Erect Architecture

Erect Architecture

22b Regent Studios
8 Andrews Road
London E8 4QN

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Community Gateway

Sarah has been collaborating with Mhairi McVicar on Cardiff Universities research project, Community Gateway, which has been her first experience of how to meaningfully engage with communities.

To what extent can the architect define community? Is community a state of mind, or a space or a defined assemblage?

As architects we look to create habitable spaces, spaces to define use and living, to circumscribe quality of life and activity. So when we enter an existing space, an existing group of people, a community, what can we really achieve?

Key to this is the question – to what extent do spaces influence our interactions within them? What about the Publicly Owned Private spaces, the ones whom have no community but will provide for the communities of the future?

"If you think you can’t make the world a better place with your work, at least make sure you don’t make it worse." Hertzberger questions the role of the architect in creating spaces and therefore communities.

Sarah believes that we should not interfere with existing communities - we might not make them any better – we must not destroy them through academia, prioritizing an architects’ ideals and desires over the communities interactions and ideas.

Herman Hertzberger created spaces to allow communities to interact, but it was the communities themselves that really made the spaces.

Whilst working on the Cardiff University Community Gateway project, Sarah had an interaction with some community members who wanted to create spaces that enabled the building of community. What stood out in their thoughts was their feeling that community is something that comes from within, from the people who come together to create it – it can’t be defined by the space alone.

Sarah feels that we should question our roles as architects - do we have the power, the strength or ability to change communities? From her experience, the answer is no. Our role is that of sociological engagement. It is about creating doorways for them to pass through and spaces for them to interact within to form their community.

As Hertzberger reminded us gracefully in his ‘Lessons for Students in Architecture’, residents that involve themselves in their surroundings and take responsibility for them, are able to build a sense of community based on the spaces they inhabit.

Universities, academics, architects and other professions provide platforms for communication. This has been Sarah’s role during her time with Community Gateway; connecting communities to new opportunities and allowing them to sculpt their social interactions through communication. The Community Gateway program is committed to making Grangetown an even better place to live by connecting with the university’s resources, volunteering, long-term partnerships and community led initiatives and research.  

This project has inspired Sarah to question the ideals of community, the pathways we take and the interactions we partake in. She questions the role of the architect and definition of engagement.

Looking to her own childhood community, Sarah has recognized that the most defined community events were created by the people in the community, not by outside organisations.  Community Gateway, the university, academics and architects are looking to create platforms and vehicles for communities, but not to intervene. Instead, they are enabling communities to flourish into unique societies and social systems of their own.

To see more of Sarah’s work with Mhairi McVicar and Community Gateway look here:

Community Gateway:

Sarah Ackland