Advanced Workshop In Participatory Urban Planning And Design

Institution(s): Harvard

Discipline(s): Design

Faculty Member(s): Michael Hooper

Keyword(s): Digital Media, Policy, Social Justice, Urbanism

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This workshop combines seminar and studio elements. In weekly seminar sessions, students discuss key readings on the theory and practice of participatory urban planning and design, drawing on both developed and developing world experience. In weekly studio sessions, students then tackle applied planning and design challenges facing marginalized Boston communities. The studio element of the course, which is referred to as the Community Innovation Lab, will be held in conjunction with the Kennedy School of Government’s DPI 682 (Solving Problems Using Technology) and in partnership with the Boston Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics. In small interdisciplinary teams, students from both courses will work with community partner organizations to solve pressing urban problems. The teams will bring together students with interests in planning, design, technology and policy. Seminar sessions will take place at the GSD and shared lab meetings will be held at the Harvard Innovation Lab on the Allston Campus. Recognizing that public participation plays a major role in urban planning, design and policy, the workshop seeks to provide students with a solid intellectual and professional foundation for work on participation-related issues. The seminar sessions serve as an opportunity to read and discuss cutting edge perspectives on participation that can inform the collaborative, applied work of the lab. The seminar will begin by looking at the history of participation and at different rationales for including the public in planning, design and policymaking. It will then examine the complexity of public participation in a wide variety of political, social and geographic settings. Major topics include the relationship between participation and project outcomes and the nature and scale of spillovers from participation to other aspects of social and political life. As a bridge to the lab sessions, the seminar will also examine key innovations in participation. The iLab is located at 125 Western Avenue, on the Harvard Business School campus. looking at the role of new technologies and artistic practice in facilitating and shaping participation. The lab will be highly responsive to the needs of our local partners and students will gain hands-on experience working with, and responding to the needs of, marginalized communities. Student teams will be assigned to work with community organizations in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood. Further information on the workshop’s community partners can be found in the “Partners” section of the syllabus. Together, students will work with these clients and the City of Boston to develop proposals that have the potential to improve living conditions and respond to urgent community needs. The specific design brief for the lab will emerge from our initial interaction with our community partners and be defined by their needs and the resources made available through the City of Boston and other partners. The course’s partnership with local community groups and the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics is meant to provide students with access to the actors central to urban planning in Boston and increase the likelihood that the proposals developed will be implemented following the course. To help ensure that this happens, the city has hired a facilitator who will work with the course and help to turn the course’s innovations into reality. The workshop is relevant for students who intend to go on to professional work involving public participation, including as urban planners, urban policymakers, designers, architects and landscape architects. It is also relevant to students who are undertaking graduate level research on participation issues.