The Who Cares? platform has so far indulged us with several inspiring designers and architects, exploring humanitarianism in their practice from different angles. Recent discussions indicate an increasing interest in self-initiated design-and-build projects (also exemplified by Assemble and RARA, who presented earlier in the series), and a more research-led approach to practice. How can architectural interventions in shared places build relationships between different groups of people? What is the role of the architect in this process?
From drawing maps to making street furniture and temporary event spaces, the physical outcome of Orizzontale and La Rivoluzione delle Seppie’s work comes across as secondary to the social impact of participation, through designing, making and occupying such objects. Each project, however modest in scale, is an opportunity to build trust and find common ground between local people and institutions from diverse backgrounds, external organisations, ‘expert’ consultants (including designers) and authoritative bodies. Cooking together, watching films and sharing stories helps to cross these boundaries by generating conversation and exchanging knowledge, knowledge that may encourage citizens to understand their own abilities and act on their environment.
The slow, indirect civic engagement of local people in place-making often sees the architect put on many different hats, from designer to builder, event-planner, social activist, psychologist and teacher. Each practice has had to continuously evaluate, define and redefine for itself the (extended) role of the architect; to what extent should he or she control the project outcome? Neither have it all figured out – least of all, how to reliably source funding – but sharing their experience reveals similar successful and failed approaches that we can learn from, demonstrating how limited physical resources, a lot of conversation and some collective action can slowly transform the places around us.
Corina Tuna is an MA by Project (ARCSR) Research Student at The Cass. She completed her Architecture Diploma (Part II) at The Cass in 2017, following her undergraduate studies at The Bartlett and two years of experience working on projects across Greater London and abroad. She takes an experimental hands-on approach to both research and practice, using her skills to encourage ordinary people to collectively respond to and transform the places they inhabit. (2018)