You are here

  1. Home
  2. Professor Katerina Alexiou

Professor Katerina Alexiou

Profile summary

Web links

Professional biography

Katerina is Professor of Co-design and Place. She holds a professional degree in Architectural Engineering from Greece and a PhD in Architecture from University College London (Bartlett and the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis). She first joined The Open University in 2004 as a researcher working in externally funded projects and held a RCUK academic fellowship for 5 years.

Research interests

Her academic research falls in the area of design theory and methods and she has published articles in design cognition, collaborative design, learning, creativity, and social aspects of design. She also has a special interest in complexity science. Her most recent research activity is focussed on co-design and co-production with civil society organisations and communities engaged in place-making and creative civic action.

Current Projects
Wise connections: co-designing places to support creative ageing

This project focussed on creative ageing is funded by the UKRI health ageing catalyst awards delivered in partnership with Zinc.

Cross-pollination: growing cross-sector design collaboration in placemaking

Cross-pollination is one of nine knowledge exchange projects funded in January 2022 by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), under a programme designed to support the cultural and social regeneration of places around the UK and capture the value and contribution of the arts and humanities research to local regeneration and development. The aim of the project is to grow capacity for cross-sector design collaboration in placemaking through the use of a creative approach called ‘cross-pollination’. The project is led by Katerina Alexiou, Theo Zamenopoulos and Vera Hale with the Glass-House Community Led Design and local partners in England, Scotland and Wales. [More information]

Past Projects
Incubating civic leadership

Incubating Civic Leadership (ICL) is a knowledge exchange project, funded through Research England’s Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) allocation to the Open University. ICL is a collaboration between the Open University, The Glass-House Community Led Design and Knowle West Media Centre. The aim of the project is to develop and test a model for the operation of a Civic Leadership Incubator that will help inform, inspire, and catalyse people and organisations to work together and to convert ideas and conversations into collaborative, interdisciplinary and cross-sector projects. As part of project activities, the ICL team worked with other partners in two pilot local projects: London Borough of Redbridge and Muslimah Sports Association in East London, and the Filwood Broadway Working Group of the Knowle West Alliance in Bristol. [More information]

Empowering Design Practices: historic places of worship as catalysts for connecting communities

Empowering Design Practices is a large £1.5m project funded by AHRC under the Connected Communities and Design Highlight Notice. The project aims to investigate how community-led design (CLD) practices apply in the case of historic places of worship and to develop new mechanisms and processes to empower communities and to facilitate and evaluate good practice. Over fine years the project will offer support to over 30 communities involved in adaptation and maintenance of historic places of worship of different faiths and denominations. In parallel it will deliver a training program for design students, professionals and communities in order to build national capacity for research by design. The project is led by Theodore Zamenopoulos and Katerina Alexiou and is a collaborative partnership between the Open University and organisations outside the Higher Education sector including English Heritage, the Historic Religious Buildings Alliance, Heritage Lottery Fund, and The Glass-House Community Led Design. [More information]

Co-designing Asset Mapping: Comparative Approaches

The aim of this project is to develop a network of community-academic partnerships engaged in asset mapping approaches, in order to enable collaborative reflections and evaluations of current and recent projects, and to develop new synergies for learning and critical reflection. The project is funded by AHRC under the Connected Communities programme and involves OU academics Giota Alevizou (PI), Katerina Alexiou and Theodore Zamenopoulos as well as academics from 4 other universities: Ms Greene (RCA), Prof Kelemen  (Keele University), Dr Phillips (Leicester University) and Dr Lam (Brunel University). The project has UK and International community partners: The Glass-House Community Led Design and The New Vic Theatre and Atenistas and engages with a variety of different community groups and experts. [More information]

