The London Festival of Architecture has always proved to be a platform for vigorous debate – both about our theme and about wider issues affecting London. On our Views Pages we give space to a range of contributors including industry leaders, curators, academics, politicians and other less-heard voices to express their views and ideas. These are their opinions and not necessarily those of the Festival. We hope you find them in equal parts inspiring and challenging.

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Care…



  • Dipa Joshi, Mayor’s Design Advocate and Partner at Fletcher Priest, is a member of the LFA’s 2021 Curatorial Panel. In this essay she shares her interpretation of our 2021 theme of ‘care’.

I feel that there is a special case for “care” this year for several reasons – in particular, our lack of care that has brought on this pandemic, our duty of care that when not upheld causes tragedy, and the connection of care to “respect” that as an architect from a diverse background resonates with me so poignantly.

This year has been the year that we have been reminded of the necessity of care to continue what we recognise as our lifestyle – the freedom to see family and friends and go out without the fear of infection.

Here are some definitions from the Oxford dictionary:

The provision of what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of someone or something

We need care from a young age to ensure that we grow, feel cared for during middle age and as we become less able in our old age –how can places we live be designed with more care or so that our people feel more cared for.

Serious attention or consideration applied to doing something correctly or to avoid damage or risk

We have seen in the Grenfell tragedy the awful consequences of a lack of duty of care when designing our places for living – how can our duty of care be managed better?

An object of concern or attention

Do we care for our buildings and spaces – how do we instil civic pride in our public realm to encourage people to care?

Care for our landscape and environment – we gain mental and physical health benefits from gardening – how can we design in horticultural therapy

We have seen what happens if we don’t respect and care for nature and our environment – devastating consequences of climate change and pandemic.  How can architecture encourage more care for our environment?

A feeling of or occasion for anxiety.

Do you care enough to take action? In 2020 millions were moved to show the world that black lives matter – To care is to respect – do we care about society being inclusive?

Feel concern or interest; attach importance to something.

Yes, people were moved to express their concern that things aren’t right – to challenge diversity imbalance and mistreatment due to difference.  How can the internal and external spaces we inhabit be designed to show care and be inclusive? How can spaces steeped in colonial history be re-evaluated and re-addressed to have a more diverse appeal?

Like or be willing to do or have something

Community care – people on the same street mobilised to help each other, neighbours met over garden fences, people connected across balconies and squares – how can the design of our places encourage this?

Look after and provide for the needs of

How strangers take care of us and how we must care about the spread of this disease. How can homes be designed to show more care for their residents – and how can we care for the carers….?

…….take care!

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Can Architecture Care?



  • Manijeh Verghese, Head of Public Engagement at the Architectural Association, is a member of the LFA’s 2021 Curatorial Panel. In this essay she shares her interpretation of our 2021 theme of ‘care’.

What would it mean to design society around the principle of Care rather than profit, efficiency, productivity or speed? What new value systems and priorities are needed to bring this about, and what new spaces and forms of practice would need to be imagined?

Over the past year where so much has changed in the world around us, including but not limited to Covid-19, from the pressure on our healthcare systems to the closure of small businesses, the Black Lives Matter movement and other protests that have highlighted inequality and systemic injustice in multiple ways, or the ongoing climate emergency that threatens the future of life on this planet, it seems like a shift towards a more caring model for how we operate is not just required but much overdue.

But what does care mean in the context of architecture? Is it rethinking the way we work on projects, establishing better labour conditions and not compromising on the value of the service we provide? Or is it getting involved in projects earlier to help with the writing of better briefs rather than just fulfilling them, to ensure we don’t manifest inequality in our designs? Is it thinking about who has access to spaces and how they are used or ways in which we can involve different stakeholders in how their spaces should be designed? Is it finding new ways to design that don’t polarise the interests of the individual against the world around them but instead builds relationships between ourselves, our communities and the natural world? The answer doesn’t seem to be straightforward. There are clearly multiple forms of care that need to be developed to respond to current crises on multiple fronts, which is why care immediately stood out as the theme for London Festival of Architecture 2021. It is a word that cuts to the core of the complex issues that have been at the forefront of what the world has been grappling with over the past year, whose roots stretch back in time and whose impact will be felt for years to come.

