Community involvement for design in planning

A woman strikes a yoga pose alone in a city square with tall buildings around.Planning is also about design. And good design now includes users. Community involvement is a key part of planning processes. It must take account of our human diversity otherwise designs will unintentionally exclude. Community involvement in planning also introduces designers and planners to “other ways of being”. 

Design and planning go hand in hand, but design has been a subject to avoid in planning, particularly in the U.S. This is according to a journal article that challenges planners to move beyond policies of spatial organisation.   

The article covers climate change and climate justice, and social and racial justice. A workshop using collaborative processes is the basis of a case study highlighting the issues. Community involvement was pivotal to the success of the project and the research outcomes. The subject of the case study is an affordable housing provider. The aim was to move from standard cookie cutter designs to designs that suited the potential residents. The new design was applied to a prototype home. 

The author concludes that there are profound implications for planning research. Designers need to engage with planning because they can better address the social and environmental concerns. 

The title of the article is, Design in Planning: Reintegration through Shifting Values.  

Abstract

Design is increasingly entering planning beyond the subfield of urban design. At a larger scale, designers are moving into the social sciences to apply design skills at intersections with the social sciences. This article offers an overview of research and practice at the forefront of both interpreting design fields and understanding their growing importance within planning. This transcends examinations of urban design to incorporate the potential of design more broadly in planning, with particular emphasis on community development and engagement.

The article does this through a case study of an existing design-based nonprofit (bcWORKSHOP) which leverages techniques across design and planning to generate new forms of community planning practice in the State of Texas. Ultimately, this case study begins to ask whether planning can fully address a number of issues (like social/racial justice and climate change) without understanding these issues from both design and planning perspectives simultaneously. It also emphasizes the importance of training planners to both envision and build alternate possible worlds, a skillset fundamental to design that could reshape planning education and practice.

Planning Inclusively: Make Communities Just for All

View from high building in Brisbane overlooking building roofs and the Brisbane river and bridges. Jacaranda trees can be seen in the street.Urban planning is a highly contested and politicised area to work in. The talk is that planning is about people, not roads and buildings. But when do users – people – get a say in planning? Only at the end when plans are put on exhibition. Then you need to be an expert to understand them. Planning inclusively is to make communities just for all. 

Lisa Stafford, in a briefing paper, asks how well do we consider human diversity in planning cities and regions?  Planners and bureaucrats would rarely even consider the concept of “Ableism” in their designs. That’s why we still have marginalisation by design. The lens of the average or the “normal” person is rarely put aside for a lens of diversity. 

Graphic with four circles: one each for exclusion, separation, integration and inclusion.Social planning can drive inclusive communities because it operates from a justice framework. Participatory planning is one way to work towards inclusion. 

The tile of Lisa Stafford’s paper is, Planning Inclusively: Disrupting ‘Ableism’ to Make Communities Just for All.  She has four recommendations at the end of her easy to read paper. Briefly they are:

      1. Adopt an approach of planning for all
      2. Apply spatial justice thinking to planning
      3. Embed universal design as a core planning principle
      4. Re-emphasise the social in planning

Editorial Introduction 

“Disabled people continue to experience exclusion by design in our everyday spaces, infrastructure and services, which has been magnified through the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, more than ever, there is an opportunity for urban and regional planning practitioners, researchers and disabled people to come together to advocate for and create inclusive, sustainable communities for all. However, to make this transformative, we must first critically question how well do we really consider human diversity in planning cities, towns and regions? This question is examined in this briefing paper by contesting entrenched challenges like ‘ableism’ before providing fundamental starting points for planners in planning more inclusive and just communities for all.”

Graphic policy planning

A map of south eastern Australia showing the different rates of frailty in shades of pink.“Don’t let facts get in the way of a good story”, but here’s a good story about facts. The University of Adelaide has devised a Frailty Map. These data aren’t just good for planning aged care. They should also be informing the design of our built environment including our homes. Knowing where the higher numbers of frail people live is also good for planning prevention programs to minimise the negative affects of ageing.

The interactive map documents the number of frail people in local areas in 2016 and compares it with projected figures for 2027. The story from the Australian Ageing Agenda gives a good overview and the links to the map. There is also a link to a video showing that frailty can be minimised with improved lifestyle activities. The map project follows the earlier research project into frailty.

