The public space designed with participatory methods in Gökçeada is implemented as a community hub

September 30, 2021

Open Space Gökçeada, which aims to ensure the active participation of Gökçeada residents and local communities in decision-making processes for urban life in public space through participatory design and collaborative learning methods, utilizes placemaking practices with innovative methods.

With the Open Space Gökçeada Project, UNDP Turkey Accelerator Lab aims to create a community hub with participatory design processes and a multi-partner learning experience that supports resilience and sustainability in urban life by using placemaking methods.

Open Space Gökçeada, which aims to ensure the active participation of Gökçeada residents and local communities in decision-making processes for urban life in public space through participatory design and collaborative learning methods, utilizes placemaking practices with innovative methods.

Instead of presenting a definite and unchanging, “finished” public space design, an editable modular design that responds to the daily needs of the residents of the island and provides space for different social activities were designed together with the residents of Gökçeada to create a living and dynamic community hub.

Immediately after the participatory design phase that started in March 2021, the implementation phase started with the active participation of the residents of Gökçeada in September 2021. Participatory design methods for the public space which is the first phase of the project, were carried in collaboration by the UNDP Accelerator Lab, Marmara Union of Municipalities, Japan Innovation Network, Sotonoba and Gökçeada Municipality.

Digital tools were used in all workshops, sessions and participatory decision-making processes. Designed during the pandemic, these digital tools were created to respond to various needs. During the implementation of the design in Gökçeada, the Architecture for All Team joined the local partners at the field.

Public Space Design with Participatory Methods | Open Space Gökçeada, carried out by UNDP Turkey Accelerator Lab, within the scope of Sustainable Development Goal 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) and Sustainable Development Goal 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), focuses on creating a community hub that provides multiple benefits by allowing flexible spaces and uses.

Residents will be able to use this green area covered with trees as they wish. To illustrate, they will be able to set up an open-air cinema, organize painting workshops or do yoga. In this space, instead of fixed benches, there will be modules that can be moved around, where residents can sit side by side and arrange as they wish. There will also be a safe and natural playground for children.

“Public spaces encourage collectivism, action, spectacle and discourse creation through interaction. In an age of crises, urban resilience is one of the topics we discuss most and experience with the pandemic, which encourages us to be more creative and innovative today.” UNDP Turkey Accelerator Lab Head of Solutions Mapping Gülşah Eker said and added “In this respect, Open Space Gökçeada is a polyphonic learning experience at the transnational level, especially for local actors. It is valuable that for the first time in Turkey, an online and transnational participatory design practice is being carried out.”

“Public spaces are our most important meeting places in cities. Thanks to these places, we come together, get to know each other and understand one another better. Community hubs, on the other hand, are the most basic necessity of a healthy life in all its dimensions, and the pandemic has shown this to us once again.” said Görsev Argın, Education Manager and Project Coordinator of the Marmara Municipalities Union, and continued her words as follows: “Open Space Gökçeada, not only because it will reveal such a community hub, but also by handling it with a participatory placemaking method, will help the residents of the island in challenging pandemic conditions. It is also very important as it brings together both national and international partners and offers an innovative practice experience in this regard.”

The project consists of two main phases: 'Participatory Design' and 'Participatory Implementation'. In the participatory design process, which is the first stage, workshops involving placemaking practices were held with the participation of a total of 150 people, including 4 different groups, children, youth and adults from Gökçeada, supported by educators. The main purpose of the workshops is to create an interactive space for ideas, needs and suggestions about the space by using the tools that each user can express themselves in the best way. While age-appropriate paints, modelling materials and maps were used for children in the workshops, structured thinking and discussion areas were designed for adults. The concept, which emerged at the end of the design phase, took its final form in line with the demands of the participants and was later approved by the municipality.

After this process, the implementation processes in the site started under the guidance of the Architecture for All team. One of the most valuable contributions of the participatory implementation phase is to repurpose waste materials in Gökçeada during the construction of design elements. At this stage, a community space was created to gather under design-making workshops where volunteers from the residents of the island can participate in decision-making. Whereas, craftsmen who produce local values such as stonework, and citizens can contribute to the construction of Rotunda, which is the basic structure of design and a circular structure unique to Japanese architecture. This space, moderated by the municipality and the Architecture for All team, provides a suitable setting for sessions and conversations to be held where islanders can come together and discuss site-specific issues.

The implementation of the concept design with participatory methods is the most important requirement for the sustainability and ownership status of the space. The participatory implementation phase is expected to end in November 2021.

Open Space Gökçeada will take part in the “Community knows better: Innovative ways of space and policy design” session on 2 October, within the scope of MARUF 2021.

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