Design Ethnography Research in the Rain – A case of literally being out of our comfort zone

“Where did you find out about planning consultation?

When I trained to be an architect”

 

Our students shouldn’t be surprised to meet a trained architect when interviewing people on the street in Kings Cross as it’s such a diverse and busy area but, because their current project is Reimagining Planning, it did seem fortuitous.

The students are in the first stage of the Reimagining Planning Design Sprint, a four-week collaborative project for Management Science students from UCL and designers from UAL. The project brings together students, users, non-users and experts from different backgrounds to collaborate to understand perspectives, co-design and prototype ideas for better ways to engage people in processes of neighbourhood planning and development control in the London Borough of Camden. Today, my group were using ethnography research methods to elicit information from a housing development site on Gray’s Inn Road.

After starting as a cold, dry week it was raining, making stopping people on the street to ask them questions a bit more difficult than it would have been a few days earlier. Beginning the consultations in the small French café drew positive comments from the business owner, who welcomed the increased customer base the 60 new homes will bring. And it was in a neighbouring café that the ex-architecture student was found. On the surface, the development seems to be optimistically received, but we shall wait to see whether this remains the case, when the students have dug a bit deeper and included data drawn from interviews with the experts in the field (hopefully not carried out in the rain).

Sarah Rhodes