The Added Value of Community Engagement in Public Design for Landscape Architecture Professionals

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Virginia Tech


This thesis examines three uniquely different community engagement methods that explore the relationship between community values and the physical landscape in two Appalachian communities; Austinville, VA and St. Paul, VA. Each community engagement method is 1) introduced via literature review/case study, 2) modified from the case study to suit local conditions, and 3) analyzed for effectiveness in connecting local values and the physical landscape. I then reflected on this academic research through the lens of a three-year employment as a community development and natural asset planner with a 501(c)3 non-profit in southwest Virginia. The professional experience revealed five community systems that impacted the overall effectiveness of community engagement processes and had the potential to position communities, and their public projects, for a higher level of success. The community systems included: Capacity and Readiness, Involvement, Leadership, Communication, Frame of Reference and Community Vision. Research and professional practice together suggested that an intentional effort to understand and incorporate community values via community engagement ultimately led to more meaningful designs in the public sector.



Community engagement, Participatory design