Community architecture : an evaluation of the case for user participation in architectural design
Examination of the literature about Community Architecture suggested that, while there is no commonly accepted definition, the term signifies the recognition, among some sections of the architectural profession, of a demand from the public to play a larger part in shaping the environment. Central to this is a belief that user participation in architectural design will lead to buildings that will be more satisfactory for their occupants. Such a claim is widely made, despite the absence of empirical evidence to support it. Thus the study was concerned with testing the proposition that, if user clients participate in the design and development process, in building projects, there will be greater satisfaction with the completed buildings and environment than in projects where there has been no user participation. User clients, here, are taken to mean organisations of people who will occupy the buildings they have commissioned. The levels of tenant satisfaction, in three housing co-operative projects, were measured and compared with the levels of satisfaction found in a previous study of local authority housing, in England and Wales. While, high levels of satisfaction with the three Case Study projects were found, these were not higher than the more successful non-participatory schemes and, when combined with other data, it was concluded that not enough evidence, to support the proposition had been found. Furthermore, it was not clear whether the levels of satisfaction in the Case Studies were a result of user participation in design or related to other factors. Three further issues were examined, which give some explanation of these results. These were propositions that the levels of satisfaction were related to (i) the quality of the built product, (ii) the degree to which the participants were involved and the architect, thus able to better interpret their requirements and (iii) the influence of management and control which the user clients had over the projects in general. This revealed that user influence on the product was very limited, that there were many unsolved problems in involving the participants in the design process and that issues of control and management were more significant than the role of design participation in affecting the satisfaction of the occupants.