Visual literacy and environmental evaluation : a programme for the participation of community groups in design
Involving community groups in the design processes concerning their city or neighbourhood, might play a constructive role in creating responsive environments and, as a result, achieve a higher level of satisfaction for communities. The interaction between clients and professionals is the means to achieve such an involvement and carry out the resolution of disputes at the design stage rather than once actions have been taken. Effective interaction must guarantee that the different roles and expertise of clients and professionals can significantly contribute to the assessment of the design settings, to the definition of goals and to their achievement. Research has demonstrated that environmental meanings - and the related evaluative responses - are significant to people, to their attachment to places and their behaviour; moreover, it has been shown that a general shared consensus on peoples' appreciation of their environment exists. On this basis, the thesis supports the idea of a form of participation based on research in environmental experience in relation to the built environment. The strategy proposed uses, as inputs of design, a structured combination of methods for the analysis of environmental experience, of the visual qualities of the physical environment, their effects on perception, evaluation and acceptance, as well as of the factors that play a role in such experience. In parallel, the strategy enables the training of visual literacy and joins information and communication to stimulate community groups and professionals to develop together observational and analytical skills, and make their collaboration increasingly efficient. The intent of the study is to establish a way to do participatory design that will increase the quality and quantity of communities' engagement in issues concerning their area, reinforce their identity, improve their understanding of the context, structure and synergies, and strengthen their role in actions of urban renewal.