Better Design for Better Places: A Community Vision

February 28, 2019

On the eve of the Government’s Better Design for Better Places Conference in Birmingham, Community Engagement organisation Mela Social Enterprise held a Community Vision workshop bringing together forty local residents with architects and other building professionals to explore how to design the Liveable Neighbourhood, the Liveable Street, and the Liveable Home.

Robert Sakula attended as an Urbanist, helping to envision the themes which emerged, which ranged from community hubs, convivial neighbourhoods and flexible, adaptable homes to integrated transport. The results of the workshop were reported back to the conference where a short film about the event, edited overnight, showed its main findings. You can read Mela’s report on the event below.

MELA delivers a Community Vision Event for Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

On the eve of the national MHCLG Conference on Better Design for Better Places on 13 February 2019, 40 people from diverse households attended the Community Vision event in Birmingham. The 40 guests represented the demographic shifts that are happening in our towns and cities including ethnically diverse, young people and people over 65. MELA worked with a team of 5 Facilitators and 5 Urbanists to talk and draw people’s aspirations.

We started with 3 statements, 3 questions and 3 aims for the workshop.
1. Demand for housing has never been higher…
Do we want to build housing estates or neighbourhoods?
The aim is to design the Liveable neighbourhood.

2. Loneliness and isolation is impacting our lives…
Can we design places that help us stay connected with other people?
The aim is to design the Liveable Street.

3. Society is changing: we are living longer, we are more diverse, we are living longer alone and having families later in life….
What choice of housing will meet our changing needs over our lifetime?
The aim is to design the Adaptable Home.

4 themes emerged:

1. Build Communities

Community Hubs to bring shared indoor/outdoor flexible communal facilities together for intensity and interaction e.g. a
school/library/playing field/multifunctional places of worship/places to share food, and other meeting places. Using the same spaces for different activities; open all hours, multi-use, intergenerational, free/low cost, and at the neighbourhood and street scale.

2. Build Neighbourhoods

A ‘village-feel’ or neighbourhood – not a housing estate.

A 5-min neighbourhood that is convivial, friendly, safe and liveable where facilities that are convenient in what they offer are close by, accessible and pleasant to get to on foot, by bicycle and on public transport. A High Street. Low rise (less than 10 stories), high density neighbourhoods with variety of green spaces nearby – community gardening, play areas, BBQ areas, outdoor games and sports, open gyms, orchards, parks, and landscaping.

3. Build Quality Homes to Last

Well designed high quality homes to last – joyful, bright, spacious, soundproof, generous in-built storage, energy/waste efficient and recycling waste, small footprints, beautiful, and connected to the neighbourhood.

Future-proofed for accessibility, flexible interior with sub-dividable rooms, integrated yet independent habitable units for the elderly and young people living at home longer.

Diversity – every site and every location is different and requires different responses.

Invest in the fabric of the building.

Talk and listen to the younger generation and involve them in self-build.

4. Build Connections Between Places

Integrated transport – accessible, well designed for walking/cycling/trams/trains/buses, affordable, and safe streets.

Special thanks to Facilitators Paul Chapman (MELA), Hannah Barter (Urban Vision CIC), Angela Koch (Imagine Places), Leo Hammond (Urban Design Group) and Yasmin Shariff (Dennis Sharp Architects), and Urbanists for their drawings David Rudlin (Urbed), Robert Sakula (Ash Sakula), Alexis Butterfield (Pollard Thomas Edwards), Matthew Westley (Glenn Howells Architect) and Joel Kempsey-Fagg (D5 Architects), and Organisations Accord Housing, YMCA Birmingham, Birmingham City Council, Concorde Youth Centre, Witton Lodge Community Association and Confederation of Co-operative Housing.