The First Space at Brøset A Practical Investigation into Participation, Sustainability and Design Processes
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The First Space at Brøset: A Practical Investigation into Participation, Sustainability and Design Processes This research led to the design, construction and use of a new public space, called the ‘First Space’. The project was realised through ‘research through/ by design’ practices, which investigated sustainable living and participation live onsite. The project was developed in relation to a proposed sustainable housing development called Brøset. The new suburb at Brøset hopes to become a model sustainable neighbourhood, where anyone can live easily. In turn, the aspiration is that an educated, engaged and empowered community will be more likely to both want and to implement change at a day to day level, than people who feel that they have no say in matters. In response the larger strategic vision for the site, this research sought to engage in participatory community activities. The issue of participation is not necessarily as simple as one might first assume. Its intentions and scope have evolved over the years. Early theories had strong teleological impulses, whereas in more recent times, participation has been viewed, not primarily as a means to an end, but as a method of developing social exchange and learning how to inhabit the world in a different way. The First Space project demonstrated how participation could be fairly informal and noncommittal. Participation was used as a means of developing ideas in a real life situation, with a view to developing social exchange through design practices. Taking influence from ‘relational aesthetics’, the project used participation to explore relationships in context onsite. The study set out to determine whether architectural practice-led research could be used to develop ideas about participation and sustainable living both in theory and in practice. In order for the study to be both relevant and current, the local history was investigated, alongside current trends in built participation projects. A live test site was developed as an open public participation framework using primarily design practice-led methods. The design process sought to frame the issues of sustainability and participation in a way which was accessible at a number of levels.