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Goodbye Glass-House

Posted on 29 September 2023

Written by:

Elly Mead

I finished my master of architecture degree in 2020, right into the uncertainty that the Covid-19 pandemic had wrought on many industries across the globe and an eerily quiet job market in the architectural sector. I had found the end of my masters, sheltered away in my flat in Manchester, a difficult ending to an otherwise amazing experience. But, by the end of almost 24 months of study, my brain was feeling decidedly oversaturated by the architectural education process (my masters being just one of 3 degrees you must secure to become a qualified architect in the UK).

And so, I spent the next few months freelancing with a local market garden, building timber stalls with community groups from the area whilst exploring some of the themes I’d looked at whilst studying in real life. I’d loved being out of ‘formal’ architecture, and I wanted to spend more time exploring this adjacent space, where communities and architectural thinking could come together through design to create something bigger than the sum of its parts. 

It was then that my old tutor sent me a job recruitment post on Instagram, “if you’re still looking!”. As I read through the job description for Design Champion at The Glass-House, it really felt as if it was describing me; my interests and experiences, the things I was passionate about and the skills I’d been developing. And, well, I’ve been with The Glass-House since.

The Glass-House team (and extras!) at our ExploreStation workshop in Sheffield in 2021

Across my time here, I’ve led projects, facilitated workshops alongside supportive and inspirational colleagues, hosted online events, sat on panels, convened conversations with communities and authorities, captured discussions and ideas in publications, written blogs and led conversations. I’ve travelled up and down the UK, worked with students from across built environment and design courses, collaborated with tutors, schools and young people. And, through all of the shifting spaces, I have always been championing design. The power of design to share different perspectives and realities, to problem solve, and unlock connections and communities based in different places.

Jake and me at the WEdesign 2022/23 Glasgow event, REdefine, in 2022

It’s been a fantastic two and a half years, full of amazing experiences, projects, people and interesting, rich lines of thought. The Glass-House has been an incredibly interesting space to be a part of, sitting somewhere between architecture, learning and research, and I recognise the immense privilege I have had by being a small part of it for the last few years. The Glass-House is constantly distinctly carving out its own path forward in the often bureaucratic and complex world of placemaking, and being able to represent such a principled organisation has been pivotal for me as part of my own journey. 

Another photo from ExploreStation, from our Sheffield Exhibition in 2021

Whilst my time has not been without its challenges, difficult briefs and intertwined narratives, there have always been so many simultaneous joys; successful projects, stimulating conversations and the space to really stretch out both of my arms and figure out why I love placemaking, why I do what I do and where I want to go next.

Jake and me being interviewed by a young person at High Trees, South London in 2022

I’ve had the privilege of learning from the amazing Glass-House team, that’s shifted and grown during my time here, as well as working with our amazing range of collaborators from across sectors and disciplines. A huge thank you goes to the current wonderful team, Sophia, Jake and Louise, for all your advice, shared knowledge and laughs. 

Celebrating our LFA event, ‘Co-creating a Collaborative City’ in summer 2023

I want to extend a huge thank you to everyone who I’ve worked with across my time at The Glass-House, as well as to every workshop and event participant who shared their time and thoughts with me. So many of these interactions have been catalytic in my own thinking, and have helped me to form my own set of (ever-evolving) ideas, principles and feelings about how we can equitably design, build and manage spaces and places.

Sophia and me talking to children about design at Broadwater Farm in 2021

From the start of October, I’ll be joining architectural practice Hawkins\Brown in their London office, where I’ll be putting all the learning and knowledge from my experiences at The Glass-House back into designing places. You can find me on LinkedIn and Twitter.