A community meeting for the Johnny Carson Park Revitalization project,  done in partnership with the City of Burbank.

A community meeting for the Johnny Carson Park Revitalization project, done in partnership with the City of Burbank.

A significant portion of our work is the design of public spaces in urban settings. Hence, our design process for public projects often involves meeting with and getting input from the citizens of a community. After all, what would public space be without the public who will be using the space?

If our work is about transforming site into place, then community participation guides us in understanding the things the people in the community value, their concerns, and their desires for the space. The process is educational for us, as the project’s designers, and to community members, its users. We learn from each other about civic engagement and creating a landscape with cultural meaning.

Photo: Opening Day ribbon cutting celebration for Reflections Mini Park  in Carson, California.

Photo: Opening Day ribbon cutting celebration for Reflections Mini Park in Carson, California.

We develop many skills in our practice. When we come to the table facing a group of individuals who are diverse in age, interests, and goals, our listening skills are tested. Listening is an art. It is not difficult to master if the desire is there and practiced regularly.

A former colleague once told me that the secret to effective listening is allowing other people to “fill the silence.” In other words, ask a question and then shut up, and let other people do most of the talking. Given the opportunity, people will open up to reveal what is most important to them.

The reality of public projects is that budgets, politics, and other factors also influence what is finally built. In the end, the success of the design will be measured and judged by others as the landscape is used and evolves over time. Although the original design intent may be forgotten by the community and other participants soon after opening day, people will remember that their voices were heard, and this place will remain special to them because of it.

Comments

One Comment

Post a comment
  1. June 9, 2015

    Reblogged this on Typefiend™ and commented:
    Designers too often separate, if not completely exclude, the community it is supposedly hired to serve. This is a reminder allowing people to “fill the silence” is an important step in the process of formulating solutions which aren’t self-serving, but serving those who will long appreciate and use design in their daily lives far after the ribbon-cutting ceremonies.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS