36 Assemblage Thinking for Urban Design Research Planning and Adapting Methods for Studying International Immigrants in Toronto’s Modernist Suburbs

Giacomo Valzania


This paper proposes a discussion on the application of Assemblage Thinking (AT) in research methods for urban design. It does so by extracting three AT key concepts and translating them into methodological principles emerging in previous works. Both are tested for a Ph.D. research project on the spatial adaptation and desire for change of international immigrants in Toronto’s modernist suburbs. The usefulness of AT as guiding framework is exposed in the planning of preparatory activities, recruitment strategies, and research activities with human participants, and their transfer to online settings due to the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic. This experience suggests the efficacy and resilience of an AT-inspired approach in adapting to unpredictable events, without diminishing the quality and depth of the research findings. At the same time, it exposes the importance of accepting temporal compromises and turns of direction along the way. The paper concludes with a call for further exploring combined research methods in which in-person and remote activities, as well as individual and collective ones, are joint to generate heterogeneous research data and cope with future unpredictable events.

Keywords: assemblage thinking, research methods, urban design, online research, adaptation, human participants