Starting from Values: Evaluating Intangible Legacies

This project is funded under a call for developing different ways of investigating the legacy of AHRC Connected Communities projects. The aim is to co-develop and apply creative ways of identifying, evaluating and enhancing intangible, values-related aspects of project legacies. The project is led by Prof Marie Harder at Brighton University and involves OU academics Katerina Alexiou and Theodore Zamenopoulos as well as a number of other academic and non-academic institutions. [More information]

Scaling up Co-design Research and Practice

This project focuses on organisations that support communities through creative co-design activities (including media, technology, product design and place-making). The aim is to identify challenges and opportunities for unleashing and building upon the intrinsic capacities of community-academic partnerships involved in co-design in order to: increase the impact of their practice; extend reach; and make more sustainable and resilient communities. Our core tools are: cross-pollination activities, fostering ambassadors of co-design practice, design hacklabs and online collaborative technologies. The project is led by OU academics Theodore Zamenopoulos and  Katerina Alexiou in collaboration with Prof Andy Dearden, Sheffield Hallam; Dr Basayawan Lam, Brunel University; Prof Ann Light, Northumbria University and Community Partners: The Glass-House Community Led Design, Blackwood Foundation, Fossbox, Flossie, Silent Cities, Voluntary Action Westminster, Hannah Goraya. The project is funded by AHRC under the Connected Communities programme. [More information]

Media, Community and the Creative Citizen

‘Creative Citizens’ is a large £1.4m project funded by AHRC and EPSRC under the Connected Community and Digital Economy programmes. The project involves academics from University of West of England, Cardiff University, Royal College of Art, Birmingham University, and Birmingham City University as well as a number of public and third sector organisations. The aim of the research is to understand the changing landscape of digital and physical media and how they can be used to transform communities and support creative citizenship. The Open University team (Katerina Alexiou, Theodore Zamenopoulos and Giota Alevizou) focusses on ‘community-led design’, which will establish the value of creative citizens engaged in designing their own communities including public spaces, community facilities, housing or neighbourhood regeneration.

Valuing Community-Led Design

Valuing Community-Led Design is a research project that aims to collate, articulate and disseminate evidence about the value of community-led design and bring the relevant stakeholders together to share good practice and form a research agenda for the future. It is funded by AHRC under the Connected Communities programme. [more information]

The Role of Complexity in the Creative Economy: connecting people, ideas and practice

An AHRC funded study as part of the Connected Communities Programme. This one year project starting on May 2011 aims to explore how complexity theory and its methodological approaches can help in providing a better understanding of the creative economy as a field of research. Complexity theory offers us the possibility to explore and understand the interconnections across the different levels of understanding of the creative economy (micro, meso and macro) as well as the possibility to integrate different disciplinary understandings and findings. The project is in collaboration with Roberta Comunian (Kent University) and Caroline Chapain (Birmingham University). [More information]


The project entitled ‘Architectural and design based education and practice through content & language integrated learning using immersive virtual environments for 21st century skills’ (or ARCHI21 for short) is funded by EU Lifelong Learning programme (Key Activity 2: Languages) for two years starting in November 2010. The project involves six EU partner universities and aims to explore the application of new technologies to language learning and teaching in design – particularly architecture education. Other co-investigators of the OU team are Steve Garner, Theo Zamenopoulos, Georgy Holden, and Nicole Schadewitz.

Study on the neurological basis of design cognition

A study funded initially by the Embracing Complexity in Design project and carried out in collaboration with cognitive neuroscientists from UCL and Goldsmiths College. It is part of a larger research programme aimed at understanding the neurological basis of individual and social cognition, using advanced neuro-imaging techniques like fMRI and EEG. The project involves Katerina Alexiou, Theodore Zamenopoulos, Jeff Johnson, Sam Gilbert (UCL), Joydeep Bhattacharya (Goldsmiths College). See publications for more details.

Embracing Complexity in Design

Embracing Complexity in Design (ECiD for short) is a research project funded by EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) and AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) under the Designing for the 21st Century initiative. The project is funded for 18 months starting from October 2006 and continues the work of a research cluster with the same name funded in the previous year. The objective of ECiD is to understand the part played by complexity science in design, and increasingly the potential for design to play a major role in the emerging science of complex systems. 

