One of the focus points in the design interventions was to include the users to make the whole process a participatory event. From making the bricks to sharing inputs in the home layouts, the home owner played an active role.
In the beginning it wasn’t easy, as people weren’t willing to contribute their time for physical labour. But efforts were continued to implement this strategy. After the fourth house, was built, the people came forward to be a part of the planning as well as the construction from procuring materials to actual building.
During the designing of the houses, 3 different plan options were shown to them- an L-shaped plan, A T-shaped plan and a square option. We discussed the variations and they shared their preferences. Once they narrowed down to the square plan, they inquired about possibilities of rearranging the spaces based on Vaastu principles they followed. They were very pleased with the design of the community centre and having watched the construction of the community centre, their ideas were influenced by what they had seen. They wanted mud blocks identical to those used there and somehow wanted to include the loft in their home designs too.
Although they were hesitant to incorporate some of the new ideas, their trust slowly improved. Through the process, the importance of community participation was more evident. The influence of the team would only be for a short time during construction and after which the people would have to sustain the community.
One of the important things learnt from the project is perseverance. By the end of the project, small yet significant changes could be observed in way people thought about their place. It initially took a long time for them to participate, let alone initiate. By the time work was completed, people were working to maintain cleanliness in their homes, were using the smoke-less chulhas. Participatory design had its challenges, but results were fruitful.