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By Rob Fiehn, Society Trustee

No one is pretending that creating new housing, arts institutions or civic centres is easy but somehow groups manage to coalesce and find a way to make their dreams become a reality. It involves drive, ambition and more than a little knowledge of planning and construction. For this reason, I believe that architects often hold the key to unlocking land and helping support community projects in a variety of challenging circumstances. This is somewhat in contrast to the stereotypical view of the architect as a cold, impersonal individual who exists to raise project costs. Instead, we can see them as a facilitator of public schemes that reshape communities and come from an urgent need. 

And what of the clients in this situation? Grassroots organisations take many forms. There can be no standard template because they grow organically and develop around the personalities of their founders and the communities they serve. However, there are some similarities and crossovers, which come from the skills required to navigate the various challenges laid in their path by fundraising, planning and building. A community group might not start off with all of this expertise but the willingness to see a project through against the odds can become an education in of itself. 

I’m impressed by the civic nature of many community-led projects, which are not pursued for profit. The Oasis Farm is a great example of this, which occupies a small parcel of land close to Waterloo Station. A series of timber structures provide the framework for a space that can provide a learning resource for local schools, as well as animal pens to house the farm’s pigs, sheep and chickens, a composting toilet, planting areas and two polytunnels.  

These buildings will also soon host a mini conference, arranged by the Museum of Architecture, where you can hear from grassroots organisations the length and breadth of the country, and find out how they started initiatives that would forever change their communities, often without proper support from government or larger organisations. Other projects featured in the event include the incredible arts centre in East Quay by the Onion Collective, the first built community-led housing in Lewisham by the London Community Land Trust, Millport Town Hall in Glasgow and more.

To find out more and to book your place - click through here