Sense of Place

Client: Urban Living

Partners: Multistory – Architecture 00:/ – Professor Nabeel Hamdi – Architecture Sans Frontière – MADE

Toolkit co-developed by: Digital Query

Brief: Urban Living, the housing pathfinder for Birmingham and Sandwell, started the Sense of Place project in 2009 with the idea to strengthen local people’s involvement in shaping the places where they live, particularly through spatial plans and neighbourhood management plans. The two pilot areas, the neighbourhoods around Soho Road and Dudley Road in Birmingham, were chosen because of their potential to accommodate housing growth and to strengthen community cohesion.

As well as local residents, business people, council officers and the Urban Living team, an expert group was needed to deliver a collaborative approach to neighbourhood planning. As well as Digital Native Academy the professional team included Multistory, a local arts organization; Architecture 00:/, strategy, research and design; Professor Nabeel Hamdi, advisor to the United Nations; Architecture Sans Frontière, participatory arts; CUDOS, the Centre for Urban Design Outreach and Skills and MADE, the Regional Architecture Centre in the West Midlands.

Solution: The project consisted of three key phases:

  • the mapping activity to better understand the study area and what the local issues were. Also what works well and what doesn’t, what local people like, what they don’t like and why. The piloting of a range of different approaches and promoting awareness of the project.
  • organising catalyst events to share project findings with local people and working with them to scope out the potential for follow-up projects,
  • a dissemination event to share findings with a professional audience.

In order to capture a wide diversity of lived realities, it was appropriate to use a range of different approaches to the mapping and catalyst stages. Three project-wide elements were added to this approach:

  • the creation of a digital toolkit (by DNA) both as a mapping methodology to directly capture local information, particularly working with young people, and to communicate findings to a wider audience.
  • the recruitment and training of four local Community Researchers to be involved in the mapping process and catalyst events, as well as to take the project forward after the completion of this commission.
  • ongoing evaluation and reflection throughout the project, through workshops led by Nabeel Hamdi

Outcomes: The successful development of the Soho Foundation digital toolkit which is now being used to effectively engage with residents in the locale to capture their stories and represent their views about their neighborhoods.

The commissioning of Sense of Place 2 to carry out training workshops for policy makers, neighbourhood managers and community representatives in how best to utilise the Sense of Place approach and meet with the emerging co-production agenda.

The Sense of Place project has been shortlisted for a Homes and Communities Agency award in the Leadership of Place category.

Links: Soho Foundation site – Digital Query – Sense of Place Evaluation Report – Sense of Place project video – Openly Local: Hyper Local Directory

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