The Glass-House worked with a group of young girls from The Baytree Centre in South London to explore their relationships with place and to introduce them to the diverse range of built environment career paths
project date: Summer 2022
In the summer of 2022, The Glass-House collaborated with The Baytree Centre, an educational charity and centre for women and girls in Brixton, South London, to deliver two workshops with a group of young girls from the local area. These workshops were designed to invite young participants to explore their relationships with the places and spaces around them, and to introduce them to a range of built environment career paths.
Our collaboration with The Baytree Centre was built on a shared passion for empowering people through educational, creative opportunities, and we are huge supporters of the work they do. As part of their programme of activities across the summer holidays, we delivered our initial workshop in July before returning in August for our second session.
Exploring the design of place
Our initial one-day workshop featured an ambitious programme of activities to introduce the girls to the world of place design and help them unpick how they relate to the spaces around them. We were joined for the day by a group of girls aged 11 – 16, as well as Angela Brady OBE, director of Brady Mallalieu Architects and past RIBA president, and were lucky to also have a lunchtime talk from Tosin Oshinowo, Nigerian architect and director of CmDesign Atelier.
At our first workshop, we introduced design thinking through creative activities and facilitated discussions, as well as combining the two with problem-solving tasks to help the girls explore their relationships with place. We challenged the girls with designing their own cities, giving them a window into how design teams work together in practice to co-design places, before segueing into our short exploration of built environment career paths. This conversation was supported by Angela and Tosin, who kindly each then led a short session talking about their own architectural practices.
In the afternoon, we used architectural photography as a route into exploring how our senses and emotions influence how we perceive and experience places, and therefore express them through artistically capturing them. Taking inspiration from John Mullin and The Academy of Urbanism’s MY PLACE project, between the two workshops we challenged the girls to think about places that were special to them and why.
Articulating feelings about the places that are special to us
At the start of our second workshop, a shorter afternoon session, we shared previous My Place submissions from other young people, allowing the girls to explore different ways they can capture and write about themselves and the places that are important to them.
Using examples of place-based art from a diverse range of artists, we then invited the girls to share their feelings on how well they felt place was conveyed in each of the example artworks, helping them to build confidence in forming and expressing their own opinions about different places.
We asked each of the girls to choose a place which is special to them, asking them to explain what it is about those places that resonated with each of them. Many of their chosen places were connected to happy memories, often centred around family and friends, but were places that they had not considered through a design lens before. By getting the girls to collage or draw their chosen place from memory, we prompted them to examine their places from a placemaking perspective and identify design or architectural/ urban design features that stood out to them.
We ended our second workshop sharing our creations with each other, sharing memories and how we had tried to capture them in our artwork. It was important to make space to share back and celebrate the workshop process, not only to give the girls an opportunity to share any thoughts and learning with each other, but also to help the girls appreciate the knowledge and ideas they had developed throughout the workshops.
Exploring the design of place
Inspired by our experience with the girls and the MY PLACE project, we have launched a series of blogs called ‘A Place I Love’, which celebrates those special connections we each have to specific places. We’re hoping to hear from and share the voices of people from all walks of life and of all ages. Our hope is to create a tapestry of different experiences and perceptions of place that will both help raise awareness about how deeply the places around us affect us, and inspire those leading design and placemaking initiatives to engage a diverse range of people in shaping them.
“I liked the activities, learning about the different ways architects and designers do things.” (participant feedback)
A core aim of our workshops with The Baytree Centre was to introduce young girls to career paths in the built environment, such as architect or planner, as well as those they may not have heard of before, such as urban designer or engagement specialist. Our hope is that by creating more opportunities for young people to be part of conversations around design and place, we can illuminate future pathways into the built environment sector that might have otherwise remained unexplored.
“I liked learning about different things, the drawing activities and you know when we built that little city, I loved that. Describing our favourite place, my place, and then drawing it” (participant feedback)
By introducing the girls to placemaking and architectural ideas, we aim to help empower them as active citizens to engage with the places and spaces around them. We hope that the sessions have enabled them to look around their local neighbourhoods through a new lens, examining the whats and whys of how cities are pieced together.
[The thing I enjoyed most about the workshops was] the sense of community, being able to talk to each other and have different ideas and put them together.” (participant feedback)
At all of our workshops, we aim to create open, safe spaces where diverse people can come together and share different ideas and opinions in order to find common ground through discussion. In mainstream schooling, young people are not often given opportunities to explore their personal feelings and their relationship with local places and the people in them. By creating this space in our workshops at The Baytree Centre, we were able to provide this opportunity for the girls to explore their own feelings and opinions, and to voice them without fear of judgement.
“[I would prefer to do workshops like these at] The Baytree Centre, because sometimes in school it’s more distracting and it’s better to go with other people you don’t know so you can get to know them and work with new people and learn new skills” (participant feedback)
Interestingly, when asked, all of the girls said that they would prefer workshops like this to take place in centres like The Baytree in the future, not at school. Not only does this highlight the value of The Baytree Centre to the girls as a space for them to come together to explore new ideas with similar aged peers, but also the importance of varied and diverse learning spaces and experiences for our young people.
The workshops were also a fantastic learning experience for us at The Glass-House, and our learning from their planning and delivery has already fed into several other projects, including our recent State of Play workshop with the National Videogame Museum in Sheffield. We will continue to embed our experience with designing engaging and creative activities for children, teenagers and young adults into our future work.
Other projects within The Glass-House working with children and young people:
- Over summer 2022, we worked with two interns from the Transforming and Activating Places programme at University of Sheffield to further develop our gaming workshop model. Read about this State of Play gaming workshop at the National Videogame Museum, here.
- In May 2022, we worked with a group of children and young people at High Trees Adventure Playground in Tulse Hill, South London, as part of our ExploreStation project, which explored a new station design from Network Rail. Read about the workshop in our blog here.
We also enjoy working with children and young people within schools:
- Read about our digital workshop with Year 6 Students that explored the heritage at Union Chapel, in our report here, our Innovating Practice story here or from the perspective of Barbara Basini, Head of Conservation and Building Projects at Union Chapel, in her blog here.
- We also worked with another group of Year 6 students at The Willow School at Broadwater Farm Estate in Tottenham, North London, exploring design through our gaming workshop. Read about the workshop here.
- The Glass-House worked with developer St James and Phoenix High School in White City to give local young people an opportunity to engage in design thinking and build their employability skills across four months in 2014. Read more here.
Read about our Scaling Up Co-Design media and design workshop in collaboration with Sheffield-based social enterprise Silent Cities, through which we worked with young people in Elephant and Castle to help them explore their relationships with their environment and share ideas for the future of their local area. Read more about the media workshop here.