In this talk chaired by Holly Lewis from We Made That, Nile Bridgeman and Akil Scafe-Smith discussed their work since Afterparti Issue 00 was published last year. Brian Whitely provides the first of our reports on the evening's discussion at Kohn Pederson Fox's offices in Covent Garden.
Nile Bridgeman is from Afterparti, an architectural collective. He outlined how research by his group made them want to challenge injustices which arise every day in public spaces – both publicly owned and privately owned (“quasi public”) spaces. He suggested two measures for assessing how spaces work:
Often “defensive architecture” designed to exclude some misuse of spaces in effect excludes everyone to a lesser or greater extent from using them. A prime example he showed was the “Camden bench”, which is becoming widely used for seating in public spaces, yet is deliberately shaped to make sitting for any length of time uncomfortable by causing muscle pain. This design approach is one which seems to see more use of a space meaning more potential misuse – perhaps through over prescriptive use of crime prevention design. Similarly, spikes are used on ground floor commercial building window sills to discourage their impromptu use for seating; and some public spaces now feature circular seating - introduced to discourage groups of several people sitting together and being able to face each other (e.g. see George Yard in the City)
He suggested spaces often work better when they are less designed, and simply surrounded by active commercial uses e.g.:
Akil Scafe-Smith is from Resolve, a multi-disciplinary design collective, which has concentrated on workshops and installations to date, such as the Brixton Design Pavillion in 2016. It used local materials – e.g. from the local market - to form a temporary pavilion for exhibitions, discussions and other events and partly aimed to attract young people with their intricate knowledge of the local area in order to gauge their ideas on possible improvements to local public spaces.
They have since held similar projects around the country, e.g.:
The collective have also explored how cultural roots of the different local Afro-Caribbean communities in Brixton could help influence future urban design in the area. The market there makes use of a variety of materials related to the Caribbean diaspora (e.g. with the historical development of the banana industry post-1945) which he suggested could be used to guide future cultural signposting for urban spaces and thereby gain recognition and use by local people.
A short question and answer session followed. Points raised included: