Reflections; Empowering Communities

Published on 27th March 2024 by Wendy Perring

The Impact of Small as an Agent for Change

We take immense pride in our commitment to empowering communities through small interventions and thoughtful architecture. Our passion lies in creating vibrant and transformative spaces that enhance the lives of individuals and foster a sense of belonging. Last month Allan Murray discussed why it is vital to not overlook the impact of the small within cities; In this Insight post, we will reflect on the powerful impact of small community projects.

The smallest project that we have ever designed, the Exbury Egg stands as a testament to our unwavering commitment to community empowerment through innovative design. As one of our earliest community projects, this extraordinary floating structure, meticulously crafted in collaboration with a local boat builder and our client SPUD, became the temporary residence of artist Stephen Turner for an entire year. Beyond its visually striking timber appearance, the Exbury Egg was conceptualised with a broader purpose – to ignite conversations about climate change and the urgent issue of rising sea levels. The profound impact of this project transcended geographical boundaries, capturing the imaginations of people globally and even earning a feature in Time magazine.

At the heart of the Exbury Egg project was an unwavering dedication to engaging with the local community, particularly schools and youth groups. We realized the potential to shape the minds of future generations by integrating comprehensive educational initiatives into the project. Collaborating with local schools, we developed programs and workshops that immersed children and young adults in an experiential learning environment. Through first-hand experiences and interactive activities, we aimed to foster a deep understanding of sustainability and the environmental challenges we face.

These educational initiatives surrounding the Exbury Egg sparked a broader community dialogue about the pressing need for environmental stewardship. By actively engaging with schools and youth groups, we nurtured a sense of environmental responsibility and empowered individuals to become agents of change within their own communities. 

The Exbury Egg epitomised sustainability in its very essence. Constructed from timber and powered by renewable energy sources, it showcased a harmonious coexistence with nature. By minimizing its carbon footprint and demonstrating resourcefulness, the project exemplified the principles of sustainable design that underpins all our work. This approach extended beyond the physical structure permeating the core aims of the project, emphasising the interconnectedness between architecture, sustainability, and community empowerment. This small project will forever remain a beacon of inspiration, representing our unwavering commitment to community empowerment and sustainability.

Our work on the tennis pavilion for CourtX in Southsea, Portsmouth stands as a testament to the belief in the power of architecture to bring people together. In designing the pavilion, we not only catered to the functional needs of the ten grass tennis courts which were restored from a state of neglect to international standard, but also created a welcoming space for players, spectators, and the local community. By integrating enduring sustainable materials and carefully considering the local context, we ensured that the pavilion harmonized with its surroundings and will age and weather gracefully. The generous use of glazing allows natural light to flood the interior spaces, connecting visitors to the activities within the building, and the outdoor environment and fostering a sense of well-being. This project exemplifies our commitment to elevating the community experience of recreational facilities and creates a platform for an active and engaged community.

Similarly, our Lottery-funded visitor centre in Ham Hill Somerset, which obtained planning permission last summer, showcases our approach to collaboration and community inclusion. By working closely with the local authority (owner and operator) and the local community, we designed a centre that not only highlights the natural beauty and historical significance of the area, which is a scheduled ancient monument, but also meets the needs of residents of the area and visitors. Our design seamlessly integrates modern aesthetics with natural materials that are low in embodied carbon, respecting the sensitive archaeological and landscape context and fostering a sense of local pride. The centre will serve as a hub for education, interpretation, and community events, strengthening the social fabric of the area and like Court X will we hope will become a catalyst for community engagement.

At PAD studio, we believe that great architecture can be an agent of change and have a profound impact on empowering communities. Through inclusivity, collaboration, and sustainable design, these projects have the potential to transform, forging stronger social bonds, enhancing well-being, and fostering local pride. These endeavours attract businesses, stimulate job creation, and contribute to the growth of the local economy. Through the thoughtful design of public buildings and spaces, we can create gathering places that foster social cohesion, interaction, and a sense of belonging. By actively involving the community in the design process, we ensure that the spaces we create truly serve their needs and aspirations. Furthermore, embedding sustainable design principles allows us to minimize the environmental impact of our projects and promote awareness and discussion around climate change.

As a B-Corp we are committed to balancing people, places and profit. We donate at least 10% of our turnover to charities who share our passion for community change, by donating pro-bono time. Often this helps them to get projects started, and we help them to articulate their vision so that they can have meaningful discussions with their communities, funders and planners. If you have a community project that you are committed to, that we can help with, please get in touch.

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