We believe that local people know best what their area needs. We come in, as outsiders, in a role we like to think of as a spatial form of midwifery – collaborating with communities to birth or reimagine their future spaces. Like a labouring mother, local people already have the strength and knowledge within to bring about change. Our role is to creatively facilitate, helping to generate suitable conditions for this strength and knowledge to be exposed and employed. We do this in a variety of ways, scales and contexts. Our approach is informed by our research into spatial practices in divided and contested contexts that build connection between places and people, across spatial margins. We have presented this research at London Festival of Architecture, 2019 and Architecture at the Edge, 2020, available online here.
We, with Starling Start, were engaged by the Department of Justice in early 2020 to come up, through discussion with community representatives and local people, with design concepts for the possible reduction, removal or visual improvement of a 750m peace wall. To avoid the binary of two community meetings in public buildings on either side of the wall, we displayed our drawings and models in and on a yellow vintage camper van called Daisy, creating an ephemeral shared space that circumnavigated the wall, making stops along the way. We had Daisy badges and refreshments and activities for the kids, inviting intrigued residents to come out and share their views. It was an ephemeral shared space, on a domestic scale, that we could bring to people on their own streets, outside their doors.
In 2020-21 we are engaging in an investigation, called 9ft in Common, again with Starling Start and funded by Necessity, in which we use walking as a methodology to explore and map Belfast’s alleys / entries, exploring their access and ownership and considering their potential as leftover, liminal spaces of connection in the city. We are speaking with local politicians, council members, residents, artists, activists and interested others, questioning how the alleys can be used as a resource to neighbourhoods. We are gathering stories. We are exploring whether there might be more effective solutions to the problems of fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour than the popular but expensive alley-gating schemes that close the alleys off as routes. Visit the 9ft in Common website to learn more.
Image Credits: Peace Walls and 9ft in Common by Simon Mills
We are also working with a number of clients to masterplan the careful transformation of their rural homesteads into bases for their creative industries. These include a yoga-centric residential wellbeing retreat, several home studios providing workspaces for office-based work and holistic therapies, and an edible forest. Our clients for the latter, the Edible Flower, run a fork-to-fork supper club and catering company, and plan, over several decades to plant and transform their two fields into a self-sustaining, biodiverse forest that will allow them to go out and harvest and forage the ingredients to feed a crowd of people on any day of the year, and teach groups about all aspects of growing and cultivating. We worked with them to visualise and solidify their ideas into an illustrated plan and series of seasonal 3D renderings that allow them to share their vision with others. Phase 1, a catering kitchen, will soon start on-site.