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08/11/2023 Brooklyn

New York City

IN CONVERSATION WITH DAVID BURNEY AND BETH BINGHAM FROM THE PRATT INSTITUTE

“Every building project needs to start with an understanding of the social context of the place," asserts David Burney, the co-founder and Director of the Urban Placemaking and Management program at the Pratt Institute School of Architecture. The program emphasizes a people-centric approach to public space, rooted in community needs and programming. 

 

"Building a picture of a place begins with actively engaging with that community," further clarifies Beth Bingham who is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment at Pratt Institute. The master's program is multidisciplinary, aiming to impart participatory practices to offer a comprehensive understanding of a specific urban setting.

 

Burney, an architect, and Bingham, an environmental psychologist, stress the significance of participatory processes and interdisciplinary practices in shaping urban spaces. In these processes, architects possess valuable skills as facilitators.

 

"Architects are good visualizers and communicators of complex urban processes. However, expertise from other fields is important." explains Burney. 

 

When planning for a specific area, Bingham underscores the necessity of initially identifying local community members. "Building trust is crucial. Additionally, respecting the time of the volunteers involved in the planning process is important," she explains. "Local communities are typically occupied with their daily lives."

 

The challenges in participatory planning processes often revolve around time considerations. In New York City, where the timespan can extend to 5-10 years, local communities tend to focus on shorter horizons, typically looking ahead only one to three months, as Bingham explains. "By the end of the design course, our goal is to provide tangible outcomes for the communities. This could include tools for pursuing a grant application or a proposed plan for a specific site," she adds.

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