Village Layout: User Based Design

For the village layout of this project, we pulled strongly from the exercises and input we received on site in El Ojoche (now named La Benedicion.)  As we’re sure you read in the previous post the community had differing opinions on the relationship between civic buildings and their placement in the village layout.  There were also differences between the men and women in the proportion of the lot sizes.

Recap of notes part 1 Recap of notes part 1
Recap of notes part 2 Recap of notes part 2
Notes Recap

Taking the notes and data from a long day of exercises, we returned to Matagalpa and developed two possible village layouts.  When drawing the proposals, we took care to make sure that both concepts presented thoughtful and plausible solutions which find a nice middle ground between existing site conditions, participatory design input, and long term growth of the village.  That said, the two layouts needed to be opposite extremes in respect to lot sizes and civic structure locations, encouraging thoughtful dialogue amongst the community members and helping them understand the types of choices that may be required in the future.

Village Option A-Civic Core Village Option A-Civic Core
Village Option B-Civic Rim Village Option B-Civic Rim
Community Discussion

Bright and early the next day, we returned to the site and presented both concepts to the community.   Following an explanation of the exercise, the community was divided again by gender to complete the village priority exercise.   Each group of men and women was further subdivided for Option A and Option B.  The subdivided groups were not shown the other option, keeping the conversation focused on the plan before them and really weighing the pros and cons of the proposal.  From the internal debate, a proposal was decided upon before the men and women groups rejoin and present their preferred options.  After that another round of discussion ensued.

The debates are a crucial part of our practice in participatory design.  While the layouts are our first pass at distilling a wave of information gathered on the previous day, the debates among the community pass the ownership back to them.  They weigh the pros and cons.  They decide on the best option.  And during the debates, they place themselves in both villages, working through what their life would look and feel like.

Discussing Option A Discussing Option A
Discussing Option B Discussing Option B


As much as we can, we make sure that the thoughts and opinions we are soliciting are not being skewed because one group is deferring to another when asked to provide input.  So after the community debate, everyone was again divided into two groups and we asked them to show which layout they preferred.

!! W I N N E R!! !! W I N N E R!!

Option A was the winner!  And as an added bonus for both the community and Agros supporters, they presented their preferred option to the board of directors which was visiting at the time.  


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