The article examines the principles of Giancarlo De Carlo’s design approach. It pays special attention to his critique of the modernist functionalist logic, which was based on a simplified understanding of users. De Carlo′s participatory design approach was related to his intention to replace of the linear design process characterising the modernist approaches with a non-hierarchical model. Such a non-hierarchical model was applied to the design of the Nuovo Villaggio Matteotti in Terni among other projects. A characteristic of the design approach applied in the case of the Nuovo Villaggio Matteotti is the attention paid to the role of inhabitants during the different phases of the design process. The article explores how De Carlo’s “participatory design” criticised the functionalist approaches of pre-war modernist architects. It analyses De Carlo’s theory and describes how it was made manifest in his architectural practice—particularly in the design for the Nuovo Villaggio Matteotti and the master plan for Urbino—in his teaching and exhibition activities, and in the manner his buildings were photographs and represented through drawings and sketches. The work of Giancarlo De Carlo and, especially, his design methods in the case of the Nuovo Villaggio Matteotti can help us reveal the myths of participatory design approaches within the framework of their endeavour to replace the representation of designers by a representation of users. The article relates the potentials and limits of De Carlo’s participatory design approach to more contemporary concepts such as “negotiated planning”, “co-production”, and “crossbenching”. The article also intends to explore whether there is consistency between De Carlo’s theory of participation and its application.
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