Architecture as a discipline doesn’t care enough. From the defensive architecture we build within our cities to the aggressive design of street furniture and the urban realm that dictates how we can behave in public space. The disappearance of important community spaces and civic infrastructure of libraries and youth centres along the High Street due to a lack of investment and care in not just how they are funded and managed but also in how they are forgotten in the design of masterplans and new developments. Some examples that we discussed as a curatorial panel to manifest the need for care-driven architecture included the controversial development by Henley Homes in South London a few years ago where social housing residents were unable to access a shared playground that was accessible to those living in private and shared ownership flats in the same complex. Children that were friends in the same set of buildings were unable to play together because the designs for the development were changed following planning permission to block access to the playspace for certain flats and residents in what was marketed as an inclusive and family-oriented project. Even worse than this is the tragedy of Grenfell Tower, echoing Ronan Point nearly 50 years before it, which shows the most extreme consequences of a lack of care when it comes to the design and construction of buildings.

Care is an easy word to use but much harder to translate into action. While Covid-19 has highlighted so many existing inequalities in society in addition to creating new ones, it has changed the pace at which we, as a society, react to long-standing issues. These include issues of race, income, access to services and public space, or even who can participate in the design of cities from young people to the elderly, or any marginalised group, to name a few. Homelessness is one example, where at the start of lockdown last year, rough sleepers were up by a third in London in comparison to the previous year according to analysis by the London Assembly. But during the peak of the first lockdown, more than 1,000 homeless people were moved off the streets and out of communal shelters to be rehomed in vacant hostel and hotel rooms. The Mayor’s Office is now trying to find long-term solutions to rehome these individuals. The speed at which solutions were found shows that change is possible but should it take a global health crisis to do something about it?

“We need to remember that the concept of going back to normal only makes sense if normal was good…” explained Mariana Mazzucato, Professor of Economics at UCL, when speaking in May 2020 on how to reimagine the economy after Covid-19. In this talk she described how essential it was to develop imaginative and creative ways to invest across the public and private sectors in order to reimagine a more just and equitable society. She asks how we can learn from the mistakes following the 2008 financial crisis where the market was flooded with liquidity which in turn only benefited the financial markets rather than any of the other sectors affected. This time around countries like Denmark and France are already making bail-out packages conditional on companies using that money to set up initiatives that benefit society or address climate change, which she describes as “investing and innovating towards a better world.” Perhaps a positive outcome of this global pandemic should be to break with the past and invent new models for care in a world that is too often careless. I look forward to seeing the events, installations, projects, and systems that will be proposed for LFA 2021, each interrogating what care really means to change how we practice as citizens, as architects, as a profession and as a community.

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Winter Windows



 

  • Julia Nicholls is Director of Public Relations at Squire & Partners, part of the LFA Festival Club. In this piece, Julia shares with us the practice’s Winter Windows installation at The Department Store, Brixton, in collaboration with local teenagers.

 

 

Since moving to the Department Store in Brixton over 3 years ago, Squire & Partners has been committed to using our ‘shopfront’ to connect with the local community and draw people inside to see, experience and be part of our creative process – from the core design work to our dedicated teams in modelmaking, illustration, CGI, interior design and branding.

One of these community collaborations is our annual illuminated installation, Winter Windows. In 2017 and 2018 we worked with local primary school children who used problem solving and creative skills to design expressive shapes with lines of light. In 2019 we worked with Lansdowne Secondary School for children with communication and learning difficulties, who created incredible interactive designs based around human silhouettes.

 

 

For 2020 we wanted to address the acute lack of opportunity for young people leaving school to start their careers or move into higher education. Work experience placements and entry level jobs were extremely hard to find this year, potentially robbing young people of vital insights into creative careers. Despite the challenges, we were determined to find a way to keep Winter Windows alive.