Open Network of Centres of Excellence in Complex Systems

The Open Network of Centres of Excellence in Complex Systems (ONCE-CS) is a project funded by the European Commission under FP6. The purpose of ONCE-CS is to strengthen European research in complex systems, and to assist people in business and public services to use the new science effectively. After ONCE-CS ends it will hand over to the Complex Systems Society to continue the work of servicing the complex systems community.

Teaching interests

Katerina is currently involved in the production of two new design modules which form part of the BDes Bachelor in Design qualification at stage 2. She is also presentation team member of T218: Design for Engineers and T217: Design Essentials, having chaired T218 for 10 years. She previously was examination board chair of T211: Design and Designing, module chair of T189: Digital Photography, and team member of T183: Design and the Web and A178: Perspectives on Leonardo Da Vinci.

She has co-designed and delivered training and educational resources for community groups, as well as design and community development students and professionals, focussed on empowering them to develop the skills and capability to work together in order to lead place making activities and projects. She is co-author of a Futurelearn course on Enabling Community Based Leadership in Design: Sustainable development of historic faith buildings

Katerina is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Impact and engagement

Katerina has been involved in many public and community engagement activities. Some examples are included below:

Places of Connection at Tate Exchange

Design academics took part in the Who Are We? Programme at Tate Exchange in 2018 run by Counterpoint Arts and the Open University in in association with Stance Podcast and the University of York. Places of Connection was a drop-in workshop open to the public which invited members of the public to reflect on the everyday spaces in our communities where we feel a sense of welcome, belonging and connection. Participants built a wall of connected representations celebrating the social, faith and cultural spaces that connect communities, by creating and sharing their ideas, stories and experiences. Organised in collaboration withThe Glass-House Community Led Design.

Read more about the Places for Connection workshop here.

Prototyping Utopias public engagement project

The Prototyping Utopias public engagement project was funded by AHRC in 2016 as part of their Connected Communities Research Festival inspired by the 500th anniversary of the publication of Thomas More’s Utopia. The project delivered two open day events in Bow on the 30th of April and the 21st of May 2016. The first was focussed on ‘dreaming’ and the second on ‘prototyping’. You can view a film about these events here:

The project was also part of a major public exhibition, the AHRC’s Utopia Fair at Somerset House in central London, between 24th and 26th June 2016, which reached over 10,000 visitors.

External collaborations

In collaboration with Theodore Zamenopoulos, Katerina developed a strategic partnership with The Glass-House Community Led Design a national charity that supports communities, organisations and networks to work collaboratively on the design of buildings, open spaces, homes and neighbourhoods. The partnership has secured funding for over 13 collaborative research projects and generated resources that are of practical use to professional designers, architects, planners and community development officers, as well as community based groups and organisations and individuals with an interest in collaborative design and creative civic action.

Some of the external organisations they have worked with around the themes of collaborative design and social innovation include: National Lottery Heritage Fund, Historic England, Historic Religious Buildings Alliance, Blackwood Foundation, Bow Arts, Bromley by Bow Centre, Poplar Harca, Fossbox, London Community Housing Cooperative, the Greater London Authority, New Vic Borderlines, Social Farms & Gardens (Confederation of City Farms and Community Gardens), Knowle West Media Centre, Knowle West Alliance, Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, London Borough of Redbridge among others.

