P-Kit: Picture listening for community planning

The Task

  • Liat Rogel is a researcher and lecturer at the Milano Polytechnico (external link)
  • She uses the design process in order to facilitate a given concept, often emphasising the design of services.
  • Her P-kit was designed for a regeneration project in Cimerosa (on the outskirts of Milan).
  • She needed to understand the needs of the residents in order to improve their local environment.
  • A significant challenge is how to facilitate common understanding in a highly diverse group of residents.
  • The idea of Planning for Real (external link) must embrace language and cultural difference
  • Often, there are also technical issues implicit in any residential situation - these may be daunting
  • Some residents may not even be able to read a map or an architectural drawing
  • also the possibility of resentment toward outside interference

Some Issues Addressed

  • Which role should a designer undertake in the context of urban development?
  • What tools are appropriate for creating a shared language within a regeneration process?
  • How do you tackle different points of view alongside communication difficulties and cultural discrepancies?

The Participative process

  • In participative design (external link) it is important not to deceive, or to create false hopes
  • It is necessary to create a realistic framework for action and possible change
  • Liat emphasised that the gaining and building of trust essential to a project's success.
  • She recommended the work of Luigi Bobbio (external link) who has written about participative processes
  • In his work, listening, constructive interaction and conflict resolution are seen as part of the process.

Tool for listening

  • What tools and methods are most appropriate within a user-centred approach?
  • Ethnographic studies use many media such as questionnaires, video, photography etc.
  • Liat needed a tool for listening that could elicit common concerns without verbal language confusion
  • She found photography to be helpful both for gathering implicit and explicit issues in the community.

Design as process

  • 'Listening tools' may use visuals but depend on language to create a shared sense of meaning
  • The P-kit (above) is simple but looks technical or official. It therefore inspires trust
  • The tools consisted of numbered frames, and picture panels, designed to document each individual’s concerns
  • The wide range of opinions gathered were then used to identify what was felt to be the most pressing, shared problems.
  • This information incorporated in a residents' exhibition (very popular), to encourage a more formal planning process
  • However, getting the Local Authorities to act was probably the most difficult aspect of the whole project.
  • The challenge is always to find how ‘problems’ can be turned into potentials and opportunities.

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