Collaborating with Brixton-based community organisation We Rise, we worked with five 17-18 year olds from Elm Green and Norwood secondary schools offering them the opportunity to work with architects and modelmakers from the practice to not only design the installation, but develop new skills in creative collaboration, design development, software, making and visual display.

 

 

Our brief was to design and make a visual installation which could act as a beacon of hope for the local community. In the first of two social distanced and bubble-friendly workshops at The Department Store, the students conceived a continuous narrative of eight designs which addressed issues they and the wider community had faced during 2020.

These early stage designs were refined at an online crit, before being drawn up by the students on SketchUp and Rhino (following an online tutorial), cut by CNC in the practice’s modelshop and then assembled, wired and tested by the students in a second live workshop. We held a small but lovely switch on event on Wednesday 2 December with the students and their families.

 

 

The final result is an uplifting display of creativity which will act as a portfolio piece for each student to take forward into their further education or career choices, varying from product and graphic design to photography and law.

Winter Windows 2020 felt like a very special year, and the commitment and professionalism of the students was truly impressive. Huge thanks to everyone at Squire & Partners and We Rise who made this possible – especially Omar, Beth and Isobel from our modelshop team.

 

Squire & Partners wish Tayla, Geraldine, Jesse, Nafisa and Natalia every success in 2021 and beyond.

 

 

Jesse Amoah, one of the students who took part, said: 

Working on this project has been an amazing one of a kind experience! Doing what I love with other young people who share a similar interest has been very fun and interesting as we have been able to work together to create a story which would hopefully uplift people in such a difficult and confusing time. Light is a source of positive energy that is used by all and to be able to manipulate light to create art has been a beautiful opportunity which I would recommend to anyone who is considering taking part in future years.

 

Geraldine Gibbs, one of the students who took part, said: 

I’m very happy that I took on this opportunity when it came about because it was all a learning experience for me. I enjoyed every step of it and at the end of it all I’m proud to say that I created my own neon light with the help of my mentors.

 

 

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Making Models



When it comes to the process of design, architects develop their plans in different ways. Despite the power of computers and visualisation, physical models still play a vital role in helping architects develop their ideas and communicate their thoughts to clients.

We’re delighted to share this short film from LFA Patrons Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, which explores the role that making models plays in their work. The film was produced by Edward Bishop  Tom Thistlethwaite and Anna Rank for FCBStudios.

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Learning from Taiwan: An LFA Visit to Taiwan



  • André Holmqvist is Programme Manager at the London Festival of Architecture. In this essay he tells of his visit to Taiwan

Street scene, Hualien, Taiwan

 

A few months ago I travelled to Taiwan with the help of the British Council to meet with architects and architectural institutions. It has been the aim of the London Festival of Architecture to increase our international engagement, and with the help of the British Council’s Connections through Culture Grant I met some fascinating people and and discovered the architecture of a country which values historical preservation and community engagement in architecture.

To many Europeans, Taiwan is still the synonymous with ‘Made in Taiwan’. Although the bulk of manufacture gradually moved from Taiwan a few decades ago, the industrial heritage is still visible everywhere. The reuse and repurposing of the industrial heritage, and a layering of periods and styles in many ways became a recurring theme of my visit.

Recently opened, the Jut Museum in Taipei is the first museum in the country to focus on architecture and the future of cities. The director of the museum, Ms Huang Shanshan, showed me around their exhibition Paradise Lost which presented different aspects of urban transformation.  One of the exhibited artists, Yao Jui Chung, explores the aftermath of Taiwan’s rapid urbanisation, with factories and real estate developments abandoned as the frenzied investment cooled off.

Yao Jui Chung, The Monkeys: Roaming around the Ruins IV, 1993

 

Many of the disused factories that still scatter the island nation’s cities have been preserved and repurposed, and a great number have been turned into museums and cultural centres. A prominent example in Taipei is the Huashan 1914 Cultural Park: a disused old winery turned into an artist village of galleries and performance spaces. The grey concrete architecture is softened by lush vegetation left to grow all over the old structures, and new walkways have been added to connect the buildings.

