Community Planning: Methods
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Design games are like jigsaw puzzles. They are a highly visual way of allowing people to explore physical design options for a site or internal space. They are particularly useful for designing parks and room layouts and can also be used for land-use planning. They can be used in isolation or as part of a broader participation process.

A base map of a site or room is prepared.

Cut-out pieces representing items that could be incorporated are made to the same scale. Materials for making pieces are kept at hand to allow new items to be made as desired.

Individuals or groups move pieces around until they are happy with the design, which is then photographed.

Layouts produced by different individuals or groups are discussed and analysed as a basis for drawing up sketch designs and costings.
top: London, UK Alexandra Rook, CLAWS
bottom: Tokyo, 1998, Henry Sanoff.
Park design

Park design
One resident group's design for a park showing layout of fencing, children's play facilities and planting.

Comparing options

Comparing options
Discussion of layouts prepared by different groups.

  • Cut-outs are normally simple two-dimensional, hand-drawn illustrations, using coloured felt-tip on cardboard. Three-dimensional cut-outs are even better but take more time.

  • Putting capital and revenue costings on pieces can make the design process more realistic.

  • Make sure the pieces are visually explanatory so that photographs of the designs will make sense. Exhibiting or publishing photos of the designs of different groups can be a useful next step.
  • Depends on standard of design. Can be done very simply.
    "The most vital aspect of our approach was the design game: it was intended to be, and was, fun; this made it less threatening, and thus more accessible.... Playing the game illustrated far better than words spoken by either side ever could, both the urban design principles discussed and residents' own preferences for the site."
Robert Brown, Architect, Urban Design Quarterly, January 1998.
movable pieces

Movable pieces
Residents move pieces around until they are happy with their design.
London, UK Alexandra Rook, CLAWS

Thanks: Alexandra Rook, Dee Stamp, Michael Parkes, Henry Sanoff.

Last updated on: 27 June 2008