By Jaina Patel
On Thursday 21st October 2010 The Glass-House and partner organisations held a lively and interactive debate in Edinburgh looking the sustainability of the community building in the contexts of new builds and refurbishments. The debate was the first in series of 4 taking place across the UK over the coming months.
Our panel of speakers included David Tyler, Chief Executive of Community Matters, Charles Strang, Principal of Charles Alexander Strang Associates, Rob Hoon, Co-ordinator of Out of the Blue Arts & Education Trust (a community centre which went through the process of a refurbishment) and Catherine Martin, Development Manager of Croy Miners’ Welfare Charitable Society (for which a new community centre was built). The debate welcomed a mixed audience which included design professionals, community organisations, local authority officers, funding bodies, academics and students who contributed to a lively discussion.
The discussion highlight the importance of the community buildings for local communities and explored some of the key opportunities and challenges that buildings bring with them. It also highlighted that community centres generally cater for a number of different interest groups and communities who have both shared and conflicting needs. Getting the building right for for those existing and future needs is crucial. There is a dedicated page to the themes raised from Thursdays debate which can be found at:
Some questions that emerged in the discussion with the audience include:
- How can we ensure that the design process involves a broad section of the community yet gives the design team a clear and representative client with whom to engage?
- How can you keep communities engaged and interested during the design and build process when it takes an average of 7 years from inception to completion?
- How can we improve the relationship between the local council and people, who we believe want many of the same things but are not sure how to engage with each other?
- Is it a good idea to produce new community centres using a kit/ modular approach? Would this produce centres that are appropriate for the local context and that are sustainable in the long term?