CD-G Workshop

CD-G Workshop or Collaborative Design - Gateway Workshop by the UEL Architecture + Urbanisms Projects Office

There is no established way to employ collaborative methods of designing with community participation, in the Thames Gateway. Currently applied architectural design methods open up knowledge transfer gaps between planners, designers and users, because of their predetermined processes and outcomes. Often, community workshops are just consultancy processes leaving participants not in the position to ask how. This denies a potential process of collaboration and engagement.

The project Collaborative Design – Gateway Workshop aimed at enhancing knowledge exchange. It enabled a series of innovative set-ups and adventurous community workshops to test and demonstrate methods of designing with community participation, through collaborative designs, critical expert guidance and community engagement.

The project team was set-up to substantially enhance initial workshop input, open process and outcome as well as possible future scenarios. Partners in the project are Roger Zogolovich from AZ Urban Studio, Eike Sindlinger from ARUP Urban Design, Dominic Church from CABE and Zahira Nazer from Newham Regeneration.

As a preparation, collaborations demand specific designs, which incorporate elements of participation and address design, decision making, building processes and management. We selected and prepared six UEL student‘s architectural and urban design projects from the School of Architecture and the Visual Arts. The projects from the Diploma Unit 2 and 9, as well as the MA Alternative Urbanisms and the Masters in Architecture, cover a range of scales, from urban through to building and architectural details. They are located in Beckton, Stratford and North Greenwich, the London end of the Thames Gateway.

As the main event, we anticipated a two day workshop at the School of Architecture and the Visual Arts at the UEL Docklands Campus, in August 2008, by playing collaboratively and interactively through design scenarios, acceptance and feasibility. The part-simulation of possible collaborative design driven schemes was successful in unexpected ways. It has led to broader thinking about the subject and has led to a further community workshop in Beckton, in October 2008.

The feedback from local communities, partners and academics, has helped us to establish a series of objectives concerning local communities collaborative and participatory design processes, as well as current planning systems.

During this project, we have all collaborated in a knowledge exchange, rather than transfer. It was a mutual learning that opened processes and discussions about the social and spatial future of our immediate context in the Thames Gateway and in general.

This publication documents the CD-G Workshop preparation, workshop outcome, the student projects in detail and the potentials, for the future.

17.7.2008, Selecting Student Work

Participating Partners: Roger Zogolovich and Chris Lloyd from AZ Urban Studio, Eike Sindlinger from ARUP Urban Design, Dominic Church from CABE and Zahira Nazer from Newham Regeneration.

Together with our partners, we set-up and refined agendas for the community workshops and selected six student projects out of a total number of twelve from different academic programmes.

Roger Zogolovich raised the first question that would guide the main agenda. “What legitimises this collaboration as an experiment, an adventurous project?“ He also sketched out the answer by saying: “The project could be seen as a provocation, rather than an endorsement of current state of play in developing architecture and cities. It is about finding different and alternative methods of developing architecture as a bottom-up approach. With a current economic slow-down, models such as micro finance or community banking from developing countries could be interesting, as a collaborative process-delivery mechanism. It is about finding a market for collaborations of this kind.“
Dominic Church expanded on this: “The collaborative work could fill vacuums within current development structures, spatially and organisationally. This could create very unique identities. “

It was commonly agreed that the workshop is not a consultation. It has to be a playful exploration, testing, interaction and recording of knowledge exchange. The main two day event is a kind of educational process, where of people should be engaged in an interactive process. Dominic Church added: “If people find it difficult to engage or reject a scheme, they could positively reject work “if not this, what then?... I think it would be good to do this” The workshop has to be set up to facilitate and encourage such processes.”

We all concluded, that, the approach to development and regeneration lies in the empowerment of people, to be part of design, decision making, building and management. Deeply concerned with social, economic and environmental issues, all selected projects address bottom-up approaches and add immediate and long-term value to people’s life, in a very articulated manner.