   

Huashan 1914 Creative Park, Taipei, 2005

 

A recent restoration project initiated by the Jut Foundation was the restoration and reconfiguration of a Japanese 1930s food market, now repurposed as the cultural centre Umkt (Xinfu Market). Architect Yu-Han Michael Lin divided up the open space with semi-transparent light-frame wooden walls that do not affect the original structure. While no longer functioning as a market, the Umkt project aimed to preserve the spirit of the Taiwanese market as a social meeting point. It is now is a cultural meeting space with cafés and facilities for food education. Located in a warren of small alleys in Wanhua, Taipei’s oldest district – with relatively aged population, the building was abandoned for a long time. It was a delight to find the space full of young people and arts students who make the covered market a destination and meeting point once again.

Umkt, Taipei, Yu-Han Michael Lin, 2017 ©umkt.jutfoundation.org.tw

           

Umkt, Taipei, Yu-Han Michael Lin, 2017

 

Anywhere you go in Taiwan, you are struck by the impressive investment in the cultural sector which can be seen in big cities and small towns alike, with newly created performance spaces, exhibition spaces and museums. For LFA 2019, Francine Houben, of Mecanoo architects, spoke about designing the newly constructed Kaohsiung National Center for the Arts – the world’s largest centre for the performing arts with four stages. I was shown around the centre by the head of international partnerships, Gwen Hsin-Yi Chang. When visiting, one is struck not only by the scale of the project, but also the openness of the architecture. Far from being an ivory tower of the high arts, the building invites the general public in from the surrounding park with a covered public plaza on the ground floor and an amphitheatre that cuts into the building’s façade.

   

Kaohsiung National Center for the Arts, Kaohsiung, Mecanoo, 2018

 

Creating architecture for people is also very much the aim of Fieldoffice Architects, led by Professor Huang Sheng-Yuan. Professor Huang received me at their practice, which is located in the middle of flooded rice fields outside the city of Yilan. As he told me, the vision of Fieldoffice is an eco-paradise of life in the countryside, which is apparent in their many projects which respond both to the surrounding countryside and existing architecture. By uncovering the underlying geography of the landscape they aim to heal the city piece-meal, bringing pockets of green to busy streetscapes and uncovering built-over rivers in the city centre. In the same vein, their Cherry Orchard Cemetery is a sculptural complex that emerges almost as a part of the mountainside. Instead of building a new pedestrian river crossing in Yilan, Fieldoffice created a ‘parasite bridge’ with a walkway suspended to the existing road bridge. Working with existing structures, the practice aims to add to the city’s historical layers and develop the collective memory of the place. The focus is always on people: when crossing the parasite bridge, you have to navigate around exercise bikes and built-in playground toys.

   

Cherry Orchard Cemetery, Yilan, Fieldoffice Architects, 2005-2014

   

Jin-Mei Pedestrian Bridge (Parasite Bridge) across Yilan River, Fieldoffice Architects, 2005-2008

 

Another stop on the tour was a meeting with the practice Atelier 3. The practice was founded by Taiwanese architect Hsieh Ying-Chun who devotes himself into what he calls ‘social architecture’. Hsieh has been helping people rebuild their homes since the 1999 earthquake in Taiwan. Atelier 3’s post-disaster reconstruction uses steel-frame structures that can be easily assembled with the help of residents from the homeless communities, ranging from a remote village in China and the disaster area of Southeast Asian Tsunami. The system can be adapted to include local building methods, ranging from wattle-and-daub to bamboo and stone wall panels.

   

Community reconstruction projects, Hsieh Ying-Chun ©architectureforpeople.org

 

A common sight in Taipei are rooftop extensions, often erected without permission. People add vegetable gardens or an extra room with self-built structures. For a 2011 exhibition entitled Illegal Architecture, Pritzker-prize winner Wang Shu and Hsieh Ying-Chun of Atelier 3 reflected on such spontaneous architecture with installations in Taipei. Wang constructed an eye-catching wooden structure on a Taipei rooftop and Hsieh created a suspended room straddling a narrow alleyway. The two installations explored how building technology can be made more easy so as to involve people in the construction of their homes without experts, resulting in an architecture responding more quickly to the needs of people.

