Play as a design tool: co-designing shared community space

Langham, K.H (2020) Play as a design tool: co-designing shared community space. PhD thesis, Bath Spa University.


Every city, town, village and neighbourhood are home to shared community spaces, buildings and amenities that play a fundamentally important role in the lives of local people. Spaces such as parks, recreational areas and community buildings have significant social purpose and encourage integration. This research investigates community engagement in the consultation process. The study proposes that for the development of shared community spaces public consultation requires a shift to more collaborative approaches with the local people. A new method to build effective dialogue to encourage a shared understanding of places, their challenges and their potential is developed. A methodology is established that provides participatory design interaction between, and within, the local people and urban design professionals using play as a design tool. The Localism Act (2011) aimed to facilitate the devolution of decision making from central government to local councils and local communities. One of the measures within the Act was to consult local communities before submitting planning proposals (2011:13). The levels and methods of public consultation vary with the requirements of the project and despite the importance of engaging local communities, the success with which the local community is engaged varies greatly. This variation in the success of the public consultation process motivates this study to investigate the opportunity to develop a codesign framework that uses symbolic object play for co-creating shared community spaces, for use by architects, designers, consultation companies and local councils. Using three case studies this research explores how the nature of shared space allows a collaborative playful approach to successfully engage local communities in the design of their future environments. The case studies chosen are recreational, community spaces situated in the UK. Insights from these case studies, supported by the examination of existing research, investigate practical ways that the findings could be disseminated into a design framework for others to draw from. The conclusions of this research support a ‘Play as a Design Tool’ user guide and an animated illustration of the process. Presented as part of the PhD exhibition, the research practice delivers resources for the target users to efficiently support them to utilise the methodology, thereby inviting wider implementation of this new model for codeveloping shared community spaces.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)

This thesis was supervised by Dr Graham McLaren, Dr Mark McGuinness and Paul Minott.

Keywords: co-design, shared community space, community engagement, sociability, play, symbolic object play, participatory design, design and play, public consultation, creative practice
Divisions: Bath School of Design
Date Deposited: 06 Aug 2020 11:22
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2021 09:54
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