Working on community projects often means balancing a lot of different personalities, opinions and ideas. We find that linking all of these together is often a story waiting to be told.
At Tablehurst farm there was a clear vision – a biodynamic farm rooted in its community and its landscape – but ideas about what the future held, and how to address it were varied. In order to find this golden thread we ran a series of workshops and group sessions and interviews at different scales to build a communal narrative, and from there establish a clarity about the future.
It is often assumed that an architect arrives with a vision of a building or a final idea. For us this misconception is a real hindrance – there is often an answer out there, but it isn’t going to come from us, we’re just going to use our skills to find it. Through conversation, dialogue and building up trust and mutual respect we find ways to open up spaces for sharing and finding possibility. The end result of these stages is not a proposal or a final building, but something better, the tools for a community to assess any proposals that follow.
“Sometimes the answer is a very small voice in a busy place, and it takes patience and care to tease it out.”
You’ll often hear us talk about ‘principles’ – within projects, for places, or even for clients and students. At the early stages this is what we seek to uncover. A set of principles, both spatial and social, that can sum up the needs of the client and the needs of the place. We think of these principles as the brief. Not ‘we need a 50sqm café’, but ‘we need a space that connects to the kitchen garden’ alongside ‘it must be a front door for the farm’. These principles are loaded with potential, not single correct answers. And they go further than that, they extend our studio to include the client. They become experts in design review, challenging proposals and helping reach towards better solutions.
The process of transforming community assets is a delicate one, and it is nurtured by the care of that same community. What we hope to provide is the language and inspiration to give everyone an active part in the design process – what is produced is all of ours.