"Re-imagination of Siping”: Community Design Workshops Kicked off

According to the Seminar on Shanghai Community Planning held in February 2015, “Currently, the central urban area of Shanghai is still faced with a series of problems such as scarcity of land for construction, backwardness of infrastructure, and insufficiency of community attachment, despite the completion of full-coverage zoning of community units.” As can be seen from the National New-type Urbanization Plan 2014-2020, the focus of today’s social development has shifted from the production and reproduction of material objects to sustainable upgrading and reorganization, and improvement of life quality. Public space of a community, where people’s day-to-day life takes place, is directly used by each and every resident. Therefore, design inspiration can stem from observaing residents’ demands, preferences and desires in the first place.

The environmental design course offered by Tongji University College of Design and Innovation (D&I) for senior undergraduates inquires into physical space as well as urban community in the cultural and sociological sense. The course encourages students to conduct community survey to identify the problems in public space, and create various design touch points in pursuit of solutions. The course aims to help students to understand how design interventions can make greater contribution in diversified societal contexts, and how it can intensify community’s physical attributes and space experience and facilitate social innovation.

The course established connection to the Republic of Colombia in South America, through which Diego Cuadros Rojas, one of the founders of “100 in 1 Day”, shared with students his ideas of design interventions and his experience in engaging local residents in public life. In addition, by virtue of the project “Open Your Space: Design Interventions in Siping Community”, students are encouraged to use their creative design thinking to bring about immediate and positive changes to Siping community, so as to respond to the real challenges. It is expected this project can provide a demonstrative basis for design interventions, and build public space in Siping Community, through enhancing residents’ participation in community construction, into place boasting the blending of function and fun as well as the coexistence of old and new resources.

 On 30 October 2015, D&I students, together with Siping Community residents of all age groups took part in two “Design and Community” workshops carried out at Tongji University Sino-Finish Centre. Based on the conception that “Everyone is an integral part of the community”, the workshops aimed to use design thinking to probe into residents’ daily lives, to map the distribution of “positive” and “negative” public within local area and look for solutions. Users’ (Residents’) participation in design workshops was more than a warm-up for the project per se; it also provided the groundwork for collaborative construction afterwards.

 The workshops lasted for more than two hours, wherein residents from Siping Community passionately talked about the “drawbacks” in the use of public space. Meanwhile, students informed residents with their survey outcomes and preliminary ideas, and asked residents for feedback. Community participation will be applied to the future implementation of the project. D&I will explore more channels for residents’ participation, such as developing a platform for them to express their views and share their skills, to ensure the changing of Siping Community public space can meet residents’ true needs.



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