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Neighbourhoods by Design Digital: reflecting on a digital design workshop

Posted on 22 October 2020

Written by:

Sophia de Sousa

Last week, The Glass-House Team, working with our Enablers from Urbed, delivered a digital version of our Homes & Neighbourhoods by Design course for members of the Community Design Group on Broadwater Farm Estate in north London.

Our Design Training is part of an extensive engagement programme, being led by Karacusevic Carson Architects, working in collaboration with a number of partners including The Glass-House, to inform regeneration on the estate. Due to social distancing measures linked to COVID, it was not possible to bring participants together in the same physical space, so the decision was made to do the whole training course online. This was the first time we had delivered our Design Training online, having delivered it as face-to-face courses for the past 20 years.  You can see an example of this workshop as we have traditionally offered it (face-to-face) in our story about working with St Raphael’s Voice last year.  

St Raphael’s Voice Design Training 2018

Our Homes & Neighbourhoods by Design course is aimed at people who are involved in a design engagement process for their housing area. Working with The Glass-House and independent designers (who are not involved as consultants in the local project), participants are offered a safe space to explore the potential of design to improve their neighbourhood and to build their confidence for working collaboratively and effectively with the project design team. 

Broadwater Design Training Team – Facilitators from The Glass-House and our independent enablers Urbed

It is important to reiterate that the purpose of this workshop is not to come up with any design solutions. It is a safe space for participants to learn more about the design process together, and to explore how design might be used to unlock the potential of their area. It is an entirely safe and independent space to explore and experiment. 

Creative modelling
Collaborative mapping

Traditionally, we would run this Design Training over two intense and consecutive days. This is a hands-on programme which includes walkabouts and study visits, mapping, collaging and modelling. The interaction of participants both with each other and with the spaces and places we are exploring is crucial to the approach.

We would like to share our reflections on what adapting our Design Training to a digital space has involved, and how it has affected the process and experience. We are mindful of a growing enthusiasm for digital engagement methods and while we embrace their inclusion in the engagement toolbox, think it’s important to explore the differences between face-to-face and virtual spaces for design capacity building, and how the two might best complement each other. 

You can explore these issues with our three linked blogs, each of which focuses on a specific area of consideration:

These blogs have been written by the members of The Glass-House team involved in designing and facilitating the workshop, and includes some reflections from our independent enablers from Urbed and from workshop participants.