Architecture and Public Engagement
Often times the public believes they may not have a say in the look and feel of the buildings or public spaces built in their neighborhoods. It's as if the architect, from afar, has decreed a certain building typology and it will look the way the architect imagines it.
There are ways for the public to become involved in the design process.
Sometimes architectural projects require design presentations to the local community board or the Landmarks Preservation Commission for approval. Those meetings are more often than not open to the public and invite public comments. Recently, as a concerned citizen, I've been getting a bit more involved in the design and approvals for local projects.
My local city council district (Bay Ridge, Brooklyn) participates in a relatively new phenomenon for NYC called Participatory Budgeting. This is where residents can have a direct say in how a million dollars is spent in their district. Residents can nominate ideas, join a committee to vet the ideas, and finally rally the community and vote on them. Anyone can have a direct impact on how their taxes are used in a manner most impactful to them.
Additionally, I attended a visioning session for a new public space and streetscape project in an adjacent neighborhood. The project is for a new pedestrian plaza, public amenities, and other landscaping elements for the ongoing revitalization of Bush Terminal in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
Brooklyn Army Terminal
A visioning session is an interesting concept, one that we employ often in the architectural and design industry. It is an opportunity for brain storming ideas and getting the creative juices flowing. Architects and designers hold these sessions to solicit ideas and get feedback from their clients, or in this recent case, get the park going public. We post a series of different precedents and images and ask the clients/public for their input. What are their thoughts, reactions, and feelings? It can be both positive and negative. The objective is for the designer to get real world feedback and base their design on actual input from the likely end users of the project.
There are many ways the built environment can impact you, and there are as many ways for you, the public, to inform or shape the built environment. Most architects and designers don't want to design in a bubble; they want to hear from the actual users of the new offices or parks.
Make your voices heard!