(a) Rangatahi Project: an exploration of architects and rangatahi collaborating in the design of spaces in order to activate youth agency
Today’s rangatahi (youth) have exhibited a great capacity to address social and environmental issues and propose solutions toward the future of people and the environments we live in. Although society claims to value the wellbeing of rangatahi, there seems to be very marginal space for the voices of youth to be heard. The aim of this project is to explore design processes that redistribute power and agency between architects and rangatahi in a manner that is not extractive, but mutually beneficial. It asks how we can do this in a democratic way; moreover, it explores how to do it in the midst of unprecedented global challenges. With my co-researcher Ellie Tuckey, we concurrently explore our research agendas through our individual conceptual frameworks. My focus is on the agency of rangatahi in the design process and the evolving role that architects have to play in the awhi (care) of this agency. With an emphasis on decolonisation and agency, this thesis takes a methodology inspired by generative design research and cooperative inquiry. This is applied to collaboration with rangatahi at the front end of design processes, fostering collaborative processes that lead to collaborative outcomes. We have undertaken three real-life community ‘incubator’ projects, which explore how spatial understanding can occur earlier in the design process with the aid of immersive tools. Our approach began by first acknowledging rangatahi as experts in their own right, just as architects are experts in spatial design. This thesis explores how communication can be enriched, with a particular focus on collaboration and co-opting emerging design tools such as computer game simulations, virtual reality and video media. This multimedia body of work culminates in an individual thesis, with a collaborative contribution of A Mana ki te Mana Process - one way of engaging with rangatahi through a decolonised lens.