   

Illegal Architecture, Taipei, Wang Shu, 2011 ©architizer.org; Illegal Architecture, Taipei, Hsieh Ying-Chun, 2011 ©taipeitimes.com

 

As I learnt from an exhibition at Huashan 1914 Creative Park, people in Taiwan have long had an active part in the construction of their own homes. In the 1960s, the Public Construction Bureau built a series of model houses that emphasised health and modernity. Floor plans were released to the public who were encouraged to take loans and build their own houses.

1960s plans and projections for model homes

 

Many thanks to the British Council for sponsoring this exchange through the Connections through Culture Grant and to the Taipei Representative Office for all their help; thank you also to Fieldwork Architects, Atelier 3, the Jut Foundation and Museum, Umkt (Xinfu) Cultural Market, Huashan 1914 Creative Park, and the Weiwuying Centre for the Arts.

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Discovering Empowerment



We wanted to make a short film for the London Festival of Architecture exploring what POWER – their 2020 theme means to young people (aged 16-20) living in Brixton but then along came Covid-19 and the lockdown made it impossible for us to meet and have a group discussion as we had planned for the film.

 

But being given the chance to have our voices heard by an audience on a platform that we don’t easily get access to was an opportunity that we didn’t want to lose…….so we decided to adapt how we filmed in order to create something that would provide a taster of our thoughts on the topic. Instead of filming the group of contributors together we filmed each contributor individually either outside or they self filmed in their homes and I interviewed them by phone – all just as the Covid lockdown restrictions were starting to be eased.

 

We have edited the content we filmed into a trailer which gives an insight into the common themes that we will explore in more detail when we eventually make the ‘Discovering Empowerment’ short film.

 

 

The two common threads through all of the interviews were:

 

  • Young people feel that power comes from within their own communities.
  • Emmanuel, who is in the trailer felt very strongly about this and said that if he had the choice to leave his community to live somewhere else perceived as being ‘safer / with less crime/ more affluent or more desirable etc’ then he would not go because that would be a weak thing to do. He felt it was more powerful to stay and influence his community for the good of everyone in it, from within it.
  • They also feel that power is strong and can be used for good in the right hands.
  • Everyone we interviewed for the trailer raised this point individually and I think their comments come out of looking around them and reacting to how they feel those in power at the moment use it.
  • Like many young people, often adults don’t ask my opinions and if they do then there is a sense that their interest isn’t that genuine as they don’t actually listen to what I’ve got to say. Instead I get told what to do and what my opinion should be about things a lot.
  • Making this trailer and having it presented on this platform is therefore in itself empowering. We are really grateful to the LFA, ftwork and We Rise Brixton to have been asked to create it.

 

Vanessa Rojas (16), Brixton

 

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Discover the latest from the world of architecture & design with Aesthetica



 

Aesthetica is the destination for art and culture. Each edition keeps readers up-to-date with the latest developments in the sector, whilst providing year-round visual inspiration. In-depth features foreground today’s most innovative practitioners across art, design, photography, architecture, music and film. It has a readership of over 400,000 and national and international distribution.

 

The June / July issue, Recalibration, is about realignment and hope. As humans, we need to understand our place in the world and the fragility of this ecosystem. This edition considers how to connect and create in lockdown.

 

London Festival of Architecture is proud to have Aesthetica as a media partner for the 2020 edition.

 

Find out more about the latest design developments and the digital edition of London Festival of Architecture in this latest issue of Aesthetica.

Subscribe to Aesthetica and get your first 3 issues free – save 50%: https://shop.aestheticamagazine.com

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Equipping designers to create a sustainable post-pandemic future



  • Louisa Bowles is a Partner and Head of Sustainability at Hawkins\Brown. In this essay she explores the ways in which architects have the power to help us reach net-zero buildings

Architects have the power to fundamentally change how buildings and places affect the planetary and human environment. But first we need to understand the impact of the choices we make when designing a building and how it will affect its lifecycle.