Research groups

NameTypeParent Unit
Design GroupGroupFaculty of Mathematics, Computing and Technology


Is designing therapeutic? A case study exploring the experience of co-design and psychosis (2023)
Renedo Illarregi, Erika; Alexiou, Katerina; Di Malta, Gina and Zamenopoulos, Theodore
Psychosis, 15(3) (pp. 277-291)

Design Capital: Unearthing the Design Capabilities of Community Groups (2022)
Alexiou, Katerina; Hale, Veronica and Zamenopoulos, Theodore
International Journal of Design, 16(2) (pp. 33-46)

Collective Design Anticipation (2020-04-20)
Zamenopoulos, Theodore and Alexiou, Katerina
Futures, 120, Article 102563

Empowering design practices: exploring relations between architecture, faith, society and community (2020)
Alexiou, Katerina; Zamenopoulos, Theodore; Hale, Vera; West, Susie and de Sousa, Sophia
Open Arts Journal, Article 5(9)

Learning from the use of media in community-led design projects (2015)
Alexiou, K.; Alevizou, G.; Zamenopoulos, T.; de Sousa, S. and Dredge, L.
Cultural Science, 8(1) (pp. 30-40)

Understanding design as a multiagent coordination process: distribution, complexity, and emergence (2011)
Alexiou, Katerina
Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 38(2) (pp. 248-266)

Coordination and emergence in design (2010-06)
Alexiou, Katerina
CoDesign: International Journal of CoCreation in Design and the Arts, 6(2) (pp. 75-97)

Involvement of right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in ill-structured design cognition: An fMRI study (2010)
Gilbert, S.; Zamenopoulos, T.; Alexiou, K. and Johnson, J.
Brain Research, 1312(C) (pp. 79-88)

Exploring the neurological basis of design cognition using brain imaging: some preliminary results (2009)
Alexiou, K.; Zamenopoulos, T.; Johnson, J. H. and Gilbert, S. J.
Design Studies, 30(6) (pp. 623-647)

Design as a social process: a complex systems perspective (2008-08)
Alexiou, Katerina and Zamenopoulos, Theodore
Futures, 40(6) (pp. 586-595)

Towards an anticipatory view of design (2007-07)
Zamenopoulos, Theodore and Alexiou, Katerina
Design Studies, 28(4) (pp. 411-436)

Rethinking the cybernetic basis of design: the concepts of control and organisation (2007)
Zamenopoulos, Theodore and Alexiou, Katerina
Kybernetes, 36(9/10) (pp. 1570-1589)

Co-design As Collaborative Research (2018-09-30)
Zamenopoulos, Theodore and Alexiou, Katerina
Connected Communities Foundation Series
ISBN : 978-0-9935528-3-0 | Publisher : Bristol University/AHRC Connected Communities Programme | Published : Bristol

Varieties of Creative Citizenship (2016-04-06)
Zamenopoulos, Theodore; Alexiou, Katerina; Alevizou, Giota; Chapain, Caroline; Sobers, Shawn and Williams, Andy
In: Hargreaves, Ian and Hartley, John eds. The Creative Citizen Unbound: How social media and DIY culture contribute to democracy, communities and the creative economy (pp. 103-128)
ISBN : 978-1447324959 | Publisher : Policy Press | Published : Bristol

Asset mapping and civic creativity (2016-04-06)
Alexiou, Katerina; Aguista, Emma; Alevizou, Giota; Chapain, Caroline; Greene, Catherine; Harte, Dave; Ramster, Gail and Zamenopoulos, Theodore
In: Hargreaves, Ian and Hartley, John eds. The creative citizen unbound: How social media and DIY culture contribute to democracy, communities and the creative economy (pp. 181-204)
ISBN : 978-1447324959 | Publisher : Policy Press | Published : Bristol

Civic cultures and modalities of place-making (2016-04-06)
Alevizou, Giota; Alexiou, Katerina; Harte, Dave; Sobers, Shawn; Zamenopoulos, Theodore and Turner, Jerome
In: Hargreaves, Ian and Hartley, John eds. The creative citizen unbound: How social media and DIY culture contribute to democracy, communities and the creative economy (pp. 205-230)
ISBN : 978-1447324959 | Publisher : Policy Press | Published : Bristol

