|The Whole Community As Architects (WCAA)|
| Posted on 28/05/2014 - 16:46|
Instead of having to accept or reject the ideas of a few individuals, the whole community will co-design public works through the use of online tools and social media, with the architect's role becoming more that of shaper and moderator.
The UK planning system, along with that of other European countries, is designed around an outdated public engagement model. Essentially, architects and/or planners make public their proposals which, depending on the size of the project, lead either to an invitation to file objections with the local authorities or to a full public enquiry. Once any objections have been overcome or overruled, the project goes ahead. Unfortunately, "no objections" does not necessarily mean enthusiasm. A project may theoretically meet local need but, if the development is seen as being imposed upon the community without adequate consultation, it may take a very long time for the community to fully embrace the project (if ever). Many, for example, feel that the UK's HS2 project has been imposed on them.
The rise of Social Media, Open Source, Mobile Apps and increasingly-realistic Virtual Worlds have created a potential for community engagement from project conception through to completion. Continuous engagement should mean fewer planning objections, with a greater community acceptance of the final creation. Swansea 9 Lines (S9L) Group is currently engaged in delivering solar farms to local communities (www.s9lsolar.org), with the longer-term objective of delivering 170 miles of locally-manufactured ultralight eco-trams to Swansea and the surrounding area. An award would allow S9L, in partnership with the Amman Valley Railway Society (AVRS - UK Registered Charity www.avrsonline.co.uk) to explore WCAA design options with respect to technology and cost, with a view to further funding.
Target group and social impact
The Target Group for WCAA is anyone in the community who stands to be affected by (and/or benefit from) a proposed infrastructure development, which may be a new solar farm. community centre, tramway, or other environmentally-sustainable project. Groups such as S9L will be able to use WCAA as a way to demonstrate local interest, desire and need, which in turn will help to secure the necessary planning permissions and funding for their proposals. Improvements in social well-being are expected from living environments better suited to community need. Economic and environmental benefits are expected from, for example, sustainable transport designed through the use of WCAA to meet the needs of as many people as possible, including the socially disadvantaged, disabled and minority groups.
Competences of the applicant
S9L is a group of like-minded social entrepreneurs, with demonstrable expertise in solar, rail, marine, automotive, aviation, finance and media. Through the AVRS network of charity shops, websites, blogs and social media, S9L already has a platform on which to build further community engagement. The use of volunteers will help ensure that the maximum benefit is gained from any award received.
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