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Toolkit: CRASH COURSE in design and urban development
2. December 2016
What do urban development and strategic design methods have to do with each other, and how can the latter be used to build better cities? That is the question that the Danish Design Centre put to 45 international leading designers and decision-makers, who took part in a crash course in urban development at the big CityLab conference in Miami in October this year. Here, we share our design method toolkit from the conference, which holds useful approaches for developing cities around the world.
citylab workshop
City Lab
The Danish Design Cent if preparing the workshop for this years CityLab conference. For the 4th year in a row mayors, city developers, business' and practitioners gather for two days to explore trends within city development.

 

Citylab is an annually recurring conference organised by the American company Bloomberg (led by the former mayor New York Michael Bloomberg) in cooperation with the media corporation The Atlantic, which also publishes the eponymous leading online magazine for urban development. Each year, the conference is held in a new city, with New York and London on the list of previous venues. This year, the event took place in Miami, Florida.

The Danish Design Centre had received a special invitation to the conference and contributed with a workshop titled ’Crash Course: How to use Danish-style design in city management’, where the Danish Design Centre’s Runa Sabroe, Christian Villum and Monica Moeskjær introduced a capacity audience of mayors, urban developers, architects and companies to the use of strategic design and design methods aimed at creating radically different and much more future-proof ways of developing tomorrow’s cities.

The 75-minute urban development crash course introduced the audience to the steps that make up a design-driven development process. To provide a real-life context, the crash course was based a specific case: an ongoing development project in Denmark, where the City of Odense works with two design agencies to develop a new concept for a key venue in the city: the community centre Borgernes Hus (The Citizens’ House), situated in extension of the city’s train station. The project rethinks this public building to embrace and welcome local citizens, companies, municipal services, a library and a volunteer centre as a central hub for the city.

City Lab
A design-driven development process involves three phases, which can be reiterated as new urban solutions take shape and move from abstract intentions to tangible urban solutions.

Grasping the context
Step one in a design-driven urban development process is a research phase where design anthropologists document and map how people move through and experience the city. Naturally, the crash course format and time frame did not allow for field work. Instead, the participants worked with archetypes in the form of so-called personas. This technique offers an effective device for keeping a clear focus on the user angle and reminding the participants that their task is to develop solutions that match the individual needs of local residents and companies. The method translates in-depth and complex knowledge about the users into concrete solutions, conveyed in simple and comprehensible terms. The crash course participants were asked to pick one user type from a list we had defined ahead of time: a young family, a tourist, an elderly person, a young start-up company or the volunteer sector. We gave the participants the following assignment: pick the persona you find most interesting and design the building to meet their needs.

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Personas
City Lab
After brainstorming ideas for the content of the new venue the participants group related ideas into clusters. To qualify, an idea has to be specific and offer a solution to the needs represented by the user group.

Generating new ideas
Each persona was described to represent a specific need to be met in order to make the building attractive to that particular user group. In addition, the personas led directly to the next step: idea generation.

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Brainstorm
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Headlines
City Lab
After brainstorming ideas for the content of the new venue the participants group related ideas into clusters. To qualify, an idea has to be specific and offer a solution to the needs represented by the user group.

Experimenting with new solutions
Next, the participants were to develop a concrete outline of the elements that the venue would need to contain in order to be attractive to the selected user group. This produced a number of desk-top versions of a prototype. The point of prototyping is to test potential future scenarios. This offers a quick way to achieve learning and develop the prospective solution in relation to the real-life usage situation. In this case, the participants’ prototypes were developed with the aid of a set of facilitating tools: a floor plan of the building, building blocks, persons, speech bubbles and icons on stickers; components that the participants were free to interpret and use as elements in their proposed solutions.

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Desk-top prototypes
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Icons
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File for laser cutting

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