Mapping the complexity of creative practice: using cognitive maps to follow creative ideas and collaborations (2015-05-22)
Comunian, Roberta and Alexiou, Katerina
In: Duxbury, Nancy; Garrett-Petts, W. .F and MacLennan, David eds. Cultural Mapping as Cultural Inquiry. Routledge Advances in Research Methods (pp. 276-302)
ISBN : 9781138821866 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : Abingdon

Wards Corner Community Plan Case Study (2014-09-18)
Alexiou, Katerina; Alevizou, Giota and Zamenopoulos, Theodore
In: Lockton, D; Greene, K.; Casey, A; Raby, L and Vickress, A eds. Variety Pack: Inspiring Digital Ideas From Community Projects
ISBN : 978-1-907342-97-4 | Publisher : Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design | Published : London

Complexity: what designers need to know (2012-03)
Zamenopoulos, Theodore and Alexiou, Katerina
In: Garner, Steve and Evans, Chris eds. Design and Designing: a Critical Introduction
ISBN : 9781847885760 | Publisher : Berg

A complexity theoretic view of cities as artefacts of design intentionality (2012)
Zamenopoulos, Theodore and Alexiou, Katerina
In: Portugali, Juval; Meyer, Han; Stolk, Egbert and Tan, Ekim eds. Complexity Theories of Cities Have Come of Age: An Overview with Implications to Urban Planning and Design (pp. 327-346)
ISBN : 978-3-642-24543-5 | Publisher : Springer | Published : Berlin

Imaging the designing brain: a neurocognitive exploration of design thinking (2011)
Alexiou, Katerina; Zamenopoulos, Theodore and Gilbert, Sam
In: Gero, John S. ed. Design Computing and Cognition '10 (pp. 489-504)
ISBN : 9789400705098 | Publisher : Springer | Published : London

Embracing complexity in design: emerging perspectives and opportunities (2010-01)
Alexiou, Katerina; Johnson, Jeffrey and Zamenopoulos, Theodore
In: Inns, Tom ed. Designing for the 21st century: research methods & findings (pp. 87-100)
ISBN : 9781409402404 | Publisher : Gower Ashgate | Published : United Kingdom

The influence of complexity science in design: theoretical and methodological tools (2010)
Zamenopoulos, Theodore and Alexiou, Katerina
In: Tsoukala, K.; Daniil, M. and Pantelidou, H. eds. Postmodern Approaches
ISBN : 9789604582631 | Publisher : Epikentro | Published : Thessaloniki, GR

Complexity and coordination in collaborative design (2009)
Alexiou, Katerina
In: Alexiou, Katerina; Johnson, Jeffrey and Zamenopoulos, Theodore eds. Embracing Complexity in Design (pp. 73-93)
ISBN : 9780415497008 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : London, UK

Embracing complexity in design (2007-12)
Johnson, Jeffrey; Alexiou, Katerina; Creigh-Tyte, Anne; Chase, Scott; Duffy, Alex; Eckert, Claudia; Gascoigne, Damian; Kumar, Bimal; Mitleton-Kelly, Eve; Petry, Michael; Qin, Sheng Fen; Robertson, Alec; Rzevski, George; Teymour, Necdet; Thompson, Avril; Young, Robert; Willis, Mateo and Zamenopoulos, Theodore
In: Inns, Tom ed. Designing for the 21st Century: Interdisciplinary Questions and Insights (pp. 129-149)
ISBN : 9780566087370 | Publisher : Gower Publishing Limited | Published : Aldershot

Computer-aided creativity and learning in distributed cooperative human-machine networks (2003-10-13)
Zamenopoulos, Theodore and Alexiou, Katerina
In: Chiu, M-L.; Tsou, J-Y.; Kvan, T.; Morozumi, M. and Jeng, T-S. eds. Digital Design: research and practice, Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Computer Aided Architectural Design Futures (pp. 191-201)
ISBN : 1-4020-1210-1 | Publisher : Kluwer Academic Publishers | Published : Dordrecht, The Netherlands

