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Co-designing Malmö’s parking lots

2018-04-09

While taking the course Co-design — Design, Participation, Democracy, five students dedicated themselves to exploring the topic of urban public spaces in Malmö.

Camila Mahzouni, Manuel Siegel, Szymon Sulka, Kamila Wnorowska, and Hyejoo Yoo looked at what public spaces are, how participation within these spaces works, and, crucially, what citizens expect them to be like. As a result of their project, the co-design students created a participatory platform and redesigned Malmö’s parking lots with it, concluding that public spaces can be turned into whatever they need to be.

Codesign in Malmö

Following the core idea of co-design, the project’s aim was not only to create something for people, but with them. In the course of their project, the students engaged residents of Malmö and local stakeholders. Such collaborations make the design process more democratic and allow perspectives and experiences that cannot be generated otherwise.

“I see the whole concept of co-design as a very hot topic. You want to get people to participate in daily life and society, and to feel more appreciated — people actually want to create and be part of the process when cities change,” said Manuel Siegel.

In order to get a better understanding of Malmö’s public spaces, the students conducted interviews and surveys with citizens, asking for their opinions and expectations.

“When you are designing something for citizens, it’s especially vital to recognise their needs. I mean, we could have done anything but if there is no need for it, it’s useless,” Camila Mahzouni points out.

Joshua Ng from Malmö’s Connectors Society and Nicklas Johansson from NGBG, a local street festival, have experience in working with public spaces and exchanged ideas with the students about how to approach their project. The bottom line was: public spaces have different dynamics and audiences, which means that one place can’t please everyone and that public spaces should always serve the people using them.

Codesign in the Malmö University workshop

Consequently, the students decided to create a public space that was both convertible and movable — a space that could be adjusted to the user’s needs, and that could be used anywhere, at any time. The product was a large wooden platform on wheels that could be decorated in different ways. The idea was to create a space that could be used and shaped by and for citizens. To make the platform accessible to all, the students decided to reuse and recreate Malmö’s parking lots with it.

“We wanted to create something that had multiple uses. The  aim of the project was  to take a space with a specific purpose and  use it for something different. I think we wanted to show that a space can be turned into whatever it needs to be,” Camila Mahzouni said.

Codesign at the streets of Malmö

Pedestrians could engage with the platform in different ways, for example by drawing or writing their ideas for the project on postcards, talking to the students, or just taking a curious look at it during their lunch hour. The project was carried out in one day in the autumn of 2017, when the group of co-design students moved their platform to several parking lots in Malmö, exploring  citizens’ reactions towards their recreated participatory public space.

Students at the streets of Malmö

This article was written by Nadine Keller, a master's student from the master's programme Media and Communication Studies: Culture, Collaborative Media, and Creative Industries at Malmö University.

Text: Nadine Keller

Last updated by Amanda Malmquist