As we settle into our new reality for the medium to long term, we are seeing some encouraging discussions around the imperative to design for a low-carbon future, such as investing in infrastructure that supports walking and cycling as well as green energy. We are also seeing reports of significant reductions in air pollution since the start of the pandemic. This is compelling, of course, however it shouldn’t trick us into thinking the pandemic has in any way lessened the urgency of the climate crisis.

What architects can do

We need a paradigm shift in the way we design. To achieve Net Zero buildings, we must start measuring, sharing, reporting and reducing carbon emissions – and, based on design and delivery cycles it needs to happen now so we achieve the 2030 deadline required to limit global temperature rises.

But Net Zero traditionally refers only to the energy a building uses during its lifetime. We can’t only look at the energy it takes to run buildings anymore: we need to look at the carbon emissions across the whole lifecycle and take a Whole Life Carbon approach. This includes embodied carbon, which is the carbon emitted in extracting, manufacturing, transporting, maintaining and disposing of materials that are used to create buildings.

Carbon literacy

Carbon needs to become one of the key drivers for a project, along with brief, context, programme and budget. Architects are not used to designing with data like engineers or surveyors. But the decisions we make have a huge impact on a building’s Whole Life Carbon emissions, and in turn, the UK’s wider carbon footprint. By the end of a building’s early design stage (RIBA Stage 2), the building form, aesthetic concept and materials we have chosen will determine the carbon emissions generated for the buildings life.

At Hawkins\Brown we have invested in a research programme that aims to give our architects carbon data about their projects as early as possible. H\B:ERT (Hawkins\Brown Emissions Reduction Tool) plugs into our 3D design software, Revit, and provides a visual breakdown of the embodied carbon of materials as soon as they are tagged in the model. Coupled with engineering data, the tool can advise on the optimum balance between operational performance and material choices.

Healthy environments

Of course, carbon is only part of the story. A Net Zero building that does not perform and does not enhance the life of its occupants is not a good carbon investment at all.  This is why our research and design approach also encompass areas such as daylighting and air quality. Air quality is one of the major issues of our time and without tackling this, our efforts to design low carbon buildings will be hampered. Developing simple rules about how building and street form can assist in creating clean air has been key to improving the early stage decision making.

Creating environments that are low carbon and enhance human health and provide joy are essential to our work at Hawkins\Brown and we equip our teams with the early stage knowledge needed to lock best practice into every project. In order to meet our common goal for reaching the 2030 Net Zero targets, we have made our H\B:ERT available for free, and continue to share our knowledge for a sustainable future for all.

 

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Conversations on power: Jeremy Goldstein, Manijeh Verghese and Madeleine Kessler



 

  • Jeremy Goldstein is the founder and director of London Artists Projects and the creator of ‘Truth to Power Café’.  In this piece he speaks with Manijeh Verghese and Madeleine Kessler, directors of Unscene Architecture and co-curators of the British Pavilion at the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale.

 

 

 

Jeremy Goldstein: ‘Truth to Power Café’ is an international live performance event reflecting hope, loss and resistance, as participants including myself respond to the question ‘who has power over you and what would you like to say to them?’ before a live audience, and now online as part of our digital platform.

This year’s London Festival of Architecture on the theme of power, offers a unique context for us to think about the question at the heart of project, the impact of the global pandemic on our cities, and what we’d like to see in a post-COVID world.

Last week I caught up with Manijeh Verghese and Madeleine Kessler, founders and directors of UNSCENE Architecture and co-curators of the British Pavilion at the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale, and this is what they had to say.

 

Tell us about UNSCENE?

Manijeh Verghese and Madeleine Kessler: UNSCENE was founded in 2019 as a practice that operates across disciplines and scales to reveal the unseen forces that shape our cities. We work with local communities to give them greater agency over how they use and occupy their spaces. Providing a platform for design, research, curation, consultation and realisation, we aim to provoke a wider conversation about the city through action rather than just words.

