Architectural competitions can bring design quality to cities. But the design competition process misses the opportunity to engage deeply with the public. And that means social value could be missing too. The process of community driven design competitions addresses unequal access to design decisions and cultivates social ties.
“Design has a role in building social capital. During a design competition, there are opportunities for placemaking and designing in social connectors.” Georgia Vitale
Image: 11th Street Bridge Park. Courtesy OMA + OLIN
Community consultation takes many forms, some of which are perfunctory while others are more meaningful. That is, meaningful for the public – the users of places and spaces. The judges of architectural design competitions are other architects. So how does community consultation and engagement fit into this process?
Vitale’s article explores the drawbacks of limited or no meaningful public participation or interaction with users of the building or place or other stakeholders in design competitions. This is at a time for an increased need for social capital to be included in the planning and design process for more socially sustainable communities.
Social infrastructure, shared spaces and streets, and public transport are the outputs of design. However, community engagement with diverse community members helps create new connections. it also encourages people to become involved in the lives of their neighbours. That’s the social benefit of community driven design competitions.
Vitale uses 11th Street Bridge Park DC as a case study. The goal is to knit together the two communities on either side of the river. And that’s without displacing people in the marginalised neighbourhoods on the eastern bank.
Bridging community and design: a new way forward is the title of the article in The Fifth Estate. See the original article for links to cited research and case study.