“Cityzen” participation and the challenges of top-down design
By Toby Bennett | Tue, May 21, 2019
4 min read
Photo by Kaique Rocha, Courtesy of www.pexel.com
As we know – cities are facing a crisis, a crisis of capacity. Rapid urbanisation and a growing global population will put a huge strain on both our social and civic infrastructure. I am going to try to unpack the reasons for this and potential solutions to what is an increasingly ubiquitous problem. Spoiler alert – participation is key.
As cities are inherently interconnected places – people gravitate to them for that very reason – you would imagine this collaboration would be inevitable, but for some reason with all of their connectivity they lack participation. People are attracted to the interconnectedness but rarely engage with how their cities are built, how they function, or how decisions are made about the shared fabric of our communities. I find this is extraordinary, given how the built environment impacts on daily lives.
Are people simply unwilling to contribute to how civic infrastructure is built? It’s not that people don’t care – we see on a daily basis through mediums like Twitter or Facebook that citizens want places and transport that work for them. You can see it from anything like “Bank Station is like a labyrinth, why do I change there?” to “The Central Line is like a salty sauna today. See it, say it, sort it out TFL”. We see socially-charged chatter about skyscrapers, rebuked Garden Bridges, and poorly-built estates. These aren’t meaningless mutterings, they’re echoes of people’s civic experience.