We founded UNSCENE after teaching a number of workshops and summer school units that explored how to open up the city in a variety of ways. We studied together but took different routes within architecture, exploring similar interests through different formats and methods, which has led to interesting forms of collaboration, as well as richer and more nuanced ways of reading the city.

 

Jeremy: You’ve been commissioned by the British Council to curate the British Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition at la Biennale di Venezia with a work called ‘The Garden of Privatised Delights’.  What can we expect to experience, and what do you hope to achieve?

Manijeh and Madeleine: Inspired by Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, our project The Garden of Privatised Delights looks at new models for privatised public space. The exhibition will engage in the current debate around ownership, use and access to what we perceive as public space. We will transform the British Pavilion into a series of immersive spaces, commissioned from leading researchers and practitioners, including The Decorators, Built Works, Studio Polpo, Public Works and vPPR, presenting both a critique of how they are currently used while providing strategies to increase people’s agency over their public spaces. Six new models for privatised public space appear as immersive experiences inside the pavilion. Spaces under threat like the youth centre, high street and pub as well as inaccessible enclaves like the garden square, are overlaid with proposals for how they can be reprogrammed and revitalised. Additionally, two new proposals for government ministries call for a bottom-up approach to conversations around the ownership of tangible assets such as land, and intangible assets like our personal data.

 

Jeremy: What are some of the buildings or projects in the public realm that inspire you the most and why?

Manijeh and Madeleine: There are several projects that inspire us in terms of how they engage the public or draw attention to spaces in the public realm that are otherwise overlooked. In 2018 British artist Stuart Semple created #HostileDesign – a public awareness campaign to identify instances of hostile design in public spaces. He created stickers to label objects such as the armrests on public benches that prevent homeless people from being able to sleep on them as hostile, and encouraged the public to capture and disseminate similar instances on social media. Similarly, Led by Donkeys holds politicians to account by highlighting their “thermonuclear hypocrisy”. The group of political activists projects statements that politicians have posted on digital channels onto physical spaces to make both the public and politicians more aware and less likely to forget the views, opinions and positions posted online. Land ownership is another issue in the UK that is very opaque and contentious with only 85% of all land being documented on the Land Registry’s website and 5.2 million acres yet to be registered. The ongoing project Who Owns England? by Guy Shrubsole and Anna Powell-Smith uses a forensic approach to map land ownership across the country through searching databases, submitting Freedom of Information Acts and initiating a whole host of investigations.

Projects that activate spaces in the city are also inspirational to us. The successful 2013 Long Live Southbank campaign fought against the Southbank Centre’s Festival Wing plans to infill the undercroft area along the river with shops and restaurants. Instead, the survival of the skatepark on that site showed the power of a community to reclaim and preserve the space for use by skateboarders who enrich the life and activity along the riverbank. Going beyond the UK, in Stockholm, White Arkitekter ran a series of workshops titled Places for Girls after their research showed that from the age of eight onwards, 80% of public space users are boys, with girls feeling 10 times more insecure. These workshops gave teenagers the opportunity to design their ideal public spaces on their terms. These examples are just a few of the many local and global projects that we find inspirational to challenge and redesign the public realm.

 

Jeremy: What would you like to see in a post-COVID world?

Manijeh and Madeleine: Over the past few months we have seen people get to know their neighbours and neighbourhoods in a whole new way. There is a heightened awareness about public space and the importance and need to access it. There is an enormous opportunity to rethink our built environment and make a more equitable and accessible city. We are beginning to see new ways to programme and activate privatised public space to allow people to come together safely, and our hope is that this continues. Pedestrians are reclaiming the pavement, questions are being asked about how parking spaces could be better used as gathering, meeting, or social spaces. Important questions are being asked, such as why aren’t more privatised public spaces, such as golf courses and private school playgrounds, open to the public when they are out of use. We have to use this time to see how we can live more sustainable and fairer lifestyles, rather than go back to the way that things were.  And it is now more important than ever that we look to understand how we can save spaces of social exchange and community hubs, such as the pub and the High Street.

