Our design research aimed to co-produce knowledge about the site and generate design options with residents and community partners. As practitioners concerned with the design aspects of this site, it was critical for us to document the material and physical realities of the site as well as the uses, perspectives and intangible sentiments associated with the space. Our ‘Pit-stop Walk’, participatory design workshops, preference surveys, and iterative testing and feedback sessions with community partners and residents helped us jointly arrive at guiding principles, design concepts, and design options that genuinely reflect a bridge between the material and the experiential, desires and needs, and the past and future of this site.
Walking methods serve as a foundation for participatory design activities by documenting the interconnections between people and space in their own words. The ‘Pit-stop Walk’ aimed to stir up memories and ideas, encouraging participants to reflect on their experiences of places.
We mapped out a 45-minute loop trail with nine “pit stops” that covered nearly the entire perimeter of the site, ensuring that significant landscape features were represented in at least one stop. Starting at the trailhead entrance at Creek Bend Drive, we asked participants to respond to questions when prompted but also to share spontaneous thoughts as they walked the trail.
The participatory design workshops built upon the sentiments, uses and perspectives documented during the Pit-stop Walk. We developed a Base Map for residents to trace and draw amenities they wanted on the site. These workshops helped community members perceive the meaning of common spaces from a different angle, allowing them to unearth hidden assets of the site (what we later called ‘areas of opportunity’) as well as identify risks that needed to be mitigated (‘areas of concern’).
After analyzing the outcomes of both the pit-stop walks and the participatory design workshops, we found it necessary to develop a preference survey to narrow down potential uses for the site and to clarify where the majority of the community wanted to see change. Conducted during the first workshop held in the park entrance, the preference survey featured six multiple choice questions and one final open-ended question on topics ranging from amenities to activities and their vision for the park.