This first event brought together our advisory group members, Alex Ely (Mae Architects), Deborah Garvie (Shelter), Brian Quinn (CABE/Design Council), Phil Hamilton (Peter Barber Architects) together with Sarah Wigglesworth (Sarah Wigglesworth Architects and University of Sheffield), Andrea Phillips (Goldsmiths) in a series of discussions which enabled us to draw out links between contemporary architectural and urban design understandings of wellbeing, equality and, importantly in the present time, inequality that informs the disciplines. Held at UCL, it was attended by colleagues and students from UCL and other UK institutions, together with architects and members of the public as part of UCL’s Urban Lab ‘Cities Methodologies’ week of events.
Beginning with technical concerns about standards of provision, Alex and Deborah highlighted how the Government’s current housing standards review follows the guidance on minimum space standards that Alex and CABE have worked on, together with Design for London’s design guide, and which – if implemented – would go some way towards the still much-valued Parker Morris Space Standards. Deborah also very usefully emphasised that the capacity for implementation is vastly increased if standards were to be put into the industry’s building regulations, rather than as political policy. In the second panel Brian and Phil addressed design and wellbeing relations within the urban context, bringing out issues including infrastructural design (transport), and mobilising the social space of the Southern-European street for driving housing design concepts, as well as housing for the vulnerable where the ‘front door’ is also a key constituent of the individual ‘home’. In the final session Sarah and Andrea’s discussions brought in the perspective of the rights of the individual&community, where choice enables wellbeing and ‘agency’ for the specific needs of a community (such as the elderly).
Discussions which did not get unpacked during the day – and noted in the summing up by Andrew Saint (Survey of London UCL), and Anne Bottomley (University of Kent) – were issues of land value and property speculation and the long-term management of housing, as aspects that have historically, and currently, very actively determine the capacity of an individual/community’s wellbeing/equality. So very clearly highlighting material for Part 2 of the discussion within the next months….