Theodore Zamenopoulos

Senior Lecturer

Theodore Zamenopoulos is a Senior Lecturer in Design at the Open University. He is a professional architect with an expertise on design cognition, community led design practices and complexity research.

His research focuses on the empowerment of people through design. He studies the conditions that make people and communities capable to design and the development of approaches that foster design thinking in everyday life. He has been involved in a number of research projects around the themes of civic engagement in design and community led design.

His research includes a variety of methods, including empirical studies of design cognition using brain-imaging (fMRI), computational and mathematical models of design cognition, as well as participatory action research methods.

Since 2011 he has been involved in a number of AHRC funded research projects under the Connected Communities program that focus on the themes of civic engagement in design and community-led design.

In his projects there is often an emphasis on developing community-academic partnerships and exploring the relation between academic research and community relevance.

Research Supervision

Theodore would be happy to hear from potential MPhil and PhD students interested to work in any of his research areas.

With Katerina Alexiou, Theodore is also leading the Design, Computing and Complexity strand of research in the Virtual MPhil programme led by the Computing Department. Visit the virtual mphil website for more details.

Research Projects

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. 

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]

Bridging the gap between academic theory and community relevance: Fresh insights from American pragmatism

This project began in February 2013 and is funded by AHRC under the Connected Communities programme. It aims to exchange ideas across collaborating partners (Keele University, Edinburgh University, Open University and Brunel University in the UK and Seinan Gakuin University in Japan, and community partners: New Vic Borderlines, The Glass-House Community Led Design and Mondo Challenge Foundation) in an attempt to address issues of language translation, power and cultural capital that unite or separate the academic world and the wider community.  The work is underpinned by a ‘Pragmatist’ approach. The project is led by Prof Mihaela Kelemen at Keele University. [More information]

Unearthing hidden assets through community co-design and co-production

The overall aim of the project is to find out how to achieve inclusive asset-based community developments through co-design and co-production. The project explores how existing community assets can be mobilised to create new opportunities. It is funded by AHRC under the Connected Communities programme and is a collaboration between Brunel (lead) Open University, Keele University and University of Leicester with a variety of non academic partners. [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. [more information]

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 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, Katerina Alexiou, Georgy Holden, and Nicole Schadewitz.[More information]

Pilot 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.


This JISC-funded project, value �180k, runs from November 2008 to October 2010. It will construct and trial a virtual atelier that combines well established practice in design education with new opportunities presented by ICT to create a powerful new approach to learning and teaching design based on communities of practice. It is founded on the delivery of three core OU design courses Design Thinking (Level 1), Design and Designing (Level 2) and Innovation (Level 3) and their integration in a design programme. The project involves Steve Garner, Georgy Holden, Peter Lloyd, Emma Dewberry, Nicole Schadewitz, Giselle Ferrieira and Theo Zamenopoulos.

See the Atelier-D project blog here.

Embracing Complexity in Design

Embracing Complexity in Design (ECiD) 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. [More information]

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.

EPSRC Taught Course on Mathematics for the Science of Complex Systems

This is one of nine courses funded byEPSRC aimed at interested researchers that are new to complexity science and complex systems. The courses, running in 2006, are for new researchers and for those with more experience who want to find out more about the underlying concepts in this emerging research area.

Theodore is currently module team chair of the production and presentation of T217: Design Essentials. He is a module team member of T218: Design for Engineers.

He previously chaired the T211 course: Design and Designing. He was also a member of the award board of U101: Design Thinking.

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