Over the course of this summer, The Glass-House has been collaborating with This Must Be The Place, a long-term placemaking project led by Cement Fields which is based around the new garden city of Ebbsfleet in Kent. Cement Fields is a visual arts organisation working collaboratively with artists and communities to create ambitious new art along the Thames Estuary.
Back in June, The Glass-House team travelled to Swanscombe to work with the Ebbsfleet Design Group, a group of young people led by artist Harun Morrsion who meet weekly alongside an array of professional artists and designers to learn new creative skills, explore a city under construction and contribute to the design of the new garden city. You can read about the workshop we delivered with the group here, which explored design engagement and why it’s important for communities to be involved in the design of the places in which they live, work and play.
On Thursday 20 July, we held the ‘Young People Making Places’ webinar in collaboration with Cement Fields and the Ebbsfleet Design Group. The evening event brought together a range of inspiring voices from across placemaking, built environment design and community landscapes for an online conversation exploring how we can make more room for youth-led design.
You can watch the webinar here.
Our first segment welcomed Aleyna, Precious and Harvey, young people from the Ebbsfleet Design Group. They reflected on their experience in Ebbsfleet, discussing how they got involved in the group and what attracted them to be part of the engagement and design journey. Each of them had been told about the group through their schools, illustrating a key avenue of reaching out to involve young people in projects. The group provided an opportunity for them to explore career themes that they were interested in, including construction, architecture and landscape design. They spoke about their favourite elements of the programme to date, which included meeting a wide range of professionals from lots of different backgrounds, learning new skills and the opportunity to understand different career paths. They rounded up their slot by reflecting on why it’s so important to include young people in design conversations, how their opinions, feelings and ideas are important as they are the current and the future of our places.
We then heard from Larry Botchway, who is an architect and co-founder of POoR Collective. POoR (Power Out of Restriction) is a socially-minded organisation that focuses on the development of communities through the elevation of young people. Through knowledge sharing and design, they aim to bridge the gap between communities, bringing together a wealth of demographics to empower the youth of today. Larry reflected on POoR’s ethos and approach (consultation, co-design and design), before exploring two recent projects; Bringing Home to the Unknown and Bexleyheath HSFA.
Our second speaker was Anna Francis, one of the co-directors of The Portland Inn Project, an arts and community-led organisation established to address inequalities of access to social, cultural and sporting activities for people in their local area in Stoke-on-Trent. Since 2016, they’ve been commissioning projects and art works that respond to their local context and community, involving local people in decision making to give them influence and control over their neighbourhood. Anna reflected on their work with young people in their neighbourhood, including their summer schools and street-level learning which are co-developed by local young people and heavily influenced by what they want to learn.
Sahra Hersi, who is an artist, spatial designer and educator working across London, shared her work next. She reflected on three of her projects; Mountford Community Hall Eco Self-Build, Ilford Forever and The House of Many Ways. All of which draw on her ethos of participation and care, working with local people and stakeholders to understand how designs should be developed and co-produced and stepping away from assumptions.
Our final speaker of the evening was Huan Rimington, founding director of Build Up, which is a London-based charity running practical construction projects with young people aged 10 – 23. Huan took us through the journey of their project The Shade in Waltham Forest, exploring how young people feed into the process, as well as the complexities of navigating public realm construction work.
Pulling Together Threads
Our speakers provided a fascinating glimpse into a variety of youth-led design, architecture and placemaking projects and offered a provocative invitation for others to make more space for young people within their work and processes.
All our speakers stressed the importance of actively listening to children and young people, and providing the flexibility within project journeys to be responsive to ideas and thoughts that emerge from working with young people. We were struck by the need to fit into young people’s timelines, that if we want to engage them in design processes, we need to go to the places where they already are, be that schools or youth clubs. There was also a clear give and take in each of our speaker’s work, and they learnt alongside their young collaborators and built skills, knowledge and confidence whilst gaining insights into what it means to be a young person in today’s world.