Local Places, Global Issues was an event series which aimed to explore locally-based design and placemaking within the context of globally significant themes.
As the world has continued to adapt to the ever-shifting influences of the Covid-19 pandemic, The Glass-House 2021-22 WEdesign event series looked into some of the themes that have brought people together around the globe to fight for equity, celebrate diversity and tackle climate change.
This series adapted to the changing pandemic restrictions, so we experimented with a hybrid delivery format, enabling us to reach as many people as possible through in person and online delivery.
This approach was logistically challenging as each university space was different, so we had to think creatively about the best approach for each event. This hybrid approach was extremely positive and allowed us to bring together local conversations with the students and participants in each city with the experiences of those joining us online from further afield.
This series enabled us to empower students as co-designers and co-facilitators. We worked with our academic partners and students to design a programme and activities that would give students a prominent role, enabling them to contribute and extract form the events.
As with our previous series, this year’s events brought together community activists, practitioners, students, researchers, academics, policy makers, voluntary, public and private sector professionals and representatives from the design, housing and development industries. People participated in the events from different parts of the UK and from all over the world.
Place Equity: Making great public spaces a reality for everyone
Wednesday 13 October 2021
For the first event in the series, we collaborated with the 3rd year students and tutors from Manchester School of Architecture’s PRAXXIS atelier. This event explored inclusivity and equity in public places, responding to the topical theme of people’s safety on our city’s streets, as well as taking inspiration from Leslie Kern’s book Feminist City.
The session included the following:
– Senior Lecturer Emily Crompton introduced the students work which focused on a green site next to The Pankhurst Centre, where the suffrage movement began in Manchester, and served as an inspiration to explore how cities can be more equitable.
– A co-design task using the green site outside the Pankhurst Centre as a catalyst for generating ideas, working collaboratively on Miro.
– A group discussion, where participants were able to come back together to explore their ideas and thoughts following their collaborative task.
Diversity Design: Urban ecology by, with and for diverse actors
Thursday 24 February 2022
As part of this event at Bartlett School of Planning we collaborated with students studying Urban Ecologies through UCL Bartlett’s MSc in International Planning and MSC Spatial Planning to explore both how we can give nature a voice in co-designing the city and what cities can do for nature.
The session included the following:
– Lucy Natarajan an Associate Professor at the Bartlett School of Planning set the scene by sharing the work of the students, who have been thinking about the diversity of natural factors in urban environments and critically reflecting on the difference between new built environments and the natural world.
– A co-design task led by the students where the group explored how we can better activate nature as an empowered voice in design and placemaking.
– A fruitful discussion which touched on propositions including the role of guerrilla gardening, championing ecological processes and considered the role of trees, weeds and scrubs and our expectations of our green spaces.
Cultural Influences: Exploring who is missing in placemaking
Thursday 10 March 2022
At Mackintosh School of Architecture within Glasgow School of Art we worked with students to explore how we can address the issues of inequality through breathing life back into neglected spaces. The event considered the potential of the forgotten spaces that hide within our urban realm, exploring the cultural influences, or lack thereof, that have shaped these spaces.
With some restrictions still in place in Scotland at the time of this event, our participants joined us online. We broadcast live from the Mackintosh School of Architecture, with staff and students working in-person with The Glass-House.
The event included:
– Miranda Webster and Isabel Deakin, tutors at Glasgow School of Art and Co-Founders of MiA (Missing in Architecture) presented the student’s focus for the session, which explored forgotten spaces, in particularly the space underneath Glasgow’s M74.
– The students worked with participants to consider how underused spaces can be reimagined and reused and explored who is being left out of the conversations to shape our public realm and proposed how we can engage these individuals/groups.
– The discussion that followed explored advocating for shaping policy with local people at every level, questions of ownership and agency and looked at how spaces could be activated with a use-led design approach.
Sustainability: Designing more sustainable high streets
Wednesday 30 March 2022
At our last event of the series, we collaborated with The University of Sheffield School of Architecture’ s Live Works, working with students studying Architecture on their final year of undergraduate studies. We investigated alternatives to High Streets as sites for consumerism and considered a richer and more diverse set of people and place-specific activities.
The session programme featured:
– Year 3 Programme Leader and Live Works Co-director Leo Care introduced the students work which focused on developing designs for buildings that will act as catalysts to help rejuvenate these high streets and consider how their architectural interventions could help form a wider high street strategy.
– Through breakout groups, participants facilitated by the students considered the role that education and communication can play in designing more sustainable high streets.
– Through discussion, we then explored themes which had emerged from the breakout groups, including measures to encourage intergenerational dialogue, how to make public transport more accessible and championing ‘unlearning’ as a starting point for the evolution of the high street.
Local Places, Global Issues, WEdesign series provided an important opportunity for students to gain real life interaction and make connections with a diverse, cross-sector and interdisciplinary audience. This space allowed students to develop their skill-set through interacting with participants and grow their thinking with their own work and ideas.
Connecting and collaborating with students at the start of their careers was an important takeaway for the participants, and they created a space which enabled policy makers and industry professionals to come away feeling invigorated and inspired. The students’ fresh approach and professionalism impressed participants, who commented on the mutual benefits of the sessions.
This series was our first hybrid event series, which built on the experience and approach of 2020/21 online series. Although sometimes technically challenging, this hybrid approach extended our reach nationally and internationally, connecting the local themes with wider global issues, whilst allowing us to reconnect in person with participants.
For The Glass-House, the proposition of unlearning was discussed as part of this series which has inspired the WEdesign event series theme for 2022/23. Which will explore the concept of relearning and how this approach might encourage people to think differently and to affect culture, policy and practice.
“It’s a rewarding experience to take an active role in a collaborative design task and I particularly enjoy the opportunity to connect and meet people from diverse backgrounds.”
“I have never played this role before and found it very dynamic and exciting.”
“It was a confident boost and good practice leading a conversation with strangers”
“The space created was extremely welcoming and loved the idea of being experimental”
“It was engaging and fun and interesting to develop knowledge and gain an understanding of various perspectives”
“It was great to see the diversity of participants from a range of locations.”
[Will you do anything differently as a result of the event?] “Consider tactile aspect of designing with nature as way of engaging”
“The students did an excellent job! Very well hosted and facilitated.”
[The students] “were great! worked well, the quality of input, akin to professionals in the room. A mutual benefit.”
“Great discussions, a lot of takeaways, both regarding the high street and running a blended session”
“Really brilliant contributions”
Read the Local Places, Global Issues series booklet: here
On the blog:
By Elly Mead, Sophie de Sousa, Deborah Ajia
By Jake Stephenson-Bartley
By Sophia de Sousa
By Elly Mead