7 November 2007

Inhabiting places: User values in the built environment

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putting people first
by experientia

Places
Theorists have long argued that two distinct concepts of value drive the production of the built environment: exchange value and use value.

In this article Joost Beunderman, a researcher at the UK think-tank Demos argues that, “if we would wish to favour the use value of places to the public over the financial value that space generates, then we cannot be satisfied at our current ways of planning towns and cities. Inhabiting places implies an active, creative and constantly changing relationship of the user to his or her environment – a more diverse category than shopping or buying a house. There are urgent reasons why we should put this enriched concept of use central, and make tangible steps to empower people’s relation to places.”

“In public services, the past period has seen a slow but steady trend towards ‘user-led design.’ It aims to spread new ‘operating systems’ for services such as social care, allowing people to become participants in shaping, commissioning and delivering the services they use, rather than passive and dependent recipients of what the system routinely provides. There is much that that we can learn from such concepts. The Demos study People Make Places showed how public spaces, in order to be successful, need to encourage people’s participation, rather than merely providing set-piece designs.”

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