On Friday 19