Back to Blog

People, Place, Planet: The Ethical City Partner Blog

Posted on 1 May 2024

Written by:

Guest Author

By Miranda Webster: Co-Founder of Missing in Architecture (MiA) and WEdesign university partner tutor from Mackintosh School of Architecture, GSA

Following two previous successful collaborations with The Glass-House in 2022 and 2023 and the WEdesign series, we used the opportunity again to harness some of the student research topics as part of the co design event and theme People, Place, Planet

Image from The Ethical City event

The Glass-House team have been supportive of our alignment with the student’s studio theme: The Ethical City and the individual research project themes which have built on from last year’s co design event in relation to feminist spatial practices and re defining Glasgow as a feminist city.

This year, four students elected to join Missing in Architecture’s ‘special project’ and to use the co design event as part of the framework for their research. This allowed regular planning sessions between the students and MiA supervisors, to underpin the topics for research. Using the Glass-House timeline in the lead up to the co design event gave students a structure and allowed the students to meet key deadlines and work together as a supportive group.

Project title: The Ethical City: People, Place, Planet

The Ethical City will explore the role of place makers in addressing concerns facing the city, such as sustainability, inclusivity, social cohesion, and community resources, and how the city facilitates and nurtures society.

With the ongoing threat of pandemics, artificial intelligence, food & energy insecurity, the Climate Emergency and political upheaval across the globe, we are asking the question: what does this mean for the current city and the future of cities? What does this mean for people living and working in the city? Where do you feel safe and connected to the city and each other?

Using the Glass-House co-design event as the vehicle, it has allowed the students to engage with a live co- design activity and learn about facilitating collaboration and discussion through the experience. Opening up research topics to broaden the questions to a diverse community of voices. 

Group discussion from the event

The photo prompts offered a range of insights to how we all experienced the city, through our individual journeys and the spaces we each inhabit. The photos were selected together and categorised into themes around accessibility/ thresholds/ pavements/topography, hidden spaces, public transport systems, lighting, safety, seating/ shelter, traffic – pedestrian crossing, cycling, nature, air quality housing / industry and play.

Using these photos as prompts, 3 maps of Glasgow asked participants to stick a dot on parts of the city in response to the following questions: 

Is there a place you feel that Policy has shaped your experience of the city?

Where do you feel most connected to community?

What does the city teach us?  Is there a place that you have learnt from the city?

Where do you feel connected to green space?

Event participatns engaging in the icebreaker activity

This ice breaker exercise allowed participants to engage with the city and group themes as they arrived but also provided a bit of data to analyse for the student’s research projects, following the co design event.

The students set up the room with the photographic prompts and welcomed participants as they arrived to learn more about how discussions could revolve around ethical decision making within our cities. Tables were set up with four themes: Education, Community, Ecology + Policy and each held a variety of tools to engage people with, from sparkly pipe cleaners, to maps, tracing paper and post it notes.

The Glass-House team were fully supportive of the students and had worked with them to understand the co design activity purpose, timing and facilitation requirements. The Glass-House team provided a structure and tools for the event that captured the conversations and stage managed the room so effectively that a variety of opinion was heard and brought together as a landscape of voices.

The students reported back to the room through the design responses that visually harnessed and spatialised the concepts being explored around the four themes of Education, Community, Ecology + Policy, using the ethical city theme as a framework. Three student illustrators joined the room to create live illustrations which captured the emerging ideas and themes from the evening’s discussion and activities.

A student illustrator capturing the event

The student facilitators were challenged to engage the diverse voices within their groups, draw out conversations and get them making a 3d mind map of an idea. In most cases, this was the first time they have had to do this, so a variety of new skills were learnt! Confidence and authority was needed in some groups to keep discussions on track and to time. Feeding off conversations spontaneously to ask questions of the groups whilst encouraging those quieter members to make something with the materials provided are skills that will benefit the students ongoing learning and interactions as they step out into practice. 

Engagement with the public and using the co design methodology as a vehicle for research has offered the students an experience they wouldn’t ordinarily get within the curriculum. The event highlighted the value of collaboration and challenged the notion of what a successful outcome could be. Seeing a value in everyone’s contribution. Every student felt more confident as a result of the co design experience and in some cases will go on to use it for their own projects and future collaborations.

As a lecturer and researcher, the opportunity that Glass-House has brought to the school has opened minds to different ways of engaging and aligned with themes that architects are concerned with in the 21st century relating to people, place + planet. 

Participants and students work together to create their model

A key take away would be that the more we embed this methodology within the curriculum, the easier it would be for students to see the value they bring to policy makers and place makers. 

Missing in Architecture, a platform for collaboration, creativity and research, with equality at its heart; fills the gaps that we think are missing in the built environment, education + the profession. Working with Glass-House has been a joy and allowed one more gap to be identified and filled with an ongoing process of refinement! We are looking forward to connecting with a wider network to help evolve and refine The Glass-House WEdesign series.

About the Author

Miranda Webster – Stage 5 leader at MSA

Stage leader, Studio tutor, Early Career Researcher, co founder of Missing in Architecture, Practicing Architect, PG Certificate in Learning + Teaching 2018

Research Profile

Miranda Webster is an architect, teacher and early career researcher, teaching at the Mackintosh School of Architecture. She is a founding partner in the award winning practice cameronwebster architects but stepped into full time academia in 2021. Her practice harnesses tactics developed within research in academia and in the studio, to pursue architectural interests in developing ways to engage diverse conversations and activities around the places and spaces that we all inhabit.

Miranda is also one of the founding members of Missing In Architecture, a collaborative platform promoting equality, creativity and action within the education system and profession. The founders of MiA are keen to use this platform to explore three key areas of activity: education, engagement and research, with equality at the heart.