Participatory Design and Public Space: Catalysts for Community Development. A Case Study in Barrio Grenada

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Vander Klok, Jordan
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University of Guelph

Participatory design is often linked to community development, but studies seldom explore the ongoing effects the built design can have on a community. This study examined whether a participatory design process and the resulting public space acted as catalysts of community development. A case study was conducted in Barrio Grenada, Nicaragua, where a park was designed and built with community participation in 2010. The study explored participation in the design process, use of the park, and perceptions of subsequent development in Barrio Grenada. Data was gathered through semi-structured interviews of external agents and local residents who participated in the park design and construction. Results suggest the design process and park each catalyzed development in distinct ways. Contacts made through the design process aided infrastructure development through financial and logistical support, while use of the park enabled social development through increased communication among neighbours, and recreation opportunities for children and youth.

participatory design, public space, park, community development, Nicaragua, social capital