The key to designing successful public spaces, is engaging with the end users by way of community outreach early in the design process, to ensure their needs are met in the final site program. WREN (Wholistic Representational Empowerment Negotiation) is a land planning exercise disguised as a board game – designed to engage community members in site design in a fun, entertaining, and productive way. WREN gives site designers meaningful feedback on the priorities of the end users, by giving the users themselves the power to make informed site programming decisions.
WREN is played using a variety of magnetic pieces on a metallic game board. The game master – or facilitator – prepares an interpretation of the existing site conditions to serve as basis for initial gameplay. Players – or stakeholders – are given a limited amount of dollars to spend. As the gameplay timer starts, each player is tasked with buying design elements from the game master and locating them on the site. The limited dollars forces stakeholders to prioritize design elements based on their personal vision. By the end of the gaming session, as the results of all teams are shared, everyone is given valuable insights into the true priorities of the broader community. As a means of engaging larger numbers of users over a broader network, WREN may be broadened into a video game environment played on smartphones, tablets, home computers, and gaming systems.
WREN engages communities and gives them a clear voice in the design process, and ensures their needs are heard by the design team. Successful community engagement leads to successfully built projects – and smarter cities.