As architects we are in a unique position to facilitate conversations between landowners and the general public to develop public/private partnerships that benefit local communities. There are ongoing conversations about privatised public space, but these, all too often, occur in silos.  Design can play a huge part in how a space is used and perceived, but there are also other elements that control space, including ownership, maintenance and legislation. Through the pavilion, we are bringing these different stakeholders together, along with the general public, in order to rethink what privatised public space can be. Our aim is to empower the public to take ownership of their spaces by giving them tools, skills and resources to use and maintain their public spaces. Engaging with the conversation at every scale, from a policy level right the way down to a detail design and maintenance level, has allowed us to rethink what public space can be, and find ways to open up these spaces for all to enjoy.

Our hope is that a post-COVID world will see the public empowered to use their spaces differently and to ask better questions about: who owns them, and how they can access and use them. We would like to see a more adaptable role for the architect – not just as someone who designs and builds – but as a facilitator of conversations that bring people together. How can architects be involved in the more strategic decisions about the city from the earliest stages, in order to influence decisions that manifest in the material detail that people experience?

 

Jeremy: Is there a time in your life when telling the truth, or standing up for yourself had a memorable impact on you?

Manijeh and Madeleine:  The process of working on the competition for the pavilion and subsequently being selected to curate the British Pavilion has been a journey of discovery and growing self-belief. We entered the competition having always wanted to work together on a design project like this but never imagined we would even be shortlisted, let alone win. Being selected has been a catalyst to set up a practice together and has given us a stronger voice to stand up for what we believe in – that everyone should participate in the making of public spaces. It has given us the opportunity to have a variety of conversations with different decision-makers across the built environment and made us realise the important role that the architect can play to bring people together and facilitate conversations to change how users and inhabitants engage with their cities and spaces.

We designed the pavilion from the outset as a platform to initiate a much wider project and seeing this start to come to life has made us grow in confidence and believe in our abilities to realise complex projects and stand up for what matters. It is often easier to believe in someone else and see them truthfully compared to yourself so we find that working together has given us the opportunity to do that for each other. The journey so far has definitely been challenging but it has also been an exciting and memorable experience that we are constantly learning from.

 

Jeremy: Who has power over you and what do you want to say to them?

 

  • To sign up and have your say in ‘Truth to Power Café’ live show or digital platform click here.

 

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Ellie Stathaki: Curation Panel Picks



 

  • Ellie Stathaki is Architecture Editor at Wallpaper* magazine and part of this year’s LFA Curation Panel. In this piece, Ellie selects her favourite events in the LFA Digital Programme.

 

In this, new, digital edition of the London Festival of Architecture, there’s something for everybody. Orchestrating and discussing architectural experiences in a city in lockdown can feel like a challenge at first; but a closer look reveals the many ways architecture, and the festival, can adapt to this new ‘normal’.

 

Is baking the right form of escapism for you? Join the brilliant and ever-popular Architectural Bake-off. Do you miss architectural tourism? Look no further than the Czech Centre’s virtual tour of the newly restored Villa Winternitz by Adolf Loos. Do you prefer to spend your time perfecting your design skills? A model-making workshop might be just the thing for you, while making an actual doll’s house will ensure the whole family gets involved.

 

If you missed the fabulous Freestyle exhibition at the RIBA before lockdown hit, worry not; the curators made sure a digital version is now open to all.

 

An engaging session about nature and architecture with Tonkin Liu offers inspiration for both the present and future. The latter comes up again at the Women in Office Design’s virtual event on changing workspace environments.

 

In all these and more, this year’s theme, ‘Power’, is a key touchstone, and the debate about power and architecture remains open, ongoing and as wide ranging as ever, as displayed by the video series 30 Objects In 30 Days, the festival exciting new addition.

 

To discover the whole collection of Curation Panel Picks, head here.