space utilisation

Opportunity Spaces Aarhus: Engaging local residents for mapping underused spaces and crowdsourcing ideas for repurposing of them

Team: Space Engagers

Opportunity Spaces Aarhus responds to the city’s challenge to give access for more fresh air and nature, through using external spaces more productively in the city. The project developed a mobile web app using OrganiCity data assets and tools tested by Master’s students from Aarhus University, for mapping underused spaces and generating ideas for repurposing of those spaces. 

The Team

The key team members are: Dr Karen Foley (Principal Investigator), Dr Philip Crowe (Experiment lead), Dr Aoife Corcoran (Researcher), Dr Louise Dunne (Research Manager) and Donal Lennon (Technical Officer, not in the image).


“Opportunity Spaces Aarhus recognised that space is a limited resource, and that the underuse of space is a widespread and wicked problem with many social, environmental and economic impacts. The experiment enabled citizens to observe and engage with this problem, gather and share hyperlocal data, and generate and support innovative ideas.”



1. Citizens had observed many underused spaces in the city that could help communities in Aarhus. (Image: External unused spaces in Aarhus)

2. We developed a smartphone app that allows citizens to: take geo-tagged images of places they find in the city that automatically link to a shared map; contribute information and observations on those spaces; and put forward ideas for reuse to an online ideas noticeboard. (Image: Ideas noticeboard)
3. For the initial pilot phase, 27 students from Aarhus University mapped around 60 underused spaces with a potential for reuse. Students also visited Dublin as part of this exercise.

4. We led a co-creation workshop to encourage students to collaboratively develop innovative ideas for repurposing underused spaces, and to understand different perspectives that various stakeholders may have in relation to these spaces.

Experiment outcome

Geo-tagged Mapping feature: Take geo-tagged images of spaces in the city that automatically link to a shared map. The process of mapping engaged citizens with local issues, and the experiment encouraged observation of the urban environment.

Observation posting feature: Contribute information and observations on the spaces. The Opportunity Spaces Aarhus system crowdsources data that might otherwise be resource-intensive to gather.

Online ideas noticeboard feature: Put forward ideas for reuse of a space to an online ideas noticeboard. The engagement from participants and the data gathered prompted many ideas. The use of smartphones proved successful with participants.

Lessons learned

    1. Communications is a critical challenge
      When creating a crowdsourcing tool it’s critical to communicate why the tool is useful, where it is located, and how it works. Opportunity Spaces Aarhus was an experiment with limited time and resources; therefore, the collaboration with the master's students was key to the success of the project.
    2. UX and UI are critical
      Opportunity Spaces Aarhus used OrganiCity data assets and tools with basic graphic layouts. As suggested by feedback from our users, future iterations of the tool would need an investment in UX and UI.
    3. Citizens engage with place through mapping
      Physical co-creation workshops were very successful at engaging people with urban spaces. Achieving this level of engagement virtually remains a significant but worthy challenge.

Space Engagers Website

What happened & what's next?

  • We have developed a Space Engagers mapping project for a homelessness charity in Ireland that allows volunteers and citizens to raise awareness and gather information on vacant and underused spaces, and identify opportunities for returning properties to active use.
  • Another Space Engagers' interactive mapping project supports urban regeneration in country towns, providing a mechanism for engaging with a broad cross-section of the community, raising awareness, gathering local data, and encouraging citizens to see the potential of their town for the future.
  • Space Engagers is also a partner in EU research projects and proposals, providing a solution for citizen engagement, connecting researchers and local communities, and facilitating a two-way dialogue that can enhance and support knowledge and innovation.
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