Community-driven vs. community-based design.

March 27, 2011 at 12:31 pm 1 comment

One of the many commonalities among presenters at this year’s Structures for Inclusion conference was their commitment to working collaboratively with (as opposed to simply for) their clients. Thomas Fisher, dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota, captured this difference by separating the ideas of “community-driven” design and “community-based” design. Often called a participatory design process within architecture, the community-driven approach relies on a deep, local engagement and usually involves bringing in community members for anything from design development to construction.

Presenting on the related “Learning from Communities” panel was Michael Zaretsky, an assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati, who spoke with Emily Roush and Richard Elliott about the Roche Health Center in rural Tanzania. The project is designed to be zero-energy, easily reproducible, low-cost, and durable, and is based on some very extensive research (including research within the local community). As a result, the center was built using only local materials and local construction techniques. Michael, Emily, and Richard agreed that the massive impact (present and future) of the Roche Health Center and the overall smoothness in the construction process would never have been possible without developing and sustaining relationships with local individuals, who will continue to contribute enormously to the center’s success.

photo of over-sized gutter being constructed for collecting water for the rare but heavy rainfall, from the now open Roche Health Center

Part of developing these local bonds is bringing your own information, skills, and other assets to the project. Using the tools of the design discipline while simultaneously engaging with the community is critical; “these two are not mutually exclusive,” encouraged Dan Pitera, executive director of the Detroit Collaborative Design Center and a ddi favorite.  One especially valuable contribution – highlighted by both Sergio Palleroni and Brent Brown, founding director of bcWorkshop – is a design team’s ability maintain continuity in community activity during project development and construction. For example, bcWorkshop’s SEED Competition-winning project for Congo Street in Dallas involved temporarily placing residents in a holding house on the same block while construction was being done on their homes. This minimized disruption to the residents’ daily routines and to their relationships with their neighbors.

photo of the holding house on Congo Street, by bcWorkshop via Arch Daily

March 27’s daily design idea sums up the core advice from the “Learning From Communities” panel: when doing community-driven design, you’ll be most successful if you partner with locally respected organizations (and individuals), bring your own assets to the table, and demonstrate a sustained commitment to the community.

This is post 2 of 7 recapping Structures for Inclusion 10+1, an annual conference focused on design for social good.

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“A dignified house, a beautiful house, a house that everybody likes – not just architects.” “Human capital is one of the best assets we have.”

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. The 98%. « Daily Design Idea  |  February 11, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    […] always be learning, better understand economic value, take an entrepreneurial approach, and work collaboratively with our clients – but the question remains of how to start doing all this now and ultimately, […]


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