Prototypes as open-ended artefacts in urban design

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When dealing with the quality of an urban space the criticism sets, almost without exemption, the end product of the urban design process as the main object of judgment. However, the product of urban design, in contrast to other consumer products, is more than a cohesive product of aesthetics and function. On the contrary, the design of space is a complex system of multiple individual products (open spaces, buildings etc.), each one with its own functions and needs. Moreover, due to the fact that each one of these individual products follows a unique path of development through time, it appears that the orchestration of this multitude of individual activities is difficult to accomplish. Following the reasoning mentioned above, it becomes clear that the shaping of physical space is rarely under the full control of the designer and that most of the times the formulation of a physical space becomes the design of an overall framework of development. The latter highlights the importance to consider urban design not only as an object of design, but more importantly as a process of design. If we assume that participatory design, self-organizing, user-centered design and open-source design are considered to be bottom-up processes, the hypothesis here is that open-ended design is a process that can either be initiated as a top-down or a bottom-up approach, but nevertheless, requires the participation of more than one person, in order to be successful. This implies that a set of rules must be negotiated and tested among all the actors participating in the process for any open-ended project to be implemented.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Spaces of Dialog for Places of Dignity, Lisbon, 11-14th July, 2017
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