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Participatory Design

with Young People

ARCHITECTURE, CITIZENSHIP & LEARNING
 

A DESIGN MADE BY CHILDREN IS FOR THE WHOLE COMMUNITY / / / /

 
CERRO PLACERES, VALPARAÍSO
OCTOBER-DECEMBER 2016
NEIGHBOURHOOD DERIVAS
DESIGN WITH PLAY - 1:1 SCALE
DESIGN WITH PLAY 2: ELEMENTS FOR INTERACTION
 
PHYSICAL DESIGN, EXPLORING PROPOSAL SPATIALLY
COMMUNITY CREATION OF FINAL PUBLIC SPACE
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PROJECT CONTEXT - FIRST VISIT

The site at the beginning of the project is an empty and exposed open space surrounded on two sides by houses, and Manuel Antonio Matta street, a busy thoroughfare where cars and large vehicles pass by frequently.

A neighbour recalls the neighbourhood as being safe and happy, saying how now she misses having a place for children to play. When she was a girl, she used the existing slope to slide down using some wooden boards that they waxed with candle wax, using the topography as an inspiration for play.

This slope of the back of the site presented an opportunity to connect the open space with Guacolda Street, (which informally is present as a trodden path).


Currently the open space is used as a route to the main street from houses and as a space to park vehicles.

 
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WHAT DO THE LOCAL CHILDREN THINK ABOUT THEIR NEIGHBOURHOOD? 
 
WORKSHOP 0 - NEIGHBOURHOOD DERIVAS

The structure of the workshop contains two parts - firstly, for the children to develop a point of view about their area, through an exercise of ‘Deriva’ (a critical journey exploring the qualities of the site and neighbourhood), and an active analysis of the types of games they can play using the existing contextual spaces, to create the opportunity to demonstrate games which are played locally. At the end of the workshop we concluded with a review of the points that the children discussed, and with the children presenting this to the adults.

The activity begins with the dividing the children into distinct age groups. The three resulting groups are guided by JAB (together with the neighbourhood), Fundación Mi Parque (Foundation my Park) and Aldea participants.

Using techniques to record their new points of view about existing spaces, and implementing a unique and creative dialogue, the children created drawings, sketches, added information to the map and wrote words and phrases. In the brief time we were outside, we carried out a diverse exploration, led by the young particiants, using their range of senses to discover qualities and elements of the site and neighbourhood.  

We began to extend these into the beginnings of an attitude of analysis and criticism of their local spaces that can grow in the following workshops of participatory design, with the idea of transferring the ideas of the children in the final design.

At the end of the workshop, the groups returned to the JAB community centre, quickly summarising their notes and discoveries, writing on large sheets of paper - on one side the negative aspects encountered and on the other the positive during the 'derivas' exercise. We hung on one of the walls both lists and one person from each group began to present their ideas and objections around the future square to the adults who were also on participating in an afternoon of discussion about the current site.

W_1
INVESTIGATING THE GAMES AND USES OF THE FUTURE PUBLIC SPACE
WORKSHOP 1 - DESIGN BY PLAYING: SCALE 1:1
 

To begin the workshop, the adults agree to participate by exploring the everyday qualities which give the site its identity, to use as a reference for the design. The focus is especially on the need for children to play there, with the objective to collect ideas about to create a place for intergenerational socialisation, encounters and creativity.

All together we walk to the empty site to carry out the exercise of designing in a collective and participatory way. In parallel to a discursive analysis of adults, the children explored the possibilities of play in the site via an active investigation with large materials.

Starting with a brainstorm, they discuss the potential games and uses they want for the future place. We then invite them to locate the specific area where they believe that each proposed use should be, the most obvious being the "climbing game" that would be carried out on the existing slope. They experiment using bamboo canes, fabrics, ropes, tyres, masking tape and are assigned an adult volunteer to can assist when required in the process.

Key factors that were highlighted as a result of the testing of  the space with potential play strategies and interaction:

1. Light / Shadows / Vegetation

2. Wind / Breeze

3. Rise / Descend / Climb up / Traverse / Roll / Play

4. Community / Construction

5. Multi-functionality / multipurpose spaces

6. Hard / Soft surfaces

7. Working with organic / natural elements

 
After the creation of temporary constructions through play, the children came to a number of conclusions of key ideas / concepts which express the experience they had, and would like to see in the design of the space.

