Community architecture is a movement that argues for the importance of user involvement in matters of architecture, particularly those that involve the management of the environment. Community architecture allows for greater participation from the community that surround an architectural project, including community planning, community development, and, to an extent, design and construction. Community architecture was a practice put into place to fill a gap in the architectural world, where there was belief that modern architecture was failing, though there is no conclusive evidence of this.
The participatory approach to architecture seems to produce the same results as a non-community project, and it’s uncertain whether the benefits outweigh the costs of community projects.
The concept of community architecture has been gradually developing since the 1980s, because of this, most planning proposals now have a line of communication with the surrounding community via community representatives. The public are actively involved in planning new projects from an early stage in the process, even before a design is actually submitted for consideration.
There are several advantages to community planning and architecture. The public involvement can assist in achieving quicker results in short spans of time, and having that sense of community means that it’s easier to placate anyone who may be objecting to the project. This sense of community and community involvement also helps to remove the uncertainty that comes with larger projects, and creates a better understanding between team members and liaisons using face-to-face contact.
Meticulous planning is essential. Not just in regards to the architecture project being discussed, but also in regards to community engagement. It’s crucial that the community members involved in the project are involved in each and every meeting they need to be at, so that the community can be properly consulted as an equal force in the project’s workings. For larger urban design projects, the local authority may wish to manage the community consultation process themselves, but they are still welcome to have the opportunity managed by the project’s design team.
Typically, the planning application process will have three stages: the initial stage, which is there to clarify the proposal and brief, and properly establish the project’s concept; a detailed design stage; and a fine-tuning stage.
For smaller projects, there may be less community involvement. It may be that a design team approaches the correct people with concern for their community ideals; participating in smaller meetings regarding the project.
For larger projects, the process can involve many more threads of people. A larger design team, including engineers, town planners, and ecologists, and several liaisons from the community. A programme of workshops may be organised, with the hope of keeping the project as on-track as possible.
At Adam Architecture, collaborative planning is a welcome concept. They are a communicative design team, who have a history of attending community meetings to discuss their design plans and projects. By working with the community to develop a project, designers allow themselves time to interact with the people that will benefit the most.