What is community?

Wednesday 29 June 2016

Image: Light Follows Behaviour 

What is community? A clutch of architects and designers attempted to go a little way towards answering this simple yet at the same time complex question at the latest PechaKucha organised by NLA last night, held at sponsor Bespoke's offices in Clerkenwell.

For Holly Lewis, co-founding partner of We Made That it could be makers as much as residential, as seen in its work at Blackhorse Lane on the edge of the Lee Valley in East London, while for MELA founder Dr. Noha Nasser, her work on Bridging Cultures - the subject of her book, is today more important than ever. Happily, she said, ‘prejudice is learnt, and can be unlearnt as well’.

Feilden Clegg Bradley pair Chris Allen and Charlotte Knight showed how their Pea Soup House project could involve the community in demonstrating the growing problem of air quality in the city through the design of the structure and sale of color-coded soups (beetroot meaning very bad news). 'We were interested in bringing people together to start a conversation', said Allen.

Earthenware Landscape Architecture's Chris Moss showed how his Soap Box idea could help rejuvenate commuting communities and provide an antidote to smelly cyclists after their morning ride through its showers and changing spaces, and his 'Lunch break' structures could provide a green space for workers in their lunch hour or after work.

And while Agent's Frederique Siegel showed how she helped to restore community in post-earthquake Haiti through 'urban acupuncture' and carefully convincing people to move into two storey structures alongside relatives and friends, the Mill Co Project's Nick Hartwright showed how taking over heritage buildings could help provide low cost accommodation for artists and others. ‘We soon realised that it's not just the space but the events that go on in the space', he said.

Nevena Kovacevic showed how her work at Light Follows Behaviour involves the community in designing light treatments for locations from London housing estates, to Sao Paulo, to Cyprus.

But perhaps the most telling contribution came from PRP's Spyros Katsaros and his work with the locals in transforming the High Path Estate in Merton. 'The thing I learned is that you need to listen, and that's where everything starts in regeneration', he said. 'We must be experts in design, but the people are experts in terms of their communities'. 

By David Taylor, Editor, NLQ

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