Sustainicum Collection

Consus The aim of the project is to establish a regional science-society network for sustainability innovations in Albania and Kosovo in order to strengthen the connection and collaboration of institutions in the field of higher education, research and practice.

Urban Pockets Workshop - Understanding and identifying urban pockets through community participation transforming them into Pocket Parks.(Resource ID: 291)

x Please note: module with excess length - more than
7 lecture units required!
This method is established in the framework of the Urban Gardening Workshop, as a simulation of the decision-making process for an urban intervention. The method tries to give insight to the students on the multidisciplinary role of planners, architects, designers and environmental studies as well as the role of government, local community, private stakeholders and civic society organisations in the processes of urban planning and design. The workshop intervention consists of developing a strategy or a design for a site, which is currently of significant interest for the city (i.e. an urban pocket which has a potential to be transformed into a pocket park through community participation), by acting out as the different stakeholders in the respective context. An important component is the recognition of different types of actors, who are present in different planning systems. To ensure a wide understanding of this, different scenarios will be tested where all “actors” will have numerous round table discussions to ensure maximum participation and inclusiveness. Thus, the final results will be 2-3 different scenarios, depending on the way the actors approach/design the situation. This will be presented to the community so that every step of the decision making process is done with them therefore they will choose the ‘winning’ version.

The main actors involved would be the students, experts and Polis University staff, in leading the implementation and offering professional assistance to the locals, students and the private sector located nearby (beside sharing costs, they could be the maintainers of the sites) as well as municipality staff where necessary.


  • The locals would be the decision makers as well as “builders” with Polis students and expert professionals.  
  • The municipal staff would help out with any infrastructure needs and legal frameworks. (Greenery planting, lighting, etc.)
  • Private sector. Which in most cases are willing to offer their goods, like gravel, benches, tree, plants and other parks amenities in exchange of putting their logo on them so they can maintain the parks and in return the locals together with the students would improve their facilities.
  • Students would also be the main negotiators between the private sector, locals and the municipality.
  • Although not a direct stakeholder, the media would have a major role in spreading the word out to the entire public.


5 major steps that need to be taken.

  • 1st step – “Mapping it” Mapping of the potential sites to be intervened and drawing a map of them. This will be done by the students and it would be presented to the class to decide on which site they will intervene. The students are expected to map out any natural or urban elements located on the chosen site.


  • 2nd stepSpying“  Students would conduct several visits to the chosen sites. This would be done in the period of xx-xx days, and there would be no discussion with the locals of any kind during this step, ‘we would be under cover or spy’s’. Movements, interactions, usage of place, discussions, stop points and many other social elements would be recorded by the students during this step. This is the only way we could understand the true usage of the place and know exactly what to offer the community beforehand.


  • 3 stepGetting to know the locals. Identifying people with different characters (the speakers, the care takers, the elderly, the students, kids and mothers) and positions and getting them to be part of the process. The students would start by having a few public open discussions with the locals to inform them of the project and see their reaction or interest level. At this time, negotiations could start between the private investors (if there are any), municipality and the locals, everyone’s input is crucial in this phase.   


  • 4th step – “Playing with them” the neighbourhood with the locals. After the presentations, the students would take some time to create potential scenarios of designing the place together with professionals and represent this scenario to the locals through open presentations, meaning that the students would take their laptops, posters, projectors and present on the site where the locals could see what is going on and contribute directly to the design of the site. This would be the longest phase since there would be lots of trial and error in order to get the best result, and only after the locals and the students have agreed on the typology or intervention the implementation would begin. 


  • 5thGetting the word out. This step is completely a competence of the design students. Documenting it and creating a short film in the end which could be used for promoting this type of movement and it would be spread through the internet for everyone to watch. The students would think/create a short film/documentary and a website for all people interested in following the same steps to improve their neighbourhood through strengthening their community and improving their public places with very little help from the municipality. This process would be presented during TAW as well.     


The roles


The Planner

ü  Coordination & research skills

ü  Good community and group communication

ü  Analysis and time planning

ü  Terrain analysis

ü  Marketing skills


The Architect

ü  Visual communication

ü  Computer programing skills


The designer

ü  Visual communication

ü  Filming and documenting ability (a specific group would be chosen to do just this during all phases of the workshop)

ü  Marketing skills

ü  Knowledge on Colour theory and its meaning

ü  Artistically problem solving skills



ü  Terrain analysis

ü  Identify natural systems within a site

ü  Botanical knowledge

ü  Ecological problem solving skills

Integration of Social Stakeholders
This workshop is perceived as an interactive process, not only among students, but also with the local community and private sector. First, the students and participants will be put in the position of the different actors and argue according to this perspective. Next, the local community and the private sector will be invited to a presentation of the final design ideas and vote on their favourite one. This will encourage the stakeholders to start thinking about their role in the urban development of the community. Also, the environmental aspects will be considered during the discussions, through the role of environmental planners, and the environmental NGO-s and lobby groups.
–Students understand the link between community participation, planning theory and practice
–Understand how planning and participatory design affects decision-making
–Interactive learning and designing process
–Integration of local community in the design process
–Improvement of debating and argumentative skills among students
–Facilitating communication of students with different stakeholders
–Active learning experience for students
–Mutual learning experience for students and business stakeholders
– Stakeholders benefit network building
–Students think about their own opportunities and responsibilities in the neighbourhood context
–The cooperation of the local community to participate in the projects and vote on them is time-consuming for them, so the participation may vary. To ensure participation, the event should include other activities, such as music, eating, drinking, etc.
–The process of simulation and working on design ideas varies with the roles of different actors. Because the roles are random, the end result may not always be as efficient as preferred.
– Due to time limitations, the design concepts may not be elaborated fully, so the process of the public presentation can be postponed accordingly
Learning Outcomes
–Understand the different roles of the participants and the types of public place interventions that exist in different sites
– Communication with the locals
– Have an insight on the role of different stakeholders in the urban design process
Relevance for Sustainability
– Sustainable urban development
– Community strengthening through design
– Urban gardening and forestry
– Environmental planning and lobbying
Related Teaching Resources
    Preparation Efforts
    Preparation Efforts Description
    – Identification of the site and first site visit: 10 hours – Preparation for the public presentations: 3 hours – The Site visits have to be scheduled for a) discussions b) interviews c) presentation of results and recommendations
    Sources and Links

    Funded by
    This teaching resource, realised within the project ConSus, has been funded with the support of the TEMPUS of the European Union. The contents reflect the views of the authors, and the European Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

    Comments Write Comment


    Silvi Jano
    This teaching resource is allocated to following University:
    U_POLIS - POLIS University
    Polis University


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    Teaching Tools & Methods

    • Excursion
    • Mini-project
    • Written material
    • Computer program
    • Simulation program
    • Simulation