A Visual Handbook for Inclusive Cities
Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts. Separated they live in Bookmarksgrove right at the coast.
Dec 2019 - Jan 2020
Selina Abraham (Urban Empact)
Stimuleringsfonds, Veldacademie, Nomanos, Architecture Institute Rotterdam

The project ‘A Visual Handbook for Value-driven Inclusive urbanism’, was a design experiment sought to produce a practical handbook that helps users adopt a value-driven methodology for designing cities. This included developing a research method, graphic design and conducting cocreation workshop with different groups. The project was supported by Stimuleringsfonds NL.

The Handbook Cover

This main research project continued to advance the lecture and collaborative workshop on ‘Design for a Just City’ by Toni L. Griffin with AIR/Veldacademie held during 2017-2018. Griffin’s methodology - The Just City Index, a set of 50 values- gives users tools to convert the vast academic work behind urban justice into practical knowledge. The methodology not only advocates for justice, but also leads to creative solutions when values are the starting point of a design process. 

In order to increase the applicability of the Just City Index, this research used techniques to translate urban problems into design opportunities through a value-driven process. It combines this value-driven approach with the work of Christopher Alexander to develop a handbook of ‘just patterns’, where patterns are descriptive format with defined parameters that help the reader explore replication of a design in another context. This incubator phase involved the development of a publication prototype with graphics to illustrate the use of the methodology, desk research to define pattern format with examples, workshops and presentations to promote the process with interested stakeholders.

Workshops for the developing the research methodology
Cycling tour through Rotterdam

This handbook used illustrations with examples and steps on solving urban issues by using values like, ‘hope’, ‘protection’, ‘knowledge’, and translating them into design solutions. The content from this section was developed from previous workshops undertaken using the Just City Index.

While the extension grant was unsuccessful, the products of this starting grant has led to collaboration with various stakeholders by workshop, writing articles and speaking at events about inclusive urbanism. These include Rotterdam Academie van Bouwkunst and the Breda University of Applied Sciences and Vereniging Deltametropool. This later led to Selina receiving an invitation from Vereniging Deltametropool to reflect on the NOVI/ Omgevingswet 2021 and the New Planning Paradigm to offer a perspective from value-driven inclusive urbanism.

As the project developed, it was clear that there were two challenges. The first challenge was that there was a clear need for visual examples that showed how an abstract notion such as ‘values’ can result in concrete design. This was in line with the original application. The second learning showed that while the need for this methodology in design was not in question, there was a need for tactile means to conduct inclusive processes with the value-driven methodology, like a card-game or a digital application that can guide designers/planners.  In May 2020, Selina was awarded a grant from the RVO to research the feasibility of a digital-co creation tool that uses a value-driven methodology.

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