We like people
Consultation and client/user participation is integral to ATA’s practice. Spaces are for people to use, and those who use them can and should contribute to their design. We like to create a conversation about how spaces work both visually and verbally.
Our projects are inspired and enriched by the participation of those who will live or work there, and ATA has developed enjoyable and creative ways for people to contribute. In our view, sustainable buildings are those fit for purpose not only in terms of environmental sustainability but also in terms of usability and future proofing.
We like working with people around spaces
Our experience of working on projects with multi-stakeholders has shown a way to enhance communities. Participation can be instrumental in a new development in an existing area. By studying and understanding how local people use their environment – by listening, recording, mapping or making something together – and enabling them to communicate their aspirations to us as designers, we can respond, instigate or provoke – in order to get the best of a project. This does not always mean a building. Some – young children, teenagers, women, ethnic groups, are still in the minority in controlling and designing the built environment. Design participation is an important way of addressing this imbalance.
When people have a concrete project to focus on, consultation is a really good way to talk about something together, a bit like gardening. It’s not necessarily about agreeing, but reaching a consensus that makes it possible to move things forward.
Wolves Lane Horticultural Centre, Haringey
We are helping this horticultural centre understand how it works at present and how it can work better in the future. ATA ran successful open days on the site talking with users, visitors and staff.
Centre for people with learning difficulties and their families, Islington
At Centre 404, a resource centre for young people with learning difficulties and their families, ATA have redesigned and extended the building. Young people who use the centre participated in workshops which were run to develop ideas, and staff and users were involved in the detailed design of the project.
Multi-purpose building in the Park, Haringey
The Environment centre is a new building in Lordship Recreation Ground in Tottenham. ATA ran lunch-time consultation sessions in the nearby community centre (that has a great canteen and attracts a lot of people for lunch). The user group of this small building includes mother and toddler groups, school classes, and local residents going for a coffee or visiting the park or playgrounds. Getting everyone’s views on security, adaptability and connection to the outside were key. In this project we’ve managed to take participation one step further – the community have actually contributed to constructing the walls of their new centre, which are built of straw bales.
Albemarle School, Wandsworth
At the new Family Learning Centre at Albemarle School ATA acted as Client Representative throughout the building contract. We also helped the School to develop a long term plan for phased change and upgrades of the building. We ran workshops that through diagrams, lists and walks through the school grounds encouraged staff and students to think about their school in a different way.
Family houses for Metropolitan Housing Trust an Barratts, West Hendon, Barnet
At West Hendon, we ran a series of workshops. Some of the meetings attracted large numbers, and were helping to equip residents to contribute to the estate wide issues, others were focussed on specific design of houses, and made it possible for residents to influence the design of their own homes. We used door knocking and going to people’s houses to talk if they want to contribute but were not able to make a meeting. We taught residents (ages ranging from teenagers to a couple in their 70‘s) some practical skills, such as how to measure and understand spaces in real life and how to read them on technical drawings. As well as visits to the site where their houses were to be build (climbing up walls to get a feel for that second floor window view), a bus outing to a different building site where a project was nearing completion was organised. Curious residents in hardhats were able to ask all the questions they wanted.
Granville Plus and Granville Nursery
At Granville Plus Children’s, Youth and Community Centre a new wing and refurbished 19th Century Community building was jointly commissioned by the NDC, Sure Start and the Education department of LB Brent. Complex community requirements were developed through workshops, discussion, negotiation and transparent decision making.The project was designed with community participation and those involved included the Sure Start Board, Carlton Nursery, community organisations using the Granville Centre, young participants from the youth services, and from the deschooling ‘Otherwise Club’ based at the Centre. The US artist Bruce Odland ran workshops with young musicians to develop a sound sculpture proposed for the adjacent park.Younger children worked with graphic artists to develop images which were translated onto ceramic tiles at the entrance. Granville Plus went on to win several awards as well as being used as an exemplary project by CABE.
Assisted self-build scheme for young people, Lewisham
ATA designed a block of flats at Beechmont Close for clients L&Q housing association. Fifteen young people from Lewisham studied different trades at College and worked on site alongside the main contractor. ATA specifically stated at Planning stage that some features of the building were to be designed in collaboration with the self-builders. To do this we ran a series of workshops, one of which was about designing a brick frieze that wraps around the curved front of the block. Once the flats were occupied we did a series of recorded interviews with the self-builders.
I always wanted to build my own house so when I heard about it, I thought it was a dream come true, and having these two [young children] I really needed somewhere to live. I never thought I’d be able to do it, but told them about my passion for design, and I got through!
Aldgate Pedestrian Subways, Tower Hamlets
In 1999, ATA was asked to look at Aldgate Subways. Through a detailed urban analysis of the area, including surveys, mapping and observation of pedestrian behaviour, we were able to make constructive suggestions on the way to take the study forward. ATA went on to commission three local artists and a graphic designer who collaborated with us on implementing improvements to the tunnels, as well as a signage strategy.
ATA undertands the value of ‘process’ – involving people is very important to how we go about making architecture. Once you’ve got that in you, you can’t practice without doing it that way. It will stay with me forever.