The idea of user involvement in urban design is also becoming increasingly important as climate change introduces immense challenges to public health, housing security, and social and political instability. These effects will primarily impact marginalized and impoverished frontline communities where residents of informal urban neighbourhoods are already manually adapting their homes to accommodate for flooding, excessive heat, and other extreme weather conditions. Because those who live in underserved communities are forced to continually adapt their neighbourhood’s infrastructure without institutional support, they possess key knowledge about how to retrofit their region to endure climate change. The model of participatory urban design that centres on the experiences of the marginalized should be vastly replicated in climate adaptation efforts as it creates an opportunity to restore the right to the city to groups such as Indigenous Americans who have long been robbed of it.
In the context of the encroaching climate crisis, the right to the city takes on greater importance as city-dwellers’ lives come into contact with existentially threatening on a daily basis, and forms of climate adaptation that lack community participation portend issues of governmental inaction, unjust displacement, or reproduction of vulnerabilities in already precarious areas. While formal institutions in the United States have historically framed urban self-construction as a “problem” to be dealt with, the school of participatory urban design recognizes these practices as the pragmatic, sustainable, and community-centric solution to ensuring that the right to the city is guaranteed to all urban residents. As climate change’s consequences mount, so does the necessity of prompt adaptation bolstered by collective consent and collaboration.
Harvey, David. 2008. “The Right to the City,” New Left Review 53. https://newleftreview.org/issues/II53/articles/david-harvey-the-right-to-the-city
Mees, Carolin. Participatory Design and Self-Building in Shared Urban Open Spaces: Community Gardens and Casitas in New York City. Springer, 2018.
Nicholson, Kendall A. “Where Are My People? Native American, First Nations & Indigenous in Architecture.” ASCA, February 26, 2021. https://www.acsa-arch.org/resource/where-are-my-people-native-indigenous-in-architecture/.
Turner, John F. C, Robert Fichter. Freedom to Build: Dweller Control of the Housing Process. Collier Macmillan, 1972.