It has been amazing to be part of the WAF award winning team. When you look across the range and quality of projects put forward for the WAF Awards, to be short listed and then become associated with the overall winner is a momentous achievement for Grant Associates.
Director - Grant Associates
Date posted: 24/10/08
Two of the most sensitive and community-focused architects in British architecture took to the dais to talk about the role of the architect in relation to communities, through two recent projects of modest scale but big impact: a bridge in Castleford, a town in the north of England, and a community centre and nursery in a park in north London.
Renato Benedetti of McDowell and Benedetti spoke about his bridge very elegantly, but didn’t dwell on the fact that the project has been a star of a recent TV series on British TV about the process of regenerating the town of Castleford. Perhaps he’s sick of the limelight.
In any case, Benedetti played up the role of two members of the local community who championed his project, even in times when its future was hanging in the balance. ‘We had a very articulate duo who had a lot of power without responsibility,’ he said. ‘They really went in to bat for us with the politicians, and they were freer to say things that we had to be more careful about. They said: “These are the architects, we chose them, and the project needs to be like this”.’
Somewhat less high profile was DSDHA’s small building in Paradise Park (pictured), in Islington, London. This building created the first growing green wall on a public building in the UK, and has been embraced by the community after its own fashion. ‘It hasn’t ever been vandalised, which is amazing,’ said partner Deborah Saunt. She began her presentation by showing how unregulated public open space can be colonised in intimidating ways, such as by groups of teenagers, effectively limiting its use as a place of amenity for all. She also highlighted some of the difficulties of making a consultative approach work – consultation fatigue, a confusing myriad of stakeholders (‘I don’t want to sound cynical, but you have to make sure you can tick all of their boxes,’ she said), and the problem of unreasonable expectations raised by consultation. ‘Sometimes architects who do consultation can make the process seem too easy. We probably did that the first time we did consultation. But if you explain the complexity, you safeguard your skills and people respect you more.’
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