 

They reflect that they would like to have a place to: "have fun and enjoy", where "children can play together", "to be free and happy" and "experiment" with "a place for babies", "a car-free environment for the space"

W_1.5
HOW CAN WE MAKE A THREE DIMENSIONAL SKETCH THAT WE CAN INHABIT?
WORKSHOP 1.5 -  DESIGNING WITH PLAY:                                   ELEMENTS FOR INTERACTION 
 

The first activity of the workshop is developed with sheets of paper arranged on a cardboard surface, which the participants used to individually draw their ideas for the future public space.

Inviting children to challenge their own points of view about what can and can not happen in the future space and the elements that could be placed in it, they realised their drawn ideas in playful constructions, accompanied by an adult. By working again with large materials, the site begins to divide up based on where the children decide to locate their experiments, speculating in parallel the potential multiple uses that they would like to incorporate. 

These spatial sketches not only consider games for children but for example, for Pachi's design, he would include in the design of his swing an access ramp, so that people with disabilities would be able to enjoy using it. By thinking through making, the children formed new opinions about the possibilities of the site.

Specific ideas which were investigated as part of the exercise: Exploring and identifying the tectonics of the terrain, the introduction of a 'no parking sign', a railing to prevent vehicles from entering or parking, small gaps for people to enter, to plant areas of grass, to use a ladder on the slope, to create a ladder as an access route, establish a place to exercise, to have many ways to climb, poles inserted into the slope, and to have a viewpoint to see across the neighbouring hills.

W_2
 TESTING THE PROPOSED DESIGN IN 
 1:1 AND OPEN SCALED DRAWINGS 
 
WORKSHOP 2 -  PHYSICAL DESIGN: EXPLORING THE PROPOSAL SPATIALLY

To better understand the characteristics of a preliminary design proposal for the project, we start the workshop by creating a 1: 1 (life-size) drawing of the design on the site with local children. By laying out the plan drawing of the proposal at full-size across the space using timber lengths, the participants could quickly get an understanding of the distribution of the elements to help us critically analyse it. Being on the site offered the real views, senses and connections to the context at a human scale in relation to the design, which we discussed and elaborated.

Using a second methodology of giant collaborative drawings, involving up to six children at once, we could collect the ideas inspired by questioning the design proposal. The resulting drawings communicate on many levels the elements, connections and sensations the children want to have, and how they want to re-design elements they feel they could improve. The resulting four key identities of the space are:

1. A multi-funcional / flexible long bench (a route providing flexible playground / a neutral space / a barrier from the road / zoning different uses of the space / seating for all)
2. Vertical games (timber construction that activates the slope)
3. Formal / central space of the pergola
4. Integration of nature with constructed elements.

The children proposed many fresh ideas and alternatives, that present a diverse set of perspectives. From these brainstorms it is possible to embed their active conciousness as users within the architectural discourse through the forms, uses, geometries and designed materialities they proposed.

FINAL
 CONSTRUCT A SPACE FOR THE COMMUNITY,  TOGETHER WITH THE COMMUNITY 
 
DAY OF CONSTRUCTION

The big day has arrived. The public space construction is almost complete as much of the preliminary ground work and heavy construction is ready, now the last step in the process is the participatory day, involving the neighbours that make up the community, adults, children and young people. The youngest participate alongside the adults, organised in groups focused on different tasks (gardening, tree planting, cleaning of the place, painting, etc.) that remain outstanding before concluding the creation of the project.

This relevant final touch helps to demonstrate the success of the participatory process, and embody the intergenerational nature of the space between the different actors in the neighbourhood, strengthening community bonds. Given that the future management and maintenance of the space will depend on collaborative neighbours, this fields multiple benefits. An example,  a grandmother contributes to painting the long bench, alongside a young girl - surfaces that will receive phrases and words spoken by the children who participated in the design via stencils. These phrases and words present fragments of the revealing design process in which the children in workshops were understanding, contributing and devising, through drawings and the physical interaction with the own space, their evolving points of view of the potential of creating their local space, which works for both their generation and the rest of the community.

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In collaboration with:

Together with the Neighbourhood Foundation

My Park Foundation

XX Biennal of Architecture and Urbanism, Chile 2017

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Chile / UK 

 

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