Georg Wolfgang Reinberg

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Reinberg, Housing, Participation, Planning






In our increasingly complex society a growing centralism tends to bring more and more decisions out of the control of the user. This is too often not to the advantage of the citizens whose desires are bypassed. This results in breakdowns in the processing involved in planning and an increasing demand for participatory democracy.

In this thesis a design process for housing is proposed which allows the users to participate and to deal with the existing power structure, in so far as it puts constraints on their homes. this design process is then translated into a game which could serve as a means for learning about and from such a design process. Elements of the game could serve for an actual design process, too.

We may approach this end by focusing on three issues: on the sociopolitical power structure by discussing participation at a theoretical, argumentative level; by focusing on the technological and organizational means by discussing case studies; and on the problem of communication by researching the qualities of games as a means for participation.

My discussion of participation indicates that the user has high abilities for contributing to a better design; moreover, that the individual household priorities are beyond the practical grasp of any central institution or organization. Even behavioral studies find their limits in evaluating the user's needs. However, that does not mean that if we let the users participate, then this solves the problem: participation is not just a new kind of design within the existing social- political system, rather it is a "categorical term for citizen power" (S. Arnstein 1975), and requires, therefore, a change in the status quo. Although this change might not always be achieved directly, the socialization process and new kind of social structures created by participation offers a chance for real change.

My comparison and evaluation of nine housing developments designed in conjunction with user participation indicated that no specific building technology for participation in housing exists. Rather, participation is dependent on the means for planning and organization. Furthermore, it is found that the level of participation depends less on a high flexibility than on the actual control and power of the users. A horizontal form of communication (between the users) is one of the most important things for participation.

My investigation into games shows that they have a high quality that enables the user to learn to participate and for actual participation.

As a result, the proposed participatory design process focuses on the expression of desires on a specific language, on the enlightenment of cause and effect relations in housing, and on the change in existing power structures. Such a design process should also make the dwellers acquainted with each other and make possible a design of a support structure which is biased in the specific needs of the housing community.

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Thesis Advisers: John A. Agnew, Kermit J. Lee, Michael M. Pollack, Daniel Rubenstein, Edward Steinfeld

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