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Marcus Willcocks

Research Fellow
Central Saint Martins
Researcher Research
Marcus  Willcocks


Marcus Willcocks leads the Public Space strand of the award-winning Design Against Crime Research Centre (DACRC), at the University of the Arts London. As Research Fellow, he is also active with the Socially Responsive Design Innovation hub and Public Collaboration Lab at UAL. In his external practice, he is Senior Urban Designer with Sustrans and a Design Council Expert.

His practice centers around research-led design practice and practice-led research, across place-based, socially responsive and collaborative practices. Marcus holds a Diploma in Crime Prevention through Urban Design and Planning, a Master’s in Design and Public Space and a BA (Hons) in Product Design.

Willcocks’ focus centers on connections between people-and-places, and between people and people in place-based contexts. In particular, how real-world applications of research learning and design practice can serve these relations better.

Building upon his background and experience across human-centred forms of design, and design for diverse publics, Marcus’s practice and research juxtaposes challenges, opportunities and new learning. Predominantly through people-centric activities and creative practice, amid complex or contested public and urban realm settings.

His outputs reflect research activities and published dissemination in the UK and internationally. He has also developed new practices, delivered designs, and advised-on strategy and policy, worldwide.

He has advised on design against crime in many contexts, including for public toilets as a Design Council Expert advisor, and is part of the Toilets Innovation and New Knowledge Exchange network, led by RCA. He has delivered research outputs and publications addressing: sociable and safe cities through community-led processes; the use of creativity and playfulness on challenges of safety and contestation in public realm; design for activity support, inclusive and active urban mobility, critical infrastructure; spatial engagement, and recently, activation for streets and communities with COVID-19 measures.

Current research initiatives include:

Visual Voices initiative – community-connected action and research pilots, building from learning via the Graffolution EU FP7 consortium research project on graffiti, street art and inclusion of visual urban practice. Each activity responds to distinct questions or challenges - currently including MyMural co-curated collaborations between local artists and local communities (London Boroughs of Camden and Ealing). Market Road Gallery bookable street art spaces which respond to public participation (with Attic Self Storage, London Borough of Islington and Better Leisure). 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). Funders to date include; Mayor of London; Stik; London Community Foundation; Attic Self Storage and EU FP7-SEC-2013.7.2-1.

Urban Lexicons initiative – participatory action and research network, generated and delivered in collaboration with Rosanna Vitiello. This practice explores the roles of voice, meaning, experience, identity and behaviour in the symbiotic relations between people and places. Willcocks and Vitiello have employed methods of inquiry from both urban and visual practice – including via street workshops, cultural probes and ethnographic and network research activities - to stimulate new learning and impact together with academic, public sector and industry-based partners and network contributors. To date, Urban Lexicons has directly involved communities-of geography and communities-of interest in cities in Australia, Brazil, Spain, UK, USA. Research under-way means to better hear from and more adequately represent diverse publics - through (i) professional network and community-based inquiry (in-person and remote); (ii) research actions in street and urban contexts, and (iii) teaching with new materials and methods on MA Cities at Central Saint Martins and (iv) publication of desk and field research to impact designed places, processes and policy-developments. Funders to date include Landscape and Arts Network, Gunpowder Park; Olympic Park Delivery Authority; Adelaide City Council; Parramatta City Council; Bristol City Council and University of the Arts London MA Cities.

T-Factor – community-led and place-based action research for an initiative led by Prof. Adam Thorpe. For more information, see Funded under Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.