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Commentary: Beauty in urban design - oppression or emancipation?

Araabi, Hooman Foroughmand

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In this commentary, I respond to Cozzolino’s (URBAN Des Int 27(1):43–52, 2022) recent paper titled ‘On the spontaneous beauty of cities: neither design nor chaos’ published in URBAN DESIGN International. In the last few years, the concept of beauty has been used widely in urban planning and design. Cozzolino’s notable contribution is a call for more diverse processes of creating grown/spontaneous order in planning and designing cities. He proposes this as a definition of beauty that can enable people to better express themselves. Here, I use debates from cultural studies to situate the notion of beauty within a broader critical context. Reasons why urban design research must take into consideration the ways in which beauty disproportionately affects different groups of people (particularly marginalised groups) are then explained. The aim is to highlight the potential discriminatory consequences of seemingly apolitical approaches taken to create beauty. This is in line with broader movements of the decolonisation of knowledge.


Araabi, H. F. (in press). Commentary: Beauty in urban design - oppression or emancipation?. URBAN DESIGN International,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 22, 2022
Online Publication Date Sep 8, 2022
Deposit Date Sep 23, 2022
Publicly Available Date Sep 9, 2023
Journal Urban Design International
Print ISSN 1357-5317
Electronic ISSN 1468-4519
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan (part of Springer Nature)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Urban Studies; Geography, Planning and Development
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Accepted: 23 August 2022; First Online: 8 September 2022


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