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Adem’s blog focusses on community participation and how it is used to improve urban design. He quotes Sanoff (1999), who states that “the environment works better if the people affected by its changes are actively involved in its creation.” This particularly stood out to me as a strong ethos to abide by when designing or enhancing neighbourhoods. The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI, 2012) produced a report which highlights the importance of community engagement and states that “there is a need to understand how a place works and functions.” In order to gather a deep understanding of a place, community consultation is key. Those who live/work/play within close proximity to a development understand the area best, and so “community consultation and engagement is an essential part of a good development process” (RTPI, 2012).

Community members demonstrating opinions using a physical model – RTPI (2012)

Adem discusses how it is often difficult for the community to read a set of plans for a proposed development. Community participation can help to alleviate this issue, as communication between professionals and the community is made easier. However, it is used for much more than purely helping people understand development proposals. The South Lanarkshire Council (SLC, 2015) list the benefits of community engagement in their Community Engagement Framework document. These benefits are things such as “strong partnerships, promotion of community cohesion and better decision making” (SLC, 2015). Clearly, community engagement follows a ‘bottom-up’ approach which allows the end-users to influence the design process (albeit with the supervision of professionals).

Professionals other than architects berate the fact that design processes fail to become consumer-led (Howard, 2007 cited in Crilly, 2016). Crilly presents an urban design project in Peterborough that strongly engaged with the community whom it would affect. The community engagement process consisted of different events where people could physically get involved and interact with professionals. This allowed there to be a stronger relationship between the designers and the community, which in turn ensured a robust design that met the needs of those involved. Crilly (2016) also states in his lecture that the reason the design beat other competition was because of the amount of community engagement that was carried out in comparison to rival proposals.

Community engagement in Peterborough project – Crilly (2016)

I would, however, like to highlight that there are issues which arise from community engagement that cannot be ignored. Murphy (2009) discusses how the design process can be “hindered by apathy and selfishness and deficiencies in knowledge and abilities.” Murphy goes on to talk about the sense of exclusion within public consultation, and that “older, wealthy and well educated citizens dominate participation processes around the world.” This creates further issues other than simply making others feel excluded – it results in a design which represents the needs of the few, and not of the majority.

 

References

Crilly, M, 2016. Politics, Process and Purposes of Masterplanning. Newcastle University.

Murphy, A E, 2009. “The Limitations of Community Engagement”, Evolve Facilitation and Coaching, pp. 1-7.

RTPI, 2012. Good Practice Guide to Public Engagement in Development Schemes, London: RTPI.

Sanoff, H, 1999. Community participation methods in design and planning. New York: Wiley, John & Sons.

SLC, 2015. South Lanarkshire Community Engagement Framework, South Lanarkshire Council: South Lanarkshire.

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

Tel: 0191 208 6509

Email: nicola.rutherford@ncl.ac.uk


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