How is the Public Interest Design approach making a difference to communities in London and around the globe?
A young crowd of eager PechaKucha-goers gathered in Squire and Partners’ 06 Chad’s Place near King’s Cross last night to find out more about this human-centred, participatory design process.
Introduced by independent researcher Julia King, the evening of 6-minute 40-second presentations (20 slides x 20 seconds) kicked off with architectural photographer Grant Smith. He presented his observations of helping communities racked with problems of litter and literacy in Burkina Faso by creating a new two-storey school project whose success lay in its efficient operation and ability to deal with the region’s harsh weather conditions. Mona Sloane, project manager at the Configuring Light/Staging the Social project at LSE looked at the social aspect of lighting, including ‘purposefully polemic’ interventions and workshops in Whitecross Street and elsewhere. ‘In developed countries we normally take light for granted’, she said. Jo Ashbridge, AzuKo director, showed the audience a project to deal with more harsh weather – this time cyclones in Bangladesh – through the construction of shelters that bore the fruit of careful study. ‘Rule number one is research until you’re blue in the face’, she said. ‘As humans, we all have a responsibility to create a more habitable world’. And while Tim Gledstone of Squire and Partners focused on a project to deliver cleansed computers to Africa and compressed mud machines for making construction blocks in Rwanda, Isis Nunez Ferrara, associate at Architecture sans Frontieres brought things closer to home with her work into the HS2’s potential impact on the surrounding communities of Drummond Street in London. Rachel Sayers of FCB Studios showed the work of the Richard Feilden Foundation in Uganda– ‘creating places of delight and fun, not just an earnest endeavour’, while LandAid’s new chief executive Paul Morrish took the audience on a whistle-stop tour of the work the charity does – and how it could get even more out of the UK property industry.
Greg Chandler, mechanical engineer at Arup, showed a Healthcare Centre in Rwanda, a paean to passive design and effective multidisciplinary working to provide a crucial birthing environment building. And finally, Elisa Engel, trustee of Architecture for Humanity London showed how, backed by FIFA, football is used as a link for a series of centres in Africa to bring about social change. ‘Architecture for humanity is just about being a good citizen’, she said.
While one of the messages of the PechaKucha was that often what was needed was roads while what donors wanted to provide in these locations were schools or medical centres, this was a broadly positive vision of how architects and engineers can make a difference – often helping communities to provide crucial facilities, in life or death situations.
David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly