From Canadian Architect
From critical evaluation to public contribution. SvN Managing Principal, Drew Sinclair, evaluates the role and evolution of public consultation in the age of COVID-19, in a contributed article to Canadian Architect.
As our entire industry acclimates to its new normal, amidst stay-at-home orders, one of the critical emergent issues for architects and planners will be the role of public conversation around our projects in the age of COVID.
During this time of social distancing—and in response to the reality that there is a continued and critical need for housing in our cities—our profession has a collective opportunity to re-evaluate and revolutionize the way in which public engagement is considered and conducted. By exploring new digital tools and approaches, a new engagement paradigm that removes barriers and expands contributing voices can reveal itself, making for informed citizens willing to support more daring architecture.
As designers and planners, we are empowered to give a voice to diverse groups and to meaningfully respond to community needs and aspirations in the way we design and retrofit our communities. We embolden civic participation and inclusivity, and if successful, ignite the love affair and sense of belonging between people and their places. Community engagement is critical to this process. By reprioritizing engagement and consultation—not as a burden or an unfortunate necessity, but as a fundamental part of city building—we can reduce NIMBY-ism. We can also provide opportunities for unanticipated partnerships to emerge that introduce non-standard ideas into project designs and rhetoric. It’s often thought that too much consultation can inhibit a fluid planning process, but at SvN, we’ve found that more conversation, implemented from the very beginning, can help us to avoid acrimony and even speed up timelines.