ARCHITECTURE students designing and building with local communities benefits both town and gown says Jane Anderson, Programme Lead for Undergraduate Architecture at Oxford Brookes University.
It is more important than ever for students of architecture to experience the real world, to meet people and vitally, to understand the places where they will live and work.
When today’s undergraduates were children, playing in the street was thought too dangerous for most. When they became teenagers it was frowned upon for them to hang around on street corners. By the time they reach adulthood many have had very little involvement with their neighbourhood. This is one reason why I co-founded OB1 LIVE, a programme of live projects designed for local people by students at the Oxford Brookes School of Architecture.
I was recently awarded a prestigious National Teaching Fellowship which recognised my work to develop live design projects as part of the university curriculum. This has proved very successful, with one student commenting: “My involvement in Live Projects has always been so different from other educational experiences. Fundamentally because they’re real and physical. Something that affects people, their lives, often having political and social impact.”
The main gallery at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. This year students worked with Archeox, the East Oxford community archaeology group, to design an exhibition of their historic finds in the Pitt Rivers Museum
It has also been very beneficial for Oxfordshire as students have helped to deliver a number of innovative projects locally.
Past collaborations with local people and organisations include a public consultation for improvements to Mount Place in Jericho, the building of a moveable ticket booth for Creation Theatre Company and several temporary projects for The Story Museum while they were renovating their building on Pembroke Street. This year students worked with Archeox, the East Oxford community archaeology group, to design an exhibition of their historic finds in the Pitt Rivers Museum.
Archeox, working at Bartlemas Chapel, Cowley and Minchery Farm near Oxford United’s football ground with Oxford University Department for Continuing Education, had uncovered many historical artefacts including a prehistoric flint arrowhead, a medieval bone toggle, possibly used for making nets and a gambling piece from the time of the Civil War.
Our Oxford Brookes students’ exhibition design rejected the usual “glass case” museum approach and instead offered members of the public a unique opportunity to come into close contact with the material qualities of the objects and experience some of the ways that they would have been used by their original owners.
As a teacher I support educational experiences that help students to see themselves and their communities in a new and more positive light. Live Projects involve students, academics, practitioners and the community in real projects. It’s a highly collaborative process and I owe a great debt of gratitude to all who have participated over the years.
I believe my work has also helped to put Oxford Brookes on the map as an innovator in the field of live projects by co-founding the Live Projects Network. This online resource connects clients, students, academics and practitioners involved in live projects across the world, promoting best practice and sharing ideas.
Live projects are a collaboration between both student and client and they always work best if both parties will benefit and learn something from the encounter. If you have a potential project that needs the inventive and energetic students at the Oxford Brookes School of Architecture, please don’t hesitate to contact me on j.anderson@ brookes.ac.uk Further information is available at liveprojectsnetwork.org/ and architecture.brookes.ac.uk/galleries/ob1/
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