STUDIO

Voices shaping better spaces. STUDIO is a digital platform enabling social housing residents facing demolition and rebuilding of their homes to directly translate their voices into 3D shapes and a collective neighborhood vision. A model never achieved before, this platform brings an inclusive bottom-up resident-led approach to social housing planning.

Inclusive
STUDENTS INVOLVED
Kristof van der Fluit
Magdalena Bravo Flores
Deepu James
ABOUT
Self-directed
Future of Digital Identity & Place
How might we harness digital platforms to address social inequalities through digital identities and our relationship with 'place'? To what extent can ‘digital narratives’ mediate physical space? (Some examples of this: Pokemon-Go!, Google Maps). How far does uneven representation & power inequality reverberate back into 'place' and shape how we understand ourselves and physical 'place'? We are living in a new world where data is power and automation can be used for neighborhood masterplanning (Delve, Sidewalks Lab); how can we understand what the consequences are for people? It is our role as designers to include diverse voices and show what is 'fair'; expectation is set upon us to deisgn worlds we can create through reshaping our futures. Service Design has potential to design-in people’s voices, design for more equitable societies and bring forward a set of needs and principles that can sustain us into the future.
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OUR APPROACH: DESIGNING A VISION THROUGH SPECULATION

Our brief led us to collaborate with council estates as they are highly contested areas in our cities, where many residents feel their voices are not heard. On top of that, more than 100 council estates are at risk of being demolished in "regeneration” processes across multiple London boroughs. So we asked the question: how can we leverage digital platforms to enhance council estate residents' voices during "regeneration" projects?In approaching this question, we set three main principles as our ethos: design for 'fuzzy futures' and open up new pathways for practitioners; be optimistic in the way technology could be leveraged and raise previously unheard voices in society.With these principles in mind, we wanted to create a project that sparked debate around social housing, the potential of digital platforms and created shifts in the public psyche.

SETTING THE STAGE - TOP DOWN CITY PLANNING TEARING THE SOCIAL FABRIC

In our project we conducted user research online and in-person to understand residents' experience of council estate 'regeneration'. From this we made four insights. First, consultation systems are designed to confirm existing council visions: residents have high expectations at the beginning of the process, but later on they feel excluded from the vision of the new development and think council ideas are imposed upon them.Second, there is power asymmetry. The council has a paternal power position over the residents as it is the benefit provider, planner, developer and regulator. Third, residents' frustration on their council pushing its own agenda which cause sentiments of anti-participatory attitudes. Lastly, there is a large non-measured and overlooked community value created at the site of a council estate (economical, social and psychological). From these findings, we decided to focus on the stage where the problem begins, the 'vision' stage.

STUDIO: DEMOCRATIC DESIGN TOOL - TRANSLATING VOICE INTO 3D SHAPE

Studio is a democratic design tool facilitating council estate residents in their struggle to voice their unheard ideas in shaping the vision of their future council estate. Studio is a near-future service provocation; a digital tool designed to translate voices directly into visual shape and form, supported by future technologies and advancements in AI, such as Natural Language Processing and Generative Design (examples are: GPT-3 by OpenAI, Finch3D). Studio is facilitating a bottom-up approach to council estate development. It is positioned at a pre-envisioning stage and avoids the current interpretation gap between residents, architects, planners and the council in creating masterplans. The council inputs project requirements from the outset, and guided through the tool and platform, residents create visions within those constraints. This enables transition away from a top-down imposition toward a bottom-up resident-led approach.

IMPACT & REFLECTION

Studio has potential to impact residents' lives at different scales: individual, communal and societal. 1) Individual - Studio allows self-representation, which boosts self-esteem and sense of identity. 2) Communal - Studio provides increased agency in local communities and an enhanced sense of belonging as communities are empowered to make decisions in collaboration. 3) Societal - Studio creates a deep sense of equality as citizens' voices are equitably heard, interpreted and enacted upon. It also builds on an augmented sense of democracy, upon a system that allows direct and transparent participation. The platform recognises and enhances social value as a critical aspect to be looked after by society. In this proposed future, council estate residents and neighbors direct visioning stages of development projects. We envision scenarios dispelling the false idea of 'regeneration', and instead moving towards continuous sustainable development of neighbourhoods in shorter life-cycles; this is empowered by digital platforms.

AN INCLUSIVE RESIDENT-LED EXPERIENCE TOWARDS COLLECTIVE VISIONING

A key unique feature of Studio is the ability to give residents the experience of voicing their own thoughts in their own languages at their own time. This is in contrast to current consultation experiences, where consultation workshops are not suited to residents’ own personal schedules and they are discouraged to participate because of language and accessibility barriers. By opening up the process to those silent voices, we can concretely visualising ideas in real-time and allow more residents to participate than ever before. Our service invites a higher quality degree of participation. -prototyping and co-design sessions led to the design of this experience, highlighting key aspects: 1) Make available the tool to residents and neighbors2) Hosting critical discussions and including constraints to guide conversational designing effectively3) Including offline touchpoints4) Assistance in automatically generating documentation to act as source of authority among stakeholders.

special thanks
INTERESTED IN TALKING TO THE DESIGNERS OF THIS PROJECT?