Erect Architecture

Erect Architecture

22b Regent Studios
8 Andrews Road
London E8 4QN

T +44 (0)20 7254 6336

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Co-Design? The Generosity Conference

Susanne and Sarah attended the Generosity Conference at the WSA and presented a paper focussed on the Camden Active Spaces Project. They spoke about the project extensively but also the process of co-design. Co-design involves stakeholders and users from the outset, in both the brief writing and continually through design development phase. For this to be successful there needs to be enough time in the programme and a reasonable fee. The practicalities of our work can’t be forgotten - it is not a generous practice if the designer is not paid fairly (of course this can be tough in the cash strapped public sector!)

Rather than designing for the good of the public, where their design ideas are at the heart of the process, it sometimes feels like we are caught in a feedback loop. We have begun to question the ways we work to disrupt this loop – we do this by tailoring our approach for each group and allowing it to evolve as we work. We use narrative to captivate less active and engaged children. We are removed as the ‘professional’ or ‘expert’ and the user takes this role. By suspending our expertise, the listening process is enabled. Through this process, a trusting relationship is formed and meaningful outcomes are shaped, enabling the longevity and ownership of the project to become more established.

We have found that deciding key timelines allows for the co-design process to be most productive rather than destructive. Everyone has an agenda, outputs, desire for design prestige, new playgrounds and a balance has to be found. It is sometimes hard not have an agenda, or a design idea to motivate. Architecture schools teach students to study the user or predict user needs, but if they taught user-engaged design, it would become inherent to the design process and break down barriers in the future. Most importantly, we need to teach children how the architecture process works to enable them to have a voice and an opinion, so that co-design is inherent and children learn to be active citizens.

Sarah Ackland


20 July 2018