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Marcus Willcocks

Research Fellow
Central Saint Martins
Researcher Research
Marcus  Willcocks


Willcocks' design-led action research, spanning 2 decades, is focused upon people-centred urban engagements and interactions in public spaces, afforded through spatial, socially responsive and co-design practices.

Willcocks’ outputs reflect research activities and their dissemination in the UK and internationally. He has delivered and co-delivered best practice, award-winning and published projects to investigate and develop opportunities regarding sociable safe places; creative wellbeing and urban play; community-led design and spatial engagement, and cycling, walking and sharing spaces. Recent projects include: Market Road Gallery bookable and street art wall that responds to public opinion (with Attic Self Storage, London Borough of Islington and Better Leisure); Confident Vibrant Oslo street furniture design and evaluation (with Institute of Transport Economics, Centre for Transport Research, Oslo); Social Safer Victoria, co-created redesigns for giving and for engaging with homelessness and begging (with Victoria Business Improvement District); Makeright - making bags to make good, inmate created anti-theft bags (with HMP Thameside, Abel & Cole and other partners); Graffolution EU FP7 consortium research project on graffiti and street art; Urban Lexicons street workshops and cultural probes (with Gunpowder Park and Landscape and Arts Network Services); and Rantzausgade safer street experience redesigns (with COST TU1203 and Nørrebro Renewal, Copenhagen).

Willcocks is a Design Council Cabe Built Environment Expert (BEE). His work is also incorporated within the Government of South Australia Atlas of Urban Excellence, as well as Design Council’s DesigningOut Crime: A Designers’ Guide. Two of his co-created designs are located in the permanent collection at MoMA, New York.

Papers Willcocks has published and presented across his research topics additionally support his teaching at Central Saint Martins (UAL), and engagements as Visiting Lecturer including at the Royal College of Art, ELISAVA Barcelona School of Design and Engineering, and Istituto Europeo di Design (IED) in Italy.

My practice-led research activities within UAL are allied to the Design Against Crime Research Centre (DACRC), Socially Responsive Design and Innovation hub, Public Collaboration Lab and the UK Design for Social Innovation towards Sustainability (DESIS) Lab, headed by Professor Lorraine Gamman and Professor Adam Thorpe, respectively.

I completed my funded research (2014-16) with DACRC (UAL) as UK partner on the ‘Graffolution’ EU FP7 project, and currently (2017-19) I am expanding the ‘Visual Voices’ umbrella of research. This embraces a number of active and forthcoming research initiatives, pilots and prototypes. Together these works interrogate new opportunities for design to help evidence and better inform actions and decisions to enable, manage, or promote uncommissioned practices such as informal urban play and urban creativity, as forms of agonism in shared places. This seeks more creative, more cost-effective and more community-sensitive responses to the diverse impacts and values associated to such practices (see Willcocks and Toylan, 2016; McAuliffe, 2014). To achieve this, the research under-way means to better hear from and more adequately represent diverse publics - through (i) practice-oriented debate (in-person and remote); (ii) research actions in street and urban contexts, and (iii) new data and resources to inform designed systems and policy decisions.

In parallel, I continue to develop and apply research into new areas with Professor Gamman, Professor Thorpe and team, to further explore how the tools and practices of design might serve, agitate or afford among communities and contexts not previously served (for example, through the Makeright and Public Collaboration Lab projects).

Grants and awards

(Figures indicate amount awarded to UAL)

  • European Union Framework 7, Graffolution: Awareness and Prevention Solution against graffiti vandalism in public areas and transport, £188,928.00, (2014-2016)

Research Outputs

Art/Design item

  • Gamman L, Willcocks M, Thorpe A, Thomas C, Wischusen J, Hansis G, Yuille P. Design Against Crime (2007)


Book Section

Conference, Symposium or Workshop item