The Design Challenge and Place Process

At the end of the studio, the students were expected to deliver four design ideas for the redevelopment of the Paine Reserve area (architecture, landscape and construction students) and four strategic plans (planning students) that could be incorporated by the overarching project led by Hubcap Productions. 

In their effort to understand the site, rather than taking an ‘expert’ role to analyse the dynamics occurring at Newport, the students’ acted as facilitators to extract the data from the roots. Over 2 weeks, each team designed one or more playful pop-up placemaking activities for community engagement where they asked the community to provide input about their local park, and their hopes for its future. 

Held on the 19th of January 2018, this ½ day session featured four engagement stations distributed throughout the park and collected data through informal conversations, games, drawings, and short written text. Specifically, the engagement event aimed to understand:

  • What is working well in this park?
  • What is needed? 
  • What are your hobbies and how can the park support them? 
  • What experiences would you like to have whilst visiting the park?

To develop their engagement stations, each team was provided with a maximum budget of $1,000 AUD to buy materials or hire equipment the equipment needed for their community engagement initiative. 

  • Home away from home: Attracting families through a jumping castle and then engaging in deep conversations with the parents on their family needs. 
  • Newport masterpiece: Seeking ideas to activate one of the entrances of the park. 
  • The Imaginarium: handing over the designing pen to the community. 
  • Play: setting up seven ‘play-stations’ to find the values and activities most suitable for playful landscapes.  

This was not tactical urbanism, it was exploration and inspiration through games in the public realm.

By bringing this experience to action, both students and community members enjoyed a frank yet honest interaction with no agenda. Through this interaction, the community, knowingly or not, raised the design brief that the students responded to. In fact, as part of the debrief, one student claimed that this experience had changed the way he views the architecture practice. It has relieved him of the pressure of being creative and original. That role belongs to the community… he now approaches his practice with open ears letting the community determine the agenda of the public projects.

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