Dr Mirko Guaralda

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Areas of interest: Urban morphology; urban design; people-place interaction; placemaking; urbanism.

PhD (Politecnico di Milano), Master of Higher Education (Macquarie University), 5-Year-Degree in Architecture (Politecnico di Milano)


Mirko Guaralda (Ph.D., MHEd, DArch) is an academic with more than 19 years of experience and he is internationally recognised for his innovative work in the field of urban design, addressing, in particular, the novel concept of people-place interaction, enquiring into the complex issues of place quality and community engagement. Currently, Mirko is Senior Lecturer in Architecture at the Queensland University of Technology; he was researcher at the United States Study Centre of Sydney (USSC) in 2012 with a study on the relationship between urban form and social behaviour. From August to December 2017 he has been visiting professor at the Thammasat University of Bangkok, Thailand, and engaged in the teaching and research activities of this institution. Since 2018 he has been engaged also in research and teaching at the Jiangxi University of Science and Technology (China).

His background includes experience in architectural design, landscape architecture and urban design. Mirko has been working on cities and public space systems since 1999, and his research has addressed unstructured uses of public spaces, urban hacking, meanings and semiotics of urban structures, heritage conservation and new developments, community participation and agency. Since 2001 Mirko has been involved in research projects in Australia, Indonesia, China, and Thailand, as well as consultancies for government and industry partners. He has received over $700,000.00 in funding for his work on cities and communities and is currently a Research Associate with the QUT Design Lab. Since 2016, Mirko Has been collaborating with UN-Habitat promoting people-centred design, delivering workshops and training events based on placemaking and community engagement. Before joining academia full time, Mirko worked in industry and local government; he has been involved in a wide range of projects at different scales, from small dwellings and gardens, to new estates and urban strategic planning.

Broad Area of Research: Urban Studies Mirko has been working on cities and public space systems since 1999, when he started developing his degree thesis “Luino: paesaggio ed infrstrutture per il turismo” (Luino: landscape and infrastructure for tourism) published in Il Rondò- 2003 by Nastro & Nastro editions. His PhD “Le infrastrutture viarie dismesse o declassate ed il progetto di paesaggio” (The abandoned and declassed mobility facilities and the landscape project) was released by Libreria Clup in 2006. At the moment Mirko is developing research projects in the following fields:

  • Urban Morphology and sense of Place
  • Urban Hacking and unstructured use of public spaces
  • Inclusive and Democratic universal urban design.

Urban Morphology and Sense of Place
Our cities are more and more complex organisms; the investigation of form, genesis and structure of the built environment can provide a better understanding of urban centres not only from the physical point of view, but also symbolic. Mirko’s research investigates cityscapes through the identification of recurrent patterns, building typologies and design principles. The identity and character of a site are interpreted analysing also lived experiences and uses of the build environment. Mirko’s research aims to provide a better understanding of urban dynamics, at different scales, to support a positive development and/or management of our cities. At the moment he is focussing on:

  • Urban form of regional centres, in Australia or overseas
  • Similarities and differences between cities in similar conditions, especially in subtropical context
  • Relationship between intended design and people experience of built environment

Urban Hacking and unstructured use of public spaces
Public spaces are traditionally the main stage of urban life; places of social exchange where people can freely congregate and express themselves. The way built environments are used is informed by rules than can be explicit or implicit, written or generally implied; these rules change in time often due to shifts in cultural attitudes. Community and social groups produce their own place identity through their way to appropriate and live spaces; street art, skateboarding or Parkour are different activities that can be included in the broader movement of urban hacking, bottom-up strategies to give meaning to often marginal or sanitized urban spaces. Mirko investigates how people’s desires and needs generate unstructured uses of built environments, how urban hacking could be used to support the development of resilient and strong communities. He is interested in

  • Playful activities in urban environment
  • New/alternative uses of public places
  • People-place interaction

Inclusive and accessible urban design
Health and built environment are two areas of research that are interwoven; an active lifestyle is at the base of community wellbeing and our cities should support and facilitate this way of life. Bikeways and greenways are often implemented to improve connectivity and provide alternative modes of transportation to motorised vessels. The navigation of the built environment, especially for pedestrians, is not only influenced by the quality of the infrastructure, but also by the one of the built space. The legibility of the urban form is a central element in orienteering city users, but often our streets are clustered with ancillary items. Mirko’s research focuses on the design of infrastructure and spaces to support an active lifestyle, with particular attention to pedestrian networks. His work is mostly dealing with

  • Universal urban design for neurodiversity
  • Walkability in urban environment
  • Community engagement and active lifestyle

Career History
2014-present Senior Lecturer, QUT, School of Design, Brisbane, QLD
2012: Researcher at the United States Study Centre Sydney
2010-2014: Lecturer, QUT, School of Design, Brisbane, QLD
2008-2010: Senior Landscape Architect, Moreton Bay Regional Council (previously Pine Rivers Shire Council), QLD
2002-2007: Freelance architect in Italy
2001-2008: Research Assistant and Sessional Academic at the Politecnico of Milan


Additional information

Mirko has varied experience in several fields, including 

  • Academic environment: Since 2001 he has been collaborating in research on public spaces and urban morphology. At the moment he is developing his own study about negative spaces and place identity.
  • Private Practice: His experience in design includes public spaces, parks and gardens, dwellings, civic facilities and multifunctional complexes, restoration of historical buildings and strategic development plans.
  • Public Administration: As public servant, Mirko has worked on a range of issues such as leisure facilities, environmental problems, accessibility and equity.
Editorial Role for an Academic Journal
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From 2011 to 2014 member of the editorial board of Architecture research. As part of this position I have to review and assess academic paper and advice about their publication in the journal.
Membership of Learned Societies
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Member of the Urban Design Alliance since 2011.
Membership of Learned Societies
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Member of SAHANZ since 2010.
Membership of Learned Societies
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Member of the Colour Society of Australia, Queensland Branch since 2007. Between 2009 and 2012 also board member.