Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Who Knows Best? Participatory Design with Tenants in Wellington City Council's Housing Upgrade Programme

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posted on 2021-11-12, 20:16 authored by Leckie, Nick

Public participation is the cornerstone of a democratic society and it presents very specific challenges in relation to development projects. This thesis explores participatory design - the important interface between the design of a physical project and the people who are affected by it - in reference to Wellington City Council’s (WCC’s) upgrading of social housing. It asks ‘is there scope for widening tenant participation in the Housing Upgrade Programme?’  A literature review establishes a loose definition of participation based on seven principles: approaches to participation are diverse; often ‘under-done’; cannot be neatly packaged or predicted and therefore cut across professional boundaries; engage power relations; and they tend to cultivate choice in outcomes and bring into being a collective intelligence.  From here the study engages action research techniques and case study analysis to further understanding of participatory processes. A comparative analysis of WCC’s current participatory approach and that of an Architecture Sans Frontieres participatory design workshop on slum upgrading in Nairobi, Kenya is conducted which reveals room for extension in WCC’s current approach and finds the Kenya workshop process exemplary. ‘A design experiment’ is then carried out which conducts some participatory exercises at a WCC housing site - Te Ara Hou apartments in Newtown, Wellington. These exercises contribute to a modest design proposal of additional housing units and a retrofitted community space for Te Ara Hou.  All preceding steps then inform what is the ultimate outcome of the study; a set of eight generic principles to inform best-practice participatory process. These principles are then used to evaluate three cases which demonstrates how they might be applied in practice. These three cases evaluated are WCC’s existing approach, the ASF workshop approach and a proposed approach for WCC. The third case makes suggestions around how WCC could develop their participatory approach. Ultimately, the thesis finds that there is scope for widening tenant participation in the Housing Upgrade Programme, and the eight principles offer suggestions around how that might be done.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Master of Architecture (Professional)

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


McDonald, Chris