To create inspired experiences with enduring impact, we as Architects and Designers must engage with our communities before diving deep into any project. The term “community” is a broad term that people use in many ways to define groups of individuals. A community may be a geographic location, a grouping of persons with similar interests or practices, or members with shared affiliation or characteristics within an industry or organization. We define community engagement as the process of collaborating with groups of people in a specific community to address obstacles affecting the well-being of those individuals. Community engagement is a powerful tool to improve the health of a community and its members and can include partnerships that provide resources and systems that serve the community. Community engagement is an interactive process requiring a review of existing conditions and prospective resolutions. Receiving feedback from community members is not only ideal, but essential in our design process. It can be an eye-opening experience collaborating together while listening to different perspectives. Our responsibility as a partner in a design project is to build trust from the communities interacting within the spaces.
At MSA, we strive to be great listeners. From early community engagement sessions through design, documentation, and construction, the basic services Architects and Engineers provide do not differentiate from firm to firm. The real difference lies with the personality and work ethic of the people who work in the firm and the expertise they bring to the table. Creativity and innovation are key aspects of the nature of work we do, and MSA strives to provide the best quality of services for our clients. Our team at MSA strives to blend business, hard work and fun to make our design experience enjoyable for our clients.
Our project process starts with Discovery.
During this step of the process, we listen, we engage with the community, and we begin to build relationships. Our Discovery process is different every time because we individualize our process for each community and project, knowing there is no “one size fits all” approach. The most important thing to our team is to listen to all end users. Our team believes that the ultimate sources of wisdom in any building project are the owner and the end users of the space that we are creating together. Only the users fully understand the performance needs of a facility and the characteristics essential to its success.
How will this space affect them?
How can we design the space to be its most productive form?
To support the goals of a specific space, there must be strong collaboration between the end users, designers, and stakeholders throughout the entire process. This engagement occurs through community open houses, focus group sessions, design charrettes, community outreach surveys, or virtual sessions.
Once all participants review the gathered information in this Discovery process, we create a plan for a thoughtful approach to the project design. As a design firm, we will present an organized and strategically sound method of conducting program analysis, where our goal is to uncover the aspects of design programming and site plan organization to determine the most functional solutions. While community engagement can be a complex and intensive process, it is always worth the time and energy because of the invaluable responses. These users know and support their new spaces because they were part of the process from the beginning. The project planned and built following a strong community outreach lends to a successful and long-lasting project. When you take part in this process, it has the potential to create beautiful outcomes that affect your day-to-day quality of life and holds tremendous pride and immeasurable sentimental value.