The Hands of Vesterbro

“The Hands of Vesterbro” is the result of two week intensive people-centered design research project in Vesterbro, – one of Copenhagen’s most culturally diverse areas.

Conducting fieldwork among the people of Vesterbro, we met and interviewed a broad range of people from the community. A high-school student, a local businessman, several drug-users and a syringe-squad worker (who cleans the street of used needles discarded by drug-users).

Through spending time in the immediate local area and especially the courtyard around Café D (a frequent drug-user meeting place in Vesterbro) we developed an empathetic understanding of the different people in the community.

Somewhat overwhelmed by our abounding experiences, we sorted out our impressions by compiling pictures, memorable quotes and observations to create user profiles. This process led us to cluster the interesting observations and discrepancies that stood out at this early stage. We especially found that most of our conversations with the drug-users had been about everything other than drugs. Everyone we met had things, objects, belongings or stories they were proud to share with us.

These stories created the starting point for our first insight, which read; “It’s easy to see the drug-user, but more important to see the person”. From that insight we framed the first design opportunity as the following question; “How might we enhance the drug-user’s feeling of individual identity?”

Another overall design opportunity was about how to provide privacy and create spaces that frees the drug-users from threat. The last design opportunity read; “How might we break the drug-user “loop” by involving the rest of the community?” This opportunity is about creating a larger degree of co-existence between the different lifestyle groups living in Vesterbro.

With the three overall design opportunities as our foundation, we started brainstorming and sketching ideas and concepts addressing the research insights. A large quantity was created and again clustered to get an overview of initial design directions.

A pattern emerged as we saw that our ideas were dealing with our findings on three different levels. They either evolved around the individual, the community or the human. We selected one idea for each of these topics and created prompts, prototypes and sketches to bring to two co-creation sessions with experts working with drug-users in Vesterbro.
“The Hands of Vesterbro” sums up the overall design opportunities, we identified through our research and co-creation with the Vesterbro community. It is about recognising individual and community identity.