Architecture and Participation

Architecture and Participation

Architecture and Participation

Architecture and Participation

Synopsis

A participative approach to architecture challenges many of the normative values of traditional architecture. This book questions whether a participative approach may lead to new spatial conditions as well as to new types of architectural practices.

Excerpt

This book arose out of a lecture series that we jointly coordinated at the School of Architecture, University of Sheffield, in 2002. The three of us shared an interest in the subject of architecture and participation, but had different perspectives on the subject. We hoped that the lecture series would provide a forum for the discussion of ideas, as well as a basis for informing our teaching and research. Our initial aim for the lectures was quite modest; we wanted to introduce our students to an issue that we thought might have a lasting benefit on the way they thought about and went about architecture in the future. We also felt that the time was right for a re-evaluation of participation, particularly given a European political context in which 'participation' had become a buzzword, but with little thought given to what the word actually meant. We decided to keep the word but to question its meaning. To this end we invited speakers from a wide range of backgrounds to explore the general issue of architecture and participation. We were exceptionally fortunate in attracting people who had been at the vanguard of participation in the 1960s, together with some of the contemporary leaders in the field. When we went over the transcripts from the lectures we realised that, viewed together, the contributions presented an important set of insights on the subject. We were also conscious that the literature to date was scant and included little theorising of the subject. We therefore invited our lecturers to develop their contributions for this book, and also asked other people to make contributions where we felt an area had not been covered.

What is immediately striking about the collection of essays is that they offer alternatives to widely accepted approaches to participation. At the level of the lowest common denominator, architectural participation can be defined as the involvement of the user at some stage in the design process. Too often this involvement is token, bringing a degree of worthiness to the architectural process without really transforming it. Recently, government policy in Europe and the USA has made participation a necessary part of public work; it has thus effectively been institutionalised, another box among many to tick in order to get approval and funding.

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