WE design 2019/20: Reconfiguring Place

Project date: 2019-20

The Glass-House WE design event series Reconfiguring Place took place in Glasgow, Blackpool and Manchester.

This series was imagined as a response to the current built environment landscape, and sought to explore how we change our relationship with the places around us, with a focus on improving design quality and creating more equitable places where communities thrive.

Participants at each event co-designed ideas and proposals using creative model making using four themes of power, connection, diversity and sustainability as a starting point. We hoped to gather a sense of how the situation changes across the UK, identifying place-based differences, but also commonalities.

THE STORY

For each event in the series, we used the themes of power, sustainability, connection and sustainability as a starting point at four tables. Working collaboratively, participants used creative brainstorming and model-making to encourage participants to work together to think about new ideas and policy recommendations for our cities and spaces. The model for the events was a continuation of many Glass-House ideas, and provided a space to be active, creative, and to collectively contribute to a discussion rather than just listen.

 

Reconfiguring Place: Intergenerational Cities
Glasgow, 31 October 2019

We headed to Glasgow for our first event, in collaboration with Civic House, to explore Intergenerational Cities and what that means for placemaking:

  • What does the term intergenerational mean in the context of place? Is it different from multigenerational?
  • What can places do to help prevent the partitioning of different age groups into “generation ghettos”?
  • How might bringing people of different ages and generations together through place unlock new opportunities to improve our quality of life?
  • How can the stories and heritage of Glasgow shape how different age groups interact within it?

 

Reconfiguring Place: High Streets
Blackpool, 27 November 2019

 

High streets have become extremely prominent in recent discourse about towns, cities, heritage and community. We partnered with Historic England and The Open University for this event to investigate local people’s ideas for what can be done to shape our nation’s high streets differently, as well as what could be done more specifically in Blackpool:

  • How can we change the narrative about high streets to one that focuses on opportunities and celebrates successes?
  • How can the stories and heritage of a city inform how we shape our high streets moving forward?
  • How do we give communities a proactive role in revitalising our high streets?
  • How can we help different age groups to interact on the high street?

 

Reconfiguring Place: Housing
March, 26 February 2020

Our final event took place in Manchester, a city with a huge student population which accounts for the majority of new accommodation buildings. We partnered with the Manchester School of Architecture to ask:

  • How can we shift the narrative about housing from a focus on delivery targets, to talking about designing great homes and neighbourhoods for people?
  • Are there new models for housing provision that could help us tackle problems of affordability and homelessness?
  • What role can housing play in bringing people of different cultures and ages together to tackle our global climate emergency?
  • How do we give communities a proactive role in shaping and delivering better quality and more sustainable housing for the future?

 

Reconfiguring Place: What’s Vital Now?

Due to the current pandemic, the final event in The Glass-House 2019/20 WE Design series, Reconfiguring Place: What’s Vital Now?  in London was postponed indefinitely. We decided to close the series with the three completed events, and carry the theme ‘What’s Vital Now’ into 2020/21.

Reconfiguring Place was conceived as a response to the current built environment landscape, and sought to explore how we change our relationship with the places around us, with a focus on improving design quality and creating more equitable places where communities thrive.

Using a creative workshop model from the previous event series, we kept the format the same for each event. Working collaboratively across the four tables, we used creative brainstorming and model-making to encourage participants to work together to think about new ideas and policy recommendations for our cities and spaces.

What we noticed most was that, that despite the different starting themes and locations, there was a huge amount of similarity between the different proposals at each event and between events. The strong focus on mixed use and supporting enterprise, re-purposing of spaces for community purposes, and skill-sharing was clear throughout. We hope to take these ideas forward to policy-makers in order to implement change, as well as inspire local action at a range of scales.

 

Participant and partner views on the events:

“I’ve realised it’s small changes that can make a difference.”

“I will look at our projects and see if there are ways we can make them more multi-generational, not just inter-generational.”

“A great opportunity to meet people across the generational divide”

“I valued most the generosity of ideas and respect shown between attendees.”

“I will be more exploratory & inquisitive about the organisations and activities already here.”

“I really learned and appreciated the discussion with everybody a the end. Overall got to know people with different views and backgrounds which always bring to the table.”

“Brilliant conversation and engagement. Made all the better after the young people and youth workers arrived.”