Ann Heylighen is a design researcher with a background in architectural engineering. As a research professor of design studies at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven), she co-chairs the Resarch[x]Design group. She is interested in how space is designed, how space is experienced, and the relation between both. Her team at the interface of design research and social sciences studies design practices in architecture and related design disciplines, and explores how the spatial experience of people of various abilities, ages and perspectives may expand prevailing ways of understanding and designing space. Application domains include designing (health)care environments and making built heritage more inclusive.
Ann studied at KU Leuven and ETH Zürich, and obtained her MSc in Engineering: Architecture in 1996. In 2000 she obtained her PhD with a study of design knowledge embedded in design projects. From 2000 until 2006, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow, conducting research at KU Leuven, Harvard and Berkeley, and extending her research focus from design projects to design processes as sources of design knowledge. In 2006 the KU Leuven appointed Ann as research professor. In 2007 the European Research Council awarded her a Starting Independent Researcher Grant for the project ‘Architectural design In Dialogue with dis-Ability’ (AIDA) and in 2012 a Proof-of-Concept Grant for the project ‘Rent-a-Spatialist’.