Creating Change RIBA Public Lecture

On Tuesday night Mend participated in the Creating Change Public Lecture at RIBA which was the culmination of the Women in Architecture “Creating Change” 2010programme of events. Liane and Kate are members of the Creating Change panel and had a small part in helping to develop the programme.

The lecture kicked off with the current RIBA President, Ruth Reed succinctly clarifying the case for diversity within architecture: “architecture and architects work best if they reflect the client or community they are working for….this is why empathy is so important in design and why diversity is vital to this.” Angela Brady, RIBA president elect reminded us that it is not just about women architects but women as users of architecture and spaces and how it is important that they work for them.

The three speakers treated us to insights, case studies and experiences of creating change through their work with communities and the challenges of designing for different lifestyles and circumstances.

Nabeel Hamdi gave an eloquent digest of the leading mantras that have shaped his outlook on design and working with communities over the course of his career – which have been brought together in his book “The Placemakers Guide to Building Community.” We lost count of the “hallelujah” moments mainly revolving around celebrating the ordinary, design being about people and that everybody is an “expert” on their place not just professionals. Very Mendy!

Anna Heringer told of her work with communities in Bagladesh in which buildings are designed to respect local traditions and settings but allow opportunities for innovation and skills development for local people. The result is beautiful and happy spaces to be in that are low impact, sustainable and replicable in the face of floods and shortage of materials.

Finally, Anshu Sharma, Director of SEEDS, an Indian charity established to promote social justice, gave a great talk about unengineered buildings – not the fault of uneducated and illiterate construction workers failing to follow the plans given to them by architects, but actually the insenstivity and inappropriateness of the architect’s designs in the first place. Anshu reminded us that some of the oldest buildings in India were constructed by the poorest and least educated but they stand to this day and furthermore are more responsive, well used and efficient than their modern counterparts.

In short we have forgotten much of the wisdom inherent in these great places but they are simple to re-learn. Most important – look around you at the communities you are building for and take your cue from them. People’s notion of home can extend far beyond the front door but to the street, the green spaces, their neighbour’s house. Recognise buildings don’t use buildings – people do!

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