• How Architecture can help Communities

    This blog was written by our work experience student Jesse. 

    In a time where ‘social’ networks are being used by more and more people, we sometimes get disconnected from physical society; meeting people, chatting, debating.

    It is especially hard to socialise for those alienated and different from most in society. The old or disabled, for example, are rarely considered, often leaving nowhere nice to socialise in their local area. These people are often isolated and avoiding social interaction.

    Architecture is challenged to create spaces that will drag people away from isolation, their virtual environment and into the real and natural world.

    At Shape Architecture, the approach is to make enjoyable naturally inspired spaces. A big part of the design phase begins with vibrant sketching and using colour. These from initial concepts cement an idea of fun enjoyable spaces. This narrative is continued through to completion. Interesting, vivid shapes and colours and introducing contrasting textures are a key part of many Shape Architecture projects. It is crucial in residential projects specifically to establish environments, that are light, warm and welcoming. This methodology is also crucial in community buildings.

    In Peacehaven, near Brighton, a societal meeting point for elderly people was built to allow social experiences for those who are isolated, as well as educational centre to improve the well-being of the local community.

    The brief was to create two large spaces enveloped within a two-storey building. In order to cater to everyone, wheelchair access was ensured as well as a lift. The use of roof lights, windows and glazed screens filled the halls with natural light, reducing the need for artificial light and significantly minimising the operational costs. The feature stairwell is painted in bright colours and is next to a full sized glazed screen that allows light to flood both floors.

    This social-hub has an intriguing quality. The sloping flat roof is of the same pitch and height as local buildings, but the variation of the style of the development has an enticing quality. The building has a sense of fun; being set-back off the main road adds a layer of seclusion.

    The way this building is designed allows all members of the public to come together, which is a perfect example of how architecture has helped improve the Peacehaven community.

    Shape Architecture was enlisted to create a focal point for The Greatness community in Kent. Developing as a garden scheme or ‘Gateway’ this landscaping would be situated on a prominent corner on one of the streets, by two commercial properties, a post box and a bus station. The Gateway used the concept of concentric circles on the naturally sloping landscape to create an elevated garden and seating. This garden was an essential addition to the community; there were very few green-spaces accessible the public in the locality.

    Step-free access was essential in allowing all members of the community to access the green. A bike rack was also included to encourage travelling by bicycle. This fresh, green open space allowed people to sit outside, have a chat or just watch the world go by.

    Ecoshed 01 and 02, as suggested in the name, are primarily eco-friendly structures that offer a variety of community uses. Located in Hammersmith, these sheds are made of sustainable materials and were constructed using methods to reduce the carbon footprint and minimise waste. EcoShed 01 & 02 have green roofs and large windows to bring natural light. These sheds were commissioned to help bring society together. These simple modest structures have been used as meeting rooms, classrooms or gardening stores.

    The EcoSheds are used for reintegration programmes for ex-inmates through gardening and maintenance within the park. Examples of architural installations like this have real impacts on the local community. Offering a sense of worth and belonging to ex-inmates reduces the risk of re-offending, whilst improving the quality of the local green spaces in built-up areas.

    The Southborough Lane Church project was designed to be a striking building that would engage with the community, as the church is situated on a busy street. With 64% of people in the UK Christian, churches are still important social points in today’s society. The extension is used as a community hall to bring the residents of Southborough together to communicate and relax. The main hall is flooded with light from the windows that surround the open space, linking the hall to the outer community, and with many roof lights, the need for artificial light kept to a minimum. Simple materials inside put the focus on the community, not the internal decoration. The glass façade advertises the community centre, drawing in members with the involvement of local activities.

    Shape Architecture believes the best way for communities to prosper is in spacious, light, welcoming buildings or spaces that captivate the public.

    Fulham Architecture