The Future of Urban Planning is Collaborative

How Co-Design is Transforming City Building

Gone are the days of a small group of experts dictating the future of our cities. The traditional top-down approach to urban planning is challenged by a new, more inclusive approach: co-design. 

Co-design is a collaborative framework used in the public sector that brings urban planners, designers, and community members together to develop a shared vision for the future of a project.  This approach recognizes the valuable contributions that community members bring to the table, and puts people at the center of the design process. When people are at the center of the design process, a more egalitarian, inclusive, and sustainable city is the result.

Co-design can lead to game-changing solutions. Working together with the community, people help designers and planners better understand their particular needs and goals, which leads to creative solutions that would only be possible with their participation. Also, when people have a voice in the process, they are more inclined to support the final result, which boosts community buy-in.

The success of co-design is evident. Melbourne residents worked with the city to upgrade their pier in Saint Kilda, with the community involved in many areas of the process. The result? A popular gathering place for the community includes a new penguin viewing boardwalk and a curved design with a wider and more accessible walkway, tiered seating, additional toilets, and a new community space near the kiosk.

Jessica Cronstein, NYC DOT, collaborated with neighborhood residents and local institutions like schools to turn a busy intersection in Jackson Heights into a series of pedestrian plazas and traffic-restricted zones. The outcome? The development of the Open Street has improved the neighborhood’s safety for nearby schoolchildren, increased the area available for outdoor recreation, and acted as a hub for community interaction and programming. The success of the 34th Avenue Open Street is a great community-led exercise in seeing what is possible when city officials collaborate with the community.

Co-design’s benefits are clear: producing more original and imaginative solutions, substantial community support, and a deeper comprehension of a community’s particular needs and aspirations. Co-design will become more crucial as the discipline of urban planning develops as it does in determining the form that future cities will take.

The urban planning revolution is a shift from the traditional top-down approach to a more inclusive, participatory approach. The future of city building is here, and co-design is leading the way. By bringing together the perspectives and expertise of community members, urban planners, and designers, co-design enables the creation of more creative, equitable, and sustainable solutions. It is time to disrupt traditional urban planning and embrace co-design as a vital tool for shaping the cities of tomorrow.

Interested in learning more about how co-design can help your practice?  Join us on March 8th for a conversation about The Importance of Public ParticipationRSVP here.

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