Afterwards, the limited number of projects allowed focused preparations as well as a clear and legible set-up, with one workshop table per project. For each project we prepared a number of laminated A1 sheets, allowing people to draw on them with removable felt pens. The A1 sheets show maps of location, photos of existing conditions, perspectives and other clear and simple drawings, illustrating the project. In addition, we prepared questionnaires and other means of recording. Furthermore, we build simple and modular timber models for each project in scale 1:100, to allow immediate understanding and a playful spatial engagement.

20.08.2008 AT AVA


Zahira Nazer, Roger Zogolovich, Eike Sindlinger, Dominic Church - Yunghyun Ryu, Masamori Magota




Roger Zogolovich, AZ Urban Studio

The events, the workshops and the initiative that have taken place in the AVA at the University of East London have struck a deep chord within me in my interpretation of their approach. I believe that it questions the status quo for our housing policies and poses a new and interesting experiment for housing.

It builds on the opportunity for self help and self build. It is within the best pioneering traditions. This tradition of self help is bottom up and therefore has attraction in to-day’s difficult market conditions.

The six student projects presented by the university and the designers were discussed with both the expert panel and the local community. They all represent the notion of the addition, around a set of rules that allowed them to be expressed, vertically, horizontally or exponentially. I found it an invigorating model of housing and one that could help transform the somewhat banal housing context of existing housing estates.

The current state of the housing model is dull, despite all the entreaties of many design policies and reviews. The tried and tested housing estate models seem to me to deny our reasonable expectation for something better.

The students proposals that we saw, offered an invitation to the occupiers – that invitation asked them ‘how they would like to live’. In this idea it both permitted and encouraged all manners of expression of individual lives. This approach recognizes the importance of the home in the lives of the families that dwell within. To move this concept forward the regulatory framework would need to permit extensions to be made in every direction. This change would allow the home to grow or shrink with the changing life of its inhabitants.

I believe that this approach has a wider role to play and should be encouraged and discussed. The ability for the home to provide, home office, painting studio, accommodating elderly parents, pets, or any other independent activity that enlarges the scope and the interest of the occupiers must make sense to the wider ambition within our society for families to adjust alongside their circumstances and to deal responsibly with their lives.

The variety and the beauty of accident that would occur with such individual activity does in my opinion add rather than detract from the banality of the environment of the somewhat reductive suburban housing estate. The AVA students demonstrated in their architectural language both a richness of form and a freedom that I found stimulating and exciting. I believe that London is lucky with its cultural diversity. If we took the opportunity of empowering this community to create homes in whatever style and form they felt appropriate. I believe they would embellish their lives, homes and gardens in what might become a rich experiment in variety of form, texture, light and shape.

Current planning legislation tends to forbid or limit freedom of action for the individual. This restriction has strangely not bought with it the benefit that was imagined. We do not seem to have a richer or more beautiful environment because of it. I am concerned that this tight policymaking excludes innovation and has had rather led to a lowest common denominator, sadly with little character or distinction.

The Thames Gateway is searching for its future, it seems entirely appropriate a location to encourage and debate this experiment. Urban Buzz has provided the opportunity for this idea to be launched. I hope that it will be followed and developed further; it is in my opinion an important line of enquiry offering huge potential in the current difficult market housing conditions.

Roger Zogolovitch, 1st December 2008

Eike Sindlinger, Arup Urban Design

Collaborative Design Gateway Workshop - something to play with?

Based on the observation that existing communities often seem to have little influence on how their neighbourhood changes, the workshop identified the Thames Gateway as an opportunity to develop a collaborative design tool that would empower local residents to have a more prominent voice in the debate about their immediate surroundings.

