This week our blog comes from Victoria Adegoke who has supported our work over the past decade. Victoria first joined us as a participant in a summer programme 10 years ago, before becoming a PLACED ambassador and, for a period of time, part of our small core team. Thank you Victoria, for all of your support and input over the years.
My connection with PLACED started 10 years ago when I was just a young student, confused about what career I wanted to pursue and ignorant to the issues in our built environment. At a crossroads, I signed up for an exciting new summer programme for students who were interested in architecture and planning. I went along with my packed lunch, excited yet unsure of what to expect.
And what an experience it was.
The programme was a completely new type of learning environment and reframed what it is to be invested in the city, public spaces and the buildings we use.
Jo and the team of volunteers were asking us questions about the city that I had never been asked before. Getting us to think about what is important to us as individuals and how critical it is for us all to share our solutions in a creative, spatial and practical way.
Jo and the team have kept that same energy and perspective throughout these past 10 years, empowering the communities they impact to recognise that they have the right and are qualified to address many of the problems with our cities, towns and buildings.
When I think about the big challenges we face, the first thing which springs to mind is that our built environment leaves the majority of us out. Over the last 10 years we have witnessed the rise of multi million pound apartment buildings with ‘poor doors’ and no lights on; people feeling disengaged, unwelcomed and priced out of the areas they grew up in; and the loss of public indoor and green spaces where we feel safe and able to relax in.
The government, developers and many design professionals don’t ask enough questions nor seek to learn from and act on the answers they may receive throughout the life cycle of a development.
Traditionally those involved in the built environment are only the professional teams and key stakeholders I mentioned above. While key stakeholder is starting to feel like an inclusive term now, ten years ago its definition would typically only extend an invite to those paying for the building and perhaps some of those who would use it.
This lack of inclusion of a wider group of people is why I believe some of our issues are mainly left unsolved. Unfortunately we don’t engage enough people to inform our buildings, and even when we do it’s not done in a creative nor innovative way.
But in steps PLACED.
I had a remarkable opportunity of being a participant in the very first summer school programme and since then I have been an avid ambassador and for a short while an eager employee. As an organisation PLACED have designed and utilised so many inventive devices such as the school programmes, Ed the Campervan and the various pop up sessions in unexpected parts of the city. They have also designed many educational games, partnered with local authorities and educational institutions and now provide an exceptional Academy programme which has been expertly managed throughout the COVID period.
However, beyond my personal involvement and benefit from PLACED, I have been able to see and facilitate some wonderful conversations with those we at PLACED describe as the key stakeholder.
During each session I’ve been a part of, the attendees respond with rich, nuanced and oftentimes revolutionary ideas. Many of which fundamentally include having somewhere they feel safe, that is easily accessible and reflective of the culture in their areas.
In order to address the challenges we have in our cities we need to be doing more of what PLACED does so well. Over these past 10 years, the team have established a remarkable presence across the North West region, collaborating with and supporting other projects doing incredible work to improve our cities and towns.
Now as a qualified architect, I am proud to have learned from and participate in an organisation that continues to give young students clarity about their career opportunities and provides them with the tools to remain informed and engaged in the issues in our built environment, with the opportunity and the drive to do something about them.
Congratulations on 10 amazing years, here’s to another 10 more!