Participatory architecture

The architecture discipline is standing on a borderline that separates their design knowledge and user requirements. The trend is away from the all-knowing architect as a designer to sharing that knowledge with the users of the design. So, additional skills are required to those of design, that is, participatory engagement with users. A special issue journal takes up the topic of participatory architecture.

Participation can take place in almost any location. Unexpected places sometimes encourage the unpredictable – a good place for new ideas.

Men are gathered around an outdoor fire in natural surroundings. They are participating in a discussion.

The special issue has cases from urban planning, hospital management, cultural heritage, restrooms, age care and social housing. The articles are focused on the way participation is practiced and researched in architecture. The editors extracted four lessons from these papers.

First, participation can take place in unusual and unexpected places, but it welcomes the unpredictable. Second, participatory research is often used where disadvantaged or vulnerable populations are involved. This can lead to useful experimentation for improving environments.

Third, the practice and research enables new knowledge to emerge in the iterative processes transferrable to future projects. Multidisciplinary teams generate verbal and non-verbal knowledge in the process.

Fourth, participation builds communities and networks, and reveals stories and experiences beyond the classroom and text books. There is satisfaction to gain through sharing and co-designing.

So the border between the expert and the non-expert becomes blurred in the participatory process of co-design and co-creation.

The title of the editorial to the special issue is, Participation: A Disciplinary Border for Architectural Research and Practice. The article belongs to the Special Issue Contemporary Issues in Participatory Architecture.

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