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Community architecture

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The RIBA Community Architecture Group, aware that only a few schools of architecture take community consultation and participation seriously, is going on the road with its CAG roadshow to talk to students about this vital but largely neglected area of architecture.

Community architecture's 'worthy but dull' image is now out of date. Interesting recent hospitals, banks, HQs, libraries, community halls, housing and urban regeneration projects have demonstrated that sustainable architecture relies as much on the involvement of communities in design as an energy conservation and using renewable resources. The RIBA talks explore the interdependence of participation, sustainability and high-quality architecture.

The first talk - before 100 students at the Hull School of Architecture, long concerned with these issues - was by Bob Fowles of the Welsh School of Architecture and David Bernstein of Levitt Bernstein Architects. At least five other talks are in the pipeline, with speakers including Ian Finlay of Ian Finlay Architects, David Waites of Waites Architecture and Judith Marshall of Pollard Thomas and Edwards.

At Hull, Bob Fowles showed projects designed, and sometimes built, with community groups, and the methods used to produce a creative dialogue between student and client. He placed his work in a broader context to suggest how higher education and practices could involve users and communities in sustainable development projects, and proposed that schools of architecture should teach the 'social' as well as the 'technical' aspects of designing for sustainability.

David Bernstein compared major UK urban regeneration projects to a housing project in rural India, and found that despite differences in scale and culture each followed a remarkably similar pattern, including demolition of traditional buildings, failed government-imposed redevelopment, and community participation.

The group would like to see community architecture in all broad-based Part I courses, and proposes that diploma or masters courses contain modules which are based on live projects, co-operate with local/regional authorities and users, and integrate all sustianability issues.

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