Drawing outside the lines : participatory design in unincorporated communities
Author(s)Jacobson, Lillian Ring
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Urban Studies and Planning.
Jose (Jota) Samper.
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Design is both a mode of communication and a collaborative process. It is a powerful tool with which to convey ideas about the built environment and unlock creativity. Yet urban planning has not harnessed design's potential to engage communities in participatory processes. Urban design has been guarded as an exclusive realm for experts rather than a shared process that utilizes the knowledge of both professionals and community members. Urban planning has long struggled to successfully involve the public in its processes, and this thesis argues that participatory design is the key to meaningful community engagement in planning. Participatory design is particularly important when planning in marginalized communities. It provides participants with a sense of ownership over their communities and exposes the manifestation of oppression in the built environment. Using Paolo Freire's idea of "consciencizacion," this thesis tests participatory design's ability to allow both designers and community members to gain critical consciousness and work towards social change together. The research for this project focuses on marginalized unincorporated communities that have been systematically excluded from city annexation practices because of their racial and socioeconomic makeup. These communities have been left under the jurisdiction of counties, lacking infrastructure, adequate emergency services, public open spaces, and sufficient political representation. This thesis also explores the impact of participatory design processes on teenagers in unincorporated communities who often bear the brunt of their communities' oppression, and are rarely consulted in planning decisions. My research concentrates on a participatory design process I conducted with high school students in a predominantly Latino unincorporated community outside of Santa Rosa, California. This community suffered a tragedy in 2013, when a 13-year-old boy was shot and killed by a Sonoma County Sheriff in a vacant lot along Moorland Avenue. The incident spurred community protests and organizing for change, and led to my involvement with the neighborhood. My work with the Santa Rosa teenagers revealed the importance of design in participatory processes. The physical act of designing unlocked students' creativity, built their capacity to think spatially and feasibly, and showed them the power of young people's voices in creating neighborhood change.
Thesis: M.C.P., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, 2015.This electronic version was submitted by the student author. The certified thesis is available in the Institute Archives and Special Collections.Cataloged from student-submitted PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 148-152).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Urban Studies and Planning.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Urban Studies and Planning.