Architects and users in collaborative design
Licentiate thesis, 2014
The custom of involving users in building projects has increased over the last years, following a focus on the importance of front-end activities, both in practice and in academia. This thesis explores user participatory design and more specifically the co-design process from the architect’s point of view. How can architects support clients and users in identifying, expressing and developing their requirements for their future environment, and preparing them and their new facilities for the challenges of tomorrow?
The text rests on two surveys. One is a set of focus groups and the other a series of interviews combined with mapping of cases. The text is also largely based on the writer’s own experience, observations and analysis from working on such user-participatory projects. The text thus takes the character of being both descriptive and explorative.
By following a set of projects made by a practical framework for co-design, called design dialogues, some issues connected to planning and executing co-design processes is presented. The text reflects on the role of the user in participatory design (PD) and views of users’ competencies and involvement. It further illustrates the field of participation and collaboration in relation to users in architecture – what it is and has been. Further discussion considers the consequences for architects engaging in PD, such as, what role to take and challenges and possibilities with the user-architect interaction.
The study found that there are several basic problems hindering the engagement of any user participating process – one being the users being a multifaceted group. Still it becomes clear that there is a basic need for support of identifying and developing requirements from the user side.
My study found that design methods and visualization, together with the process leader’s facilitative skills in establishing a platform for and climate of trust, work as a hot-bed for innovative thinking, deeper understanding of the situation and its possible future development. There is a need for a certain competence for doing this, but there is also a need for a competence structuring, analysing and interpreting the outcome. The discussions show that many architects should be well equipped to do most of this, although this is not specifically trained in education.