School of Planning, University College London (2013).
  • Research Fellow, Geographical Institute Humboldt University, Berlin (2012).
  • Course Tutor in Urban design, The Bartlett School, University College London (2009 – 2012).

Committees and reviewing

  • Editor-in-Chief of URBAN DESIGN International, Palgrave Journal (2021 - present)
  • Editorial Board, Urban Design Group Journal, Urban Design Group, UK  (2021 - present)
  • Editorial Board, Urban Design and Planning, ICE Publishing, UK  (2023 - present)
  • Journal reviewer for several Journals including: Journal of Urbanism: International Research on Placemaking and Urban Sustainability; GeoForum; Space and Culture; Urban Design International; Urban Studies; Journal of Intercultural Studies; Planning Practice and Research.
  • Vice-Chair of National Urban Design Student Awards - Urban Design Group (2021 - present)
  • Academic member of the Executive Committee, Urban Design Group, UK (2020 - 2022)


I am interested in supervising PhD students in the areas of:

  • The Design and Sociology of the Public Realm
  • Privatization and Control of Public space
  • Minorities and Disadvantaged user groups in Public Space
  • Environmental-behavior Relations
  • Experiential and Sensorial Urbanism
  • Urban Design Theory and Practice Nexus
  • Conservation and Regeneration of Post-War Modernist Architecture and Planning
  • Urban Design of Mega-events

I am currenty supervising the following PhD students:

  • Primary Supervisor of Wenjie Li, Department of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University with PhD Thesis titled: 'Landscape Therapy: Urban Space Design in the Post Epidemic Era' (2022 - present). The second supervisor is Dr. Matluba Khan.
  • Secondary supervisor of Aysenur Bas, Department of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University with PhD Thesis titled: 'Transformative Urban Play: Exploring Transformation Potential of the Play in the Public Space for Social Well-being' (2022 - present). The first supervisor is Dr. Matluba Khan.
  • Primary Supervisor of PhD candidate Mehrnoosh Mansoorgarakani, Department of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University with PhD Thesis titled: 'Assessing and Designing Soundscapes: Lessons from the Bazaar and the Shopping Mall in the City of Tehran' (2017 - present). The second supervisor is Dr. Jonathan Prior.

Current supervision

Ying Liao

Ying Liao

Graduate Tutor

Aysenur Bas

Aysenur Bas

Research Student

Wenjie Li

Wenjie Li

Research student

Past projects

2018-2023: primary supervisor of PhD Candidate Ying Liao with PhD Thesis titled: Designing a Ageing-friendly Chinese city’, School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University. The second supervisor was Dr Justin Spinney.

2019-2022: secondary supervisor of PhD Candidate Yani Wu with PhD Thesis titled: ‘Possibilities and Limitations of Chinese Eco-City Development: Case Study of Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City, China, School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University. The first supervisor was Dr Li Yu.

2015-2021: secondary supervisor of PhD Candidate Mahsa Mohajer with PhD Thesis entitled: ‘Exploring the Potential of Water’s Edge: A Spatial Analysis of Everyday Life in Anzali Port-the Caspian Sea-Iran’, Department of Landscape Architecture, The University of Sheffield. The first supervisor was Dr Nicola Dempsey.