#WDCD: Rethinking Urban Planning
What Design Can Do, an international conference on design hosted at the Stadsschouwburg in Amsterdam, attracted designers the world over to discuss how design can respond better to the needs of the world today. The theme was ‘What Design Can Do to Connect’, and, on the first day of the conference, a wide array of designers spoke of how graphic design, fashion design, and food design can respond to contemporary challenges and needs.
Most interesting for us, though, is how urban planning and design connects with its surroundings. Architect Ekim Tan was interviewed as part of an exclusive edition of Items Live, and wants to reinvent how we think of citizen participation in urban planning processes. Tan told the crowd of an initiative that she’s working with called Play the City. The initiative infuses the idea of ‘play’ into urban planning and public consultation processes, giving the opportunity to play urban designer in four different neighbourhoods at the moment, including Almere Oosterwold, where MVRDV have proposed a revolutionary platform for citizen participation.
Later in the day, Joumana al-Jabri and Reem Charif from design group Febrik discussed their urban interventions in Palestinian refugee camps located in Jordan and Lebanon. They, too, return to play, but in a different manner: by listening to children. The creativity of children prompted the team at Febrik to listen closely to the dreams of local children and examining how they play in order to help improve the organisation of public space for all groups in the community. Their results have been largely positive, creating an inclusive public realm in a space not generally known for its inclusivity.
In the end, new planning problems require innovative planning strategies: this much is obvious. The idea of adding an element of play, or making planning a fun and enjoyable task is a positive step towards engaging communities with the planning process, ensuring that it doesn’t remain a process that occurs in the offices of architects and civic politicians.