Participatory Design: What Children Can Teach Us

Last class we discussed Jane Jacobs’ chapter on the influence of sidewalks and children. In short, her argument centered on the need for streets/sidewalks to serve as places to play and in doing so are not only vital to the maintenance of the city, but to the growth of children, as well. The discussion then led into the topic of participatory design. How do planners account for the needs/wants of the people of a city? Who are they designing for? What are their goals?

The main objective of participatory design, then, is include multiple points of view; a mix of academia and locals. Planning should ultimately create a sense of belonging and community and by broadening the accessibility to the process itself, it helps to create this sense of community. The Kaki Tree Project that the students of Borgo XX Giugno Elementary School are participating in is an example of community participation, albeit not necessarily design. Unfortunately I was unable to be a part of the workshop with the children, but from what I’ve gathered the day went very well as the children showed their work and visions for the project. I think their enthusiasm for the project highlights the meaning of participatory planning; they are excited to create something in the community not just for those who live here in Perugia, but through this project they become a part of a global community.

 

I think the community aspect of participatory design is important in that it creates a sense of equality between planners and community members and attempts to create a sense of transparency. I mention the idea of transparency again in this entry because I’ve found that it’s important to create a feeling of mutual trust and mutual respect any time there’s an “administration” involved in a project. Participatory design, then, is a step toward achieving this and in doing so creates less conflicts between parties and (hopefully) a lasting and sustainable result.

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