Placemaking Projects in Rural Palestine
- Inclusive Design
- UN Habitat Palestine
- International Peace and Co-operation Centre
A placemaking/urban design collaboration between the UN, IPCC, Inclusive Design and the communities in a number of rural Palestinian communities. The project responded to an agenda set by the community and collaboratively selected sites and designed interventions that “got them the best bang for their buck” and facilitated them to meet their own needs. Outputs included surveys of the social landscape, proposals for the four villages and a toolkit to facilitate further work but perhaps most importantly the outcome was a changed view of what people could do and an improved sense of self determination and resilience in the communities.
Excellence was demonstrated in the process and the product. The project set the standard for inclusive design processes, bringing in many previously marginalised/overlooked people into the urban design process, it did this by following a logical process, being transparent, respectful, and looking at everything through the eyes of the communities. The products were simple and designed to effectively use the local palette of materials and range of local skills to be implementable and relevant to the communities.
The project was designed to inspire: it was demonstrably empowering, nurturing the bonds of community and creating places that support local people to meet the challenges life throws at them. This was achieved by taking great care to build trust: each step was collaborative and reported back. The process was logical and transparent and applying my design skill to an agenda they set to arrive at designs that could be built with local skills and materials.
The designs were drawn up to be “funder friendly” and make a defendable, compelling case for support.
The changes this project brought were as much in people’s hearts and minds as on the ground: the communities involved in the first tranche now see design as not just important but a critical part of their wellbeing and they have a sense of ownership of the plans for their area. It sets a new benchmark for international aid agencies in Palestine that have come to recognise the importance of urban design and placemaking through this project.
The designs were informed as much by the social landscape as the physical one. As such the outputs, reflecting not just my design skills but those of my colleagues at the UN, the IPCC and the communities themselves were an excellent fit for the needs and values of the communities.
The plans were backed up by a placemaking toolkit that was designed to demystify the process, allow the community and professionals to have a shared understanding of expectations and critically analyse emerging ideas. At its heart this is profoundly democratic and moves urban design from the realm of aesthetes to something that is demonstrably important and accessible for everyone.
The project was designed to walk the fine line of respecting the traditional patriarchal community structure in many traditional communities whilst empowering women and children to participate. This took considerable tact and diplomacy but the extent to which it was achieved is to my mind one of the most important aspects of this collaboration.