The role of the architect to empower communities

The theme for this year’s London Festival of Architecture is ‘Community’ and Case Furniture will be hosting a discussion that examines how architects can support existing communities in developing and improving their own homes and local environments. Does this approach create new relationships between architects and clients, and how far can this role be developed?

Jo Cowen, Xanthe Hamilton and Robert Bevan will consider how clients can work together as a community to maximise potential and future proof their homes and local area so that communities can stay together and intact. How can architects support clients to create the change they want to see in their local area?

Is it now more important that the architect is the facilitator rather than the creator, and an enabler of process and discussion?

Community gets to the heart of what architects do so well – creating better places for local people to use and enjoy. However as architects are now rarely the lead in development projects the end user is often distanced from the design process and real dialogue. Some councils and developers ‘community engagement’ tends to be at a stage where the key decisions are already made and the community feels powerless.

But as the speakers will demonstrate – there is another way, when the community becomes the client. Collaboration with architects often results in an approach that upcycles the existing fabric of their neighbourhood to help maintain local distinctive identity– which is so under threat especially in London. The creative input comes from both sides, resulting in a vision that belongs to the community, yet is shared by the architect. The architect’s great challenge is to interpret and distill the needs of a sometimes disparate and inexperienced group to create something better than they thought possible. With no ‘the middle man’, this approach empowers both the community and the architect, creating meaningful and well designed projects that all can be proud of.

Which chimes so well with Case Furniture’s desire to create well designed contemporary furniture that has integrity and character. We hope you can join us for what will be a fascinating and timely discussion.

By Sarah Gaventa

The role of the architect to empower communities is at Case Furniture on Wednesday 22nd June, 630pm for 7pm. Part of the London Festival of Architecture.