Co-design is a process in which users and other stakeholders are actively involved in making design decisions. It employs innovative communication techniques that seek to blur boundaries between the designer and the user, creating a common ground for knowledge exchange. It is an inductive process, in which the final outcome is not predictable by the architect alone, making room for collaboration and collective ownership. The co-design process is also political, in that it has the potential to bring out suppressed voices and negotiate power structures through spatial design. It requires a thorough understanding of the larger system at play, including the relationship between actors and the space under contestation. It enables architects to overcome their biases and assumptions on how people perceive/use space, sensitizing them to users’ circumstances and capacities within a given social and physical context.
Over the past few decades, co-design has gained international recognition as an effective method for designing in the public and community domain. Jeremy Till, Tatjana Schneider et al have established the need for architects to acknowledge the importance of local knowledge and become facilitators of design processes. Co-design methods have also been effectively employed in allied fields like service design, product design and exhibition design. Experimental psychologist, Elizabeth Sanders and linguist, Béla Bánáthy have done notable work in the field of co-design, broadening our perspective on what an architectural design process can/should look like.
This research project explores the role of an architect in creating and facilitating co-design processes, with focus on communication mechanisms employed in different contexts.