Taipei (1996-2006)/ Community Environment Remodelling Scheme: 2.4 – Participatory Design

The partnership between the professionals and citizens in the scheme was always uncertain that the professionals should be in the role of further developing the ideas from the community but inevitably resulted in replacing the will of the citizens in the reality. The difficulties reflected a changing role of architects in Taipei, from merely a designer to a facilitator between different stakeholders [1].

(1) Incapability of leading the whole community:
Architects were educated with professional skills in creating space, but not necessarily trained up with excellent communication skills, especially with a large group of residents, with different educational background and needs.
(2) Lack of understanding of the ecology of community:
When the architects started approaching the community group, they were usually lack of thorough understanding of the power distribution that sometimes the leaders might not be the best representative while sometimes the opinions received could not totally reflect or even in contrast with the will of the community.
(3) Interpretation of the ideas:
Architects were required to organize the opinions from the community and translate the thinking into a feasible design scheme that perfectly fit the budget and timeframe, as well as compromising with numerous divisions of the government.

Fig.1 – Workcamp organized by community groups and OURs (Source: OURs, 1996)

Participatory Design was a working process that truly reflected the needs of the users, apart from considering aesthetics and economic factors. To hand over the techniques of construction into the hands of ordinary people, architects needed to translate the language of conventional drawings into simple and clear diagrams, titles and graphs that the residents could easily comprehend so as to express their own preferences [2].

Fig.2 – Models for children pointing out their favourite spot on the street for Zhishan pedestrian pathway renewal project (Source: OURs, 1996)

Also, the architects should be capable of expressing the design concepts verbally in workshops and conferences, also be creative enough to use new media to facilitate the discussion, for instance, the renewal of Lixi street performed a temporary occupation of the street with a real drama set in order to reappear the old times of the district, trying to boost the imagination of the residents [3]. The ability to work on a participatory design extended architects’ professionalism, but on the other hand, blurred his position in society.

Architects should be conscious of their stance during the design process, as the creation of space is unavoidably related to politics. While the architects are fighting for more resources and maximizing the interests for their projects during the negotiation, who are they truly representing? Should architects be in a neutral role among all the stakeholders?

[1] 專業者都市改革組織、社區改造聯盟. “地區環境改造計劃:執行成果評果與機制強化策略規劃.” 台北市地區環境改造計劃研討會, June 21, 1999.

[2] 瑞茂 黃. “參與式設計的環境營造過程.” 參與式設計.

[3] Ibid.

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