Journal of Housing and the Built Environment

, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 719–741 | Cite as

Creating places through participatory design: psychological techniques to understand people’s conceptions

Original Paper


Place making is fundamental in creating human settlements. It is now understood that wholesome places cannot be created by professionals without the active participation of people who should be able to transform them as their own. Approaches to place making such as the Pattern Language of Christopher Alexander and Supports of Nabeel Hamdi attempted to engage people in the process in a number of ways. Participatory techniques are central to these practices, but there remain a paucity of appropriate techniques that can be adopted in facilitating people to articulate their perceptions useful to create places. This paper examines two psychological techniques; sorting task and location task and their applicability as practiced in a recent housing project implemented in Sri Lanka. The tasks divulged a number of facets of people’s conceptualizations of their settlements; those related to the present setting, the specific places in the existing settlement, those related to the imagined places and finally the desired geographical features of the imagined places. The paper then interprets and discusses how these conceptualizations have been directed towards articulating the spaces in the designed setting so that they could be transformed by the people to become wholesome places. It demonstrates that when the idea of ‘place’ is the focus of participatory practices and by using the techniques described, meaningful places can be effectively created.


Community planning workshops Housing the poor Location task Place making Repertory grid technique Sorting task 



The author acknowledges the contribution made by the SEL in carrying out this experiment as part of their housing program and bearing out the additional time and financial repercussions of this activity. It also acknowledges the support of the Design Concepts Architects.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Architecture and Interior DesignUniversity of BahrainManamaBahrain

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