When designing community spaces, the architectural concept can easily clash with the user's experience. Therefore, engaging the community and future users in the project development and design process is a way of adding different perspectives to the architect's vision towards a more intelligent architecture.
By combining the knowledge of many individuals, a building becomes more efficient, with solutions that are more compatible with the context in which it is located. Moreover, working with the community is an opportunity to exchange techniques and vernacular skills, also providing opportunities for the people who are involved in the construction from the very beginning.
The physical construction of a building or a public space is only an excuse. In the end, what we want is to create citizens. The community is not only a protagonist because it engages volunteers, young misfits, or people with no opportunities in the construction, (but also because) they become involved in the design and building development. They start to debate, to think, and to visualize these spaces, the scale, and the colors. This is the beginning of a fundamental process: understanding that they are responsible for changing their own reality.
This quote by Venezuelan architect José Naza Rodríguez from PGRC captures in a nutshell how architecture with community participation can transform the everyday lives of the people involved and provide valuable insights for architects. Therefore, we have gathered ten projects from around the world that use participatory design and engage the community as their main collaborators.
Based on concepts of urban acupuncture and self-sustainability, the Multiprogram Ship - a participatory urban development initiative consisting of a series of interventions in the public areas of Caracas, capital of Venezuela - is an urban device that connects the main mobility systems of the neighborhood, a building capable of creating new relationships with the public space through its different vertical platforms.
The permaculture community PORET in Zimbabwe follows the philosophy of holistic sustainability since 1996. The PORET-kindergarten is a pilot project, within their principles, (re)generating local craftsmanship and building know-how.
The project for the Käpäcläjui Indigenous Training Center in Costa Rica emerged from a series of proposals following participatory design workshops. These activities were key in fostering a sense of belonging in the community when it came to visualizing and making decisions. It was an opportunity to understand and co-create spaces that were more coherent with their surroundings and centered on the user's needs.
The Community Center of Camburi in Brazil is a building by and for the local low-income community of quilombolas, descendants of Afro-Brazilian slaves who escaped from plantations. It was built as a social development project and, while CRU! offered technical assistance and finances, the community decided all of the content and program of the building over the last 10 years.
The project for the Renacer de Chamanga Community Center in Ecuador started with community workshops to understand and prioritize people's needs. This also allowed us to understand the local resources and the workforce existing in the shelter. In other words, this first stage was vital for the community to practice everything they learned and to complete their communal space in later stages.
The design of the Naidi Community Hall in Fiji was the result of a collaborative process that began 6 months prior to the project start date and included input from the community at every stage of the design development. Much of the detailing and ongoing research happened concurrently with the project construction, with all foreign participants living with the families of Naidi Village and gaining experience and knowledge through cultural immersion.
The Bang Nong Saeng Kindergarten in Thailand also fostered this intimate creative environment with local and foreign workers and students living together during the construction. Using local resources and techniques, they were able to define educational and recreational needs, redefine the spatial requirements, and create a socially rewarding project.
This project for Social Housing in Pinotepa Nacional, Mexico, is a prime example of participatory and community architecture, in which residents were interviewed and asked to draw their ideal home, providing great insight into their lifestyle and traditions. From there, the project focused on designing each house according to the needs of each family, the local climate, and the characteristics of the terrain.
Finally, we have two projects of the UVA - Unidades de Vida Articulada (units of articulated life) program in Colombia, Sol de Oriente and El Paraiso, which are urban interventions in neighborhoods, intended for public gatherings, and to encourage and foster sports, recreation, culture, and community participation.
This article is part of the ArchDaily Topic: Collective Design. Every month we explore a topic in-depth through articles, interviews, news, and projects. Learn more about our monthly topics. As always, at ArchDaily we welcome the contributions of our readers; if you want to submit an article or project, contact us.