Structuring the plan design process as a coordination problem - the paradigm of distributed learning control coordination (2003-07-01)
Zamenopoulos, Theodore and Alexiou, Katerina
In: Longley, Paul A. and Batty, Michael eds. Advanced Spatial Analysis: The CASA Book of GIS (pp. 407-426)
ISBN : 1589480732 | Publisher : ESRI Press | Published : U.S

Embracing complexity in design (2009-09)
Alexiou, Aikaterini; Johnson, Jeffrey and Zamenopoulos, Theodore eds.
ISBN : 978-0-415-49700-8 | Publisher : Routledge | Published : UK

Incubating civic leadership in design: The role of cross-pollination spaces (2022-06-25)
Alexiou, Katerina; Zamenopoulos, Theodore; Hale, Veronica and de Sousa, Sophia
In : DRS2022 (25 Jun - 3 Jul 2022, Bilbao, Spain)

Co-design as healing: A multi-level analysis based on a project with people facing mental health problems (2022-06-25)
Renedo Illarregi, Erika; Alexiou, Katerina and Zamenopoulos, Theodore
In : DRS2022 (25 Jun - 3 Jul 2022, Bilbao, Spain)

Notions of designing inclusively from practitioner perspectives (2022-06-25)
Lamirande, Maxim; Alexiou, Katerina and Luck, Rachael
In : DRS2022 (5 Jun - 3 Jul 2022, Bilbao, Spain)

Co-design for wellbeing with mental health participants: from identifying a problem to creating prototypes (2020-09-04)
Renedo Illarregi, Erika; Alexiou, Katerina and Zamenopoulos, Theodore
In : Design 4 Health (2020, Amsterdam - Online publications only) (pp. 23-30)

Why designing may help treat psychosis (2019)
Renedo Illarregi, Erika; Alexiou, Katerina and Zamenopoulos, Theodore
In : International Association of Societies of Design Research Conference 2019 (2-5 Sep 2019, Manchester)

Methods for researching and building capacity in codesign among non-experts (2019)
Alexiou, Katerina and Zamenopoulos, Theodore
In : International Association of Societies of Design Research Conference 2019 (2-5 Sep 2019, Manchester)

Communications by design? Community spaces, neighbourhood media & creative citizens (2013-06)
Alevizou, Panagiota; Alexiou, Katerini and Ramster, Gail
In : IAMCR 2013 Conference: Crises, 'Creative Destruction' and the Global Power and Communication Orders (25-29 Jun 2013, Dublin, Ireland)

Creative communities, creative assets: exploring methods of mapping community assets (2013)
Greene, Catherine; Alevizou, Giota; Ramster, Gail; Alexiou, Katerina; Zamenopoulos, Theo; Outten, Alan and Corzannelli, Cristina
In : Nordes2013: Experiments in Design Research: Expressions, Knowledge, Critique (9-12 Jun 2013, Copenhagen, Denmark/Malmö, Sweden)

Communications by design? Intersections of creative citizenship, community media and participatory design (2013)
Alevizou, Giota; Alexiou, Katerina; Greene, Catherine and Ramster, Gail
In : Communication and the City: Voices, Spaces, Media (14-15 Jun 2013, Leeds, UK)

Subtle interventions: How ambient displays influence route choice in buildings (2011-09-21)
Varoudis, Tasos; Dalton, Nicholas; Alexiou, Aikaterini and Zamenopoulos, Theodore
In : Respecting Fragile Places - 29th eCAADe Conference (21-24 Sep 2011, Slovenia) (pp. 933-941)

Making sense of assets: Community asset mapping and related approaches for cultivating capacities (2016-02-28)
Alevizou, Giota; Alexiou, Katerina and Zamenopoulos, Theo
The Open University and AHRC

Valuing Community-Led Design (2013)
Alexiou, Katerina; Zamenopoulos, Theodore and Alevizou, Giota
AHRC Discussion Paper