Student projects were selected as the starting point for a two day workshop with the aim to develop such a tool. All was ready - except the public didn't turn up at the proposed date and time. Besides demonstrating one of the fundamentals of public engagement (you have to meet people where they are, both in terms of location and communication) the students' work touched on another important issue:

The selected projects offered not only fresh ideas for the existing neighbourhood. Unwittingly, most of the proposals challenged the current planning system by offering convincing concepts that would be impossible to realise under current rules. A tool based on these projects would most certainly have led to suggestions that could not be taken further without significant changes to the planning law.

So maybe, instead of aiming to change the system, the tool could be designed to produce implementable outcomes by enabling a playful negotiation of priorities within the limitations of the system. And it would need to do this by means that are tangible and understandable for the public. Such tool could achieve two things: For one, the community can explore ideas and come up with proposals that can be taken on board in the design development. But also, through playing with the flexible parameters, the community could understand the relationship between decisions and proposals. This would allow workshop participants to engage in future discussions in a more informed way and help them to judge proposals put before them.

For this to work, it is important that constraints and limitations of a given context are well defined and understood by all participants at the beginning and reflected in the mechanisms of the tool itself. The simple timber models representing the student concepts were perhaps a first step in that direction. They deserve further development with a view towards incorporating the constraints so they can encourage innovative interpretations of those.

Eike Sindlinger, 25.11.2008

Dominic Church, CABE

My work at CABE is all about making strong clients. Our objective is to help clients make well-informed choices and achieve the best results for the public good. Successful regeneration projects are always led by strong community engagement, rather than by a well-meaning government hand. At the end of the day, the clients are the people who will live there for years to come.

Part of my remit at CABE is a tool called Building for Life. It’s a catalogue of 20 criteria, which we can use to structure the debate about the quality of new residential neighbourhoods. The criteria are very simple, but the important thing for us is that they provide a way for us to show that good architecture and urban design are not just a matter of taste.

This is crucial because as soon as you accept that design quality is just a matter of opinion, your contribution to the discussion is at risk. Your knowledge and expertise becomes a mere opinion that is an unnecessary and irrelevant expense. If you allow yourself to be cut out of the action in this way, you do yourself out of a job, but you also deprive the wider community of the benefits of your expertise.

For you to remain relevant as an architect or urban designer, you need to offer your clients tools and techniques to understand the issues, challenges and opportunities, the possible solutions and to make an informed decision.

For your creative efforts to succeed, you need clients who are knowledgeable, and with whom you can engage in a meaningful way to develop the best design response. You need clients who are confident and with whom you can develop a shared vision which is ambitious, but tempered by realism and powerful enough to withstand being challenged.

It would be completely wrong to expect your clients to bring all of this to the table from the outset. In fact, it is part of your job to ensure that your clients can make an informed choice and provide you with a clear brief. This is where the knowledge transfer comes in.

The transfer of knowledge has to flow both ways. But in order for this to work, you need to find a shared language to describe, communicate and discuss some very complex multi-dimensional concepts. You need tools and concepts to structure that discussion – this is what your creative design skills are for.

You need to make use of these to look and listen and to identify and describe what you find. You need to apply your insight and analysis to what you find, identify issues, constraints and opportunities. And then you need to find a way to share your understanding and analysis, communicate complex issues in simple terms. You need to inspire by using creativity and insight to find ways forward, and apply your knowledge as a lever for change.

At CABE, we run hundreds of workshop events every year. We have found hands-on workshops on of the best ways to engage with just about any group of people, whether they are residents from the local community, planners, politicians or design professionals. Good materials – drawings, models and visual resources are essential for a successful workshop. We use all three of these.
Having seen the work you produced for this project, I have been very impressed by the work you have put into drawings and models that really serve to identify and analyse the challenges presented by the poor architecture and incoherent urban design of the areas you studied. In fact, I have seen some great tools for engagement I would love to steal for CABE to use. That’s another form of knowledge transfer for you!

I would like to congratulate you all on producing some excellent work. There is no doubt in your mind that you will be able to benefit from drawing on this experience for your work in the future.

Dominic Church, 03.11.2008

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