Representative Representation

In a democracy, the design of the landscape depends on the representation of the public. This public representation forces inventive drawing. Drawing against or for others is substantially different from drawing with or by others. Among their many tools, community designers consistently employ two focused drawing processes: “drawing on your feet” and “designing upside down.” They suggest that representative representation relies upon special drawing abilities not common among other design professionals.

By “representative representation” I refer to the way drawing engages the public through grassroots democracy for designing open space, neighborhoods, cities, and regions. This requires representing both the public and the landscape. Face-to-face collaborative drawing provides political representation. Graphic depictions provide what we professionally call “representing the landscape.” The complex combination gives us a special way of drawing: representative representation.

Randolph T. Hester,  No Representation Without Representation (2008)

Even when representations and mappings try to explain the reflection process of projects, an important part of the causes of decision making is almost always in the dark. All the requirements and wills of the commission, the desires of politicians or participative groups that are always present in democratic states seem to be hidden in the power of the process of design thinking. 

From Lawrence Halprin, some designers research in democratic design has tried to reveal that “other side” of design thinking describing how the projects make its evolution in time in a dialectical context where designer’s thinking and public representation are revealed.

But that kind of experiments seems to be few and not enough relevant in the context of the discipline. Especially if we consider the constant claim for democratic design that the discipline constantly suggests.

1. Information of the event, place and/or context in which you are immersed / or to describe.
2. Drawings of the protagonists of the space, event and/or place with a brief description drawn and/or written.
3. Hashtags of the event, place and/or context, project, collective, etc.
4. Data about the data -metadata- (labeling system, user license, etc.).
5. Posters that highlight concepts, institutions, groups, projects, geographical locations, etc.
6. Webs, books and/or places to expand more information.
7. Ballons that collect dialogues.
8. Icons, symbols, drawings that relate the environment or context in which you are.
9. Ideas or concepts to highlight.
10. Summary of the knowledge acquired, questions and/or reflections.
11. Drawn description of the people who dialogue and questions.

Carla Boserman, Storygram Morphology (Morfología del Relatograma) (2013)


We are surrounded by image-making architects who design very special places where columns are hollow. Its hardly a good idea to lean against them because you could be sued for denting them. The entire project, actually, has a hollow ring. Everything seems to be designed to evoke a stage-set image these days, having very little to do with the actual activities going on within the building or the landscape.

Everywhere developers are hiring architects and landscape architects to authenticate their deals by making buildings and open spaces which, like advertisements, call attention to the project. It has become a form of corporate pimping, if you will. It leaves the architect to serve out his role as what Philip Johnson calls “a design whore.” The designs are profoundly phony, Disneylandish structures and landscapes without meaning, or prohindity, or sense of value. They are full of sound and fury, but signify nothing socially relevant.

At the other end of the scale, as Randolph Hester points out, are the homeless, the disadvantaged, the socially burdensome; the planet’s ecological balance is threatened. Real-life communities and small-town neighborhoods are disintegrating in the face of shopping centers full of silly shops selling trendy knickknacks and doo-dads and taking over from the authentic downtown of the village or town.

Lawrence Halprin, Design as a Value System (1989)


Joel Meyerowitz, Broadway and West 46th Street (1976)


Users’ Values

The designer should incorporate the users’ values into the neighborhood design process instead of relying exclusively on his own values. Often the user’s values are different from designer’s. Hugh C. Davies has described this problem as being particularly acute in the planning and design of neighborhood space. When answering the question, “Who is neighborhood open space for?” designers generally say “for all the peorple.” But Davis notes that many open spaces are not for all the people. But Davis notes that many open spaces are not for all the people. They are for the affluent white middle class who know how to use and respect them. (…)

Samuel Z. Klausner described the conflict between designers’ and users’ values in this manner: “Typically, individuals project the recreational culture of their own social circle or social class, on the larger society. Members of each class or circle belive that others share their recreational interests or that it would be good for them if they did. The absurdity is now apparent. 

Randolph T. Hester, Community Design (1974)

Ana Bico + Juan Diego Díaz Rodríguez, Plaza Casavalle (2014)

Casavalle Square is the center of a strategy of shifts in the more dangerous neighborhoods of Uruguay. Of course, that strategy does not focus only in the design of popular values designed spaces there are many other working lines from family support to almost military control. But attracting children to the street is a very important step to involve communities in social problems.

Check it here (Spanish)

FIND it on the map