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Everyone is Creative: The Community Design Process

November 20, 2010

One great truth that I have learned from working as an architect in a variety of community design projects is that the best solution grows from exploration as a group. Architects and other design professionals bring considerable skill in visualizing something that does not yet exist, which is certainly useful. However, a well-designed group design process can tap into the creative ideas of everyone involved. It never ceases to amaze me that almost always everyone involved in the process can see his or her own ideas and input in the final design.

I have used different methods for engaging groups of people in a creative process. One of my favorites is the “charette”, which allows people to work in small groups with a hands-on design task. Not only does this get people thinking about spatial design, functionality, and aesthetics, but it also gets people talking about their visions for the project and listening to the visions of others, which is really important for coming to the best design solution, and for making decisions as a group.

The image with this post is from an early design charette for the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center. As you can see, it is very conceptual, but it served as an excellent tool for generating discussion. The final project rarely looks like any solution that comes out of the charette process – there is still a lot of work to do after this stage – but you can see elements of the final design even in this very conceptual early design.

See selected community design projects.

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