Editor’s note: Population statistics should be informing all our social and economic policies, but the facts often get lost if vested interests are stronger.

Planning action tool from an inclusive perspective

A diagram with five balloons. In the centre is Design for All. On the outside are the other four elements, multifunctional users, quality of life, sustainability, and inclusive planningThe principles of Design-for-All are used for the basis of an efficient and effective planning action tool in this academic paper from Italy. It brings together quality of life, multi-functional spaces, environmental sustainability, and inclusive urban planning strategies. The claim is that Design-for-All approach “represents a solution for matching people needs to urban environmental quality improvement”, and that inclusive planning strategies can support an ecosystem services network. You will need institutional access for a free read. The title is, Anthropic space and design for all. New knowledge paths for urban planning strategies.  The paper originates from Italy which may account for some of the heavy language.

AbstractNowadays city environment shows the presence of a mixed variety of elements, as natural, semi natural and anthropic components that build up both structure and connections of the urban context. This specific structure shapes and directs space and its functions strictly connected with their sustainable potential uses and sustainable development opportunities. The lack of rules and proper planning methods produces inefficient use conditions by resident citizens, entropy, functions’ reduction of ecological networks and deep environmental impacts. The consequence comes out to be a great widespread life quality decrease in urban areas. These thoughts lead the authors to rethink the definition first and then the place concept own interpretation, as a theoretical reference approach and in a particular way of the urban place, as an anthropic action useful in a multidimensional relationship analysis. Based on these considerations, the aim of the paper is that to introduce design for all as an efficient and effective planning action tool able to get sustainable operating strategies to match both people needs and urban system quality of life protection and enhancement in a long term timeline analysis.

Universally designed infrastructure planning

An aerial view of a new highway junction with overpasses.One of the underpinning tenets of universal design is to involve users in the design process – at the beginning. Involving citizens in early stages of design can avoid costly retrofits, but more importantly, it is more likely to give people what they want. That means they are more likely to use it. Transport planning can also be universally designed. An article in The Fifth Estate argues that to leave out citizens is asking for trouble, and it is also undemocratic. Infrastructure is a public thing regarless of  who owns it, runs it or controls it. It is about good city governance. Planners need to do three things:

  1. consult and engage citizens early in infrastructure planning
  2. improve quality and access of citizen engagement at the strategic planning stages
  3. use more sophisticated strategic planning tools and practices to improve decision-making

The original article was in The Conversation. 

Can UD create social sustainability?

aerial view of a big city with skyscrapersApplying the principles of universal design at the formation stage of planning can lead to harmonious, accessible, sustainable and healthy cities.This is the conclusion of a European study. The study looked at the design and development of city space from the perspective of the varying levels of human capabilities. The overall aim of the research was to raise the quality of urban planning, and to develop tools for healthy cities compatible with the principles of sustainability. You can download the PDF of Sustainable Urban Development: Spatial Analyses as Novel Tools for Planning a Universally Designed City, by Joanna Borowczyk, in EconPapers, 2018, vol. 10, issue 5, 1-16.

The compassionate city

A brick terrace house fronts the footpath and has lots of pot plants in front of it.The Dutch idea of the Woonerf has been picked up again, this time by Jenny Donovan of La Trobe University. Using some graphics, she shows how design can affect our decisions to either walk, drive, use public transport or not, and whether you feel welcome in the environment. She covers the key elements of a Compassionate City where various design elements can meet the needs of a range of people and create more harmonious behaviours. There are several links in the article to other related reports and articles. The article originates from The Conversation.  

Hobsons Bay UD Policy Statement

Three circles in blue sitting inside one another. Centre light blue is minimum BCA compliance. Next circle is extension for Australian Standards, and third all embracing circle is for UDHobsons Bay City Council is situated south-west of Melbourne with a significant stretch of coastal area. As with many local councils in Victoria they are keen to embrace the principles of universal design in their planning policies. As part of their access and inclusion strategy they plan to implement UD principles in new buildings, buildings with significant upgrades, retrofits of existing buildings, features and public open space. The policy statement includes a table where the 7 classic principles of universal design are translated into specific guidelines for council staff. The policy statement discusses the myths, regulatory framework and how to implement universal design, and how to go beyond compliance.