In Search of a Polyphony: A Young Person-Influenced Architecture and Planning Process for Wellington
The focus of this research is to broaden the scope of who can participate in discussions centred around future urban housing, whilst also creating tools for participants to develop an understanding of the factors at play. Young people are one of the most active and pivotal groups in urban centres, yet their voice and participation is limited by two major factors; the way they are expected to engage, and a knowledge gap which prevents a truly equitable freedom of expression. The recent results of the Wellington City Council Planning for Growth submission phase highlighted this under-utilised voice from young people when compared to the percentage of the population they represent.
Horschelmann & Van Blerk say: “[Young people] are ‘designed out’ of many urban spaces… and excluded from adult-dominated spaces, cities are intricately shaped by the presence and practices of young people” (2013, p. 2), which already gears our planning systems away from a fully-encompassing human-centric process of design.
Developing a set of design-based tools, curated for maximum engagement from young people, allows for a greater scope and inclusion of younger citizens in complex discussions centred around future housing. The implementation of these tools affords city planners and stakeholders the option to prepare the young people in their city for engagement with a broader worldview and a future-focused outlook on how to improve their city for tomorrow.
The Wellington City Council say: “young people…are the future of our city. [Young people] are diverse, youthful, creative and talented… [and] are motivated by the challenges facing the city...” (2021a, p. 4).
Current urban design practice needs tools and processes to create dialogue with young people about design processes that engage and equip young people into meaningful action. This research looks to introduce tools that bridge the gap between design professionals, and the young people they are designing to serve. This investigation does not seek to replace the design professional, but instead seeks to raise the design-IQ of young people to better be able to communicate about those factors that matter to them.