Designing for culturally-diverse communities. The role of collaborative, interdisciplinary design-led research
Successful design for culturally-diverse communities hinges on a nuanced understanding of the cultural environment; building trusting relationships and fostering a respectful approach to community. This paper discusses the application of design-led research with a participatory mind-set and maintains that while a collaborative, interdisciplinary participatory design process is essential, a design-led research approach is particularly valuable. Blurring the boundaries between disciplines brings the users to the forefront of design as active co-creators, sharing ideas, tools and methods. It examines two projects – a Tokelau / Pasifika cultural museum exhibition involving museum curators, architects, interior designers, photographers and local community members; and a Māori landscape regeneration project in the Wairarapa region of Wellington – wherein the designers (in this case the students) took the role of facilitator rather than providing a hierarchical and potentially adversarial approach to community design decision-making. The research project was framed around three critical stages: design analysis (holistic context), design exploration and testing (exploring design scenarios), and design synthesis (agreed plan or direction). It finds that participatory design when performed correctly can increase the capacity for community engagement; provide substantial benefits to the design outcomes; and beneficially exploit the process of design-led research. In addition to the community benefits, this interdisciplinary and collaborative research process can create new opportunities for architectural design education as it educates students as world citizens. As such it has the potential to transform architectural practice.
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