<< Participatory consultation >>The sensory landscape of a city plays an important role in developing local attachments not only for those whose ancestors have lived there but for migrants, tourists and visitors alike. While most urban transformation schemes involve an open process of consultation, the sensory qualities of places are often not addressed in this process despite being central in mediating a sense of place. An emphasis on participatory sensory consultation provides a common-sense vocabulary, knowledge and expertise for citizens to be engaged in place-making processes.
i. Consultation and post-evaluation:
While pre-consultation takes place in urban transformation schemes a post-evaluation scheme (an assessment of how physical changes have been integrated, changed or disrupted use, attachments, economy or functions of places) does not usually take place in redevelopment schemes. We suggest that planning policy needs to integrate a post-evaluation assessment. Here are a few suggestions of how and why:
After a brief initial discussion, we decided that in order to explore the sensory experience of space for locals we would, in fact, avoid the most obvious method: cold interviewing strangers and asking them about their experience. This decision was based, partly, on previous workshop exercises in Cologne and London during which we had noted ‘the public’s’ general unwillingness, and general inability, to quickly reflect and summarise their relationship with their immediate sensory environs. We also had the advantage of having two members of the group who were either local, or had a lot of knowledge about the social life, culture, geography and politics of the locale.
In response to the perceived difficulty of generating conscious reflection on low-level sensory ambience amongst total strangers, we decided to select four locations and reflect on our own relative positions to the locale, moving between the experience of a Raval local, locals from elsewhere in Barcelona, and an outsider ‘tourist’. The aim was to focus specifically on the experiences that seemed to emerge from, and speak back to, these positions. The main aspiration was that ‘outsiders’ would, given their removal from their familiar sensory environs, notice things that locals wouldn’t at first remark upon. At the same time, locals would be able to account for the ways in which local ‘knowledge’ and situatedness shaped the experience of these sensoria.
The group chose to consciously reflect on their interdisciplinary set up by having each researcher observe the same place for 30 minutes by walking around the space. They then met to compare their observations: the disciplinary training informed very different observations of the same place revealing how our disciplinary training shapes how we sense. Agreements and disagreements came up which helped to problematise the subjective positioning of the researcher. This highlights the importance of a) group work; b) the need for interdisciplinarity when researching the senses and c) reflexibity. The researchers’ observations then fed into shaping an interview schedule in which 5 questions are asked to the diversity of users of space from the more general to the more evocative.
> Links to talks/literature:
Here are some talks that reflect on different aspects of planning and consultation processes.
Euan Mills (Urban Designer, GLA, Research leader for Mayors Design Advisory Group)
What Really Matters in Architecture
Anna Terra (Director of Foment Ciutat, SA) and Carmen Gual
Planning el Raval and the Senses
Maria Herrera (City of London)
Designing for the senses in the public realm
M.Degen & G. Rose (2012) The Sensory Experiencing of Urban Design: The Role of Walking and Perceptual Memory, in Urban Studies 49 (15), 3271-3287. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0042098012440463
ii. Communicating the senses in policy:
How can we find a vocabulary to express adequately the power and importance of the sensory for urban policy? The senses are central in mediating relationships between people and between people and environments. Buzz words in contemporary policy such as place-making, feel of place, atmosphere all indicate the importance of the sensory in framing our relationship to places. Spaces become places through our sensory engagements. The senses frame how we interact with ‘Others’ in the public sphere, sensory perceptions can built walls or foster engagement. Through a range of methods, pre- and post-evaluation of regeneration schemes suggested in this toolkit policy makers can start developing tools and mechanisms to integrate sensory evaluation into policy.
In Barcelona one fieldwork group focused on what type of sensory information and research would be useful to understand how to foster ‘social cohesion’ in the public spaces of this neighbourhood. Here is a summary of this process:
El Raval is a very mixed neighbourhood with locals, migrants, tourists and people from lower economic groups constantly mixing. Considering that Carrer Hospital is regarded as a ‘boundary’ between different communities our policy research task became: does the Carrer Hospital allow all its groups manifest/express themselves on C/Hospital, are there enough public spaces they can own? How can urban policy foster this engagement with public space?
> Links to talks/literature:
Isabel Finkenberger (Studio if+ .Büro für Stadtentwicklung und räumliche Transformation, Cologne)
Die Stadt von der anderen Seite sehen/ Seeing the ciy from a different side
Alex Rhys-Taylor (sociologist and deputy director of the Centre for Urban and Community Research, Goldsmiths, University of London)
Fried Chicken and Flat Whites: Olfactory Agents of Demographic Change
Mateu Hernandez (CEO of Barcelona Global – Branding)
Barcelona’s reputation and the senses
C. Landry (2012) The Sensory Landscape of Cities, Comedia. http://charleslandry.com/panel/wp-content/themes/twentyeleven/books/The-Sensory-Landscape.pdf