Despite its popularity, the high-design approach to social design has inherent flaws. This is the case even when the high-design project involves community participation. Indeed, participation in and of itself is not enough to address issues of power that affect the practice of social design as a whole. The mere application of participation does not ensure an equal relationship between practitioners and users. Instead, a possible solution arises when subverting the horizontality of participatory design by adopting a bottom-up approach, in which designers position themselves at the bottom of the design hierarchy. This approach is exemplified here with a water-focused housing project in Guyana, designed by the author following this positionality-shift principle.
Keywords: architecture, design/build, social, ethics.