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In the lecture Building A Sustainable Community Or Neighbourhood, Prue Chiles argued that “we need to be more ambitious and aim higher when building a new community or neighbourhood”.

It emphasized the importance of both individual working and co-production in the architecture and urban design process. And she also focused on the public engagement of the design process. She said, “People are at the heart of the change that is needed” and communities have to be sustainable.

What is community?

Chiles gave us some quotes:

  • “It is a warm and cosy and comfortable place – like a fireplace we warm our hands on a frosty day.”
  • “Community is nowadays another name for paradise lost – but one which we hope to return – and so we feverishly seek the roads that may bring us there.” (Raymond Williams)
  • “Seeking safety in an insecure world.” (Zygmunt Bauman)
Two dimensions

During designing process, we have two dimensions to collect data and inspire our ideas: a literature-based and fieldwork-based investigation (Park, 2014). In the urban design field, we could define these as two approaches: designing by researching on relevant theories and principles, and studying on user’s needs.

Narrative and utopia

From perspective of time, narrative and utopia can be used as two ways of urban design (Chiles).

For regeneration, narrative acts as a powerful approach. This inspires ideals through memories and experience or through relevant thematic ideas. For example in this project, designers pick up local stories. They looked for what lost in the communities, then talked about issues of education, public activities, and health.

figure 1

Utopia is another way to image a sustainable community in the future. Likes Ebenezer Howard’s Garden Cities, it is not a specific plan, but this model inspires people to create a sustainable city.

Community participation

As we design communities for people, people’s engagement is important throughout the design and construct process. But do people really understand the professional work? How could we encourage people to engage it? And how to apply their ideas to the practice?

Case 1: 

In the case of Canklow, the community group showed some attracting ways.

Firstly, they made voting models for the public. They identified what people want to do in Sheffield by this way (Figure 2). Then encourage all ages of residents to create their ideal community. They could choose what they want to plant in their garden (Figure 3). To explore possibilities and access feedback of the design, the community group made another models to the residents. The residents can clearly image the spaces they will live in and understand what facilities will be offered (Figure 4).

Figure 2

Figure 3

Figure 4

Case 2:

TechTown District Plan by Sasaki Associates is another fully public engaged case.

In this case, the design team took several ways to investigate: conversations with stakeholders, photographic essays of site conditions, mapping property ownership and parking patterns, site tours, precedent studies, and a “MyDistrict” survey (“Techtown District Plan / Sasaki Associates”).

It is worthy to focus the MyDistrict survey, which is fully considerable to the site users. “Individuals were asked to identify where ideas are formed, where they collaborate, favourite dining locations, favourite outdoor areas, unsafe areas, common pedestrian, vehicular, and bicycle routes, and perceptions of the district boundaries. Respondents placed more than 2,000 icons on the map.” They communicated with people through “interactive games, online surveys, prioritization exercises, blog streaming, and public open forums”.

As a result, their responses mainly determined the site selection for the core plaza, and reinforced the need to consider safety problems in public realm and building treatments.

Figure 5


They urban design approaches could be simply categorized to desinger-based and user-based. It is important to encourage the public to encourage in designing a sustainable community. And exploring different ways of public engagement is valuable to increase the design quality.

Reference list:

  1. Building A Sustainable Community Or Neighbourhood. 2016. Lecture
  2. Madanipour, A. (2006) Roles and challenges of urban design. Journal of Urban Design 11 (2): 173-193.
  3. Park, Sungnam. “The Social Dimension Of Urban Design As A Means Of Engendering Community Engagement In Urban Regeneration”. URBAN DESIGN International 19.3 (2013): 177-185. Web.
  4. “Techtown District Plan / Sasaki Associates”. ArchDaily. N.p., 2017. Web. 23 Jan. 2017.
  5. Zeisel, J. (1975) Sociology and Architectural Design . New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Image resources:

Figure 1-4: Design process of Canklow programme, taken from: Building A Sustainable Community Or Neighbourhood. 2016. Lecture

Figure 5: Engagement strategies, taken from:

School of Architecture
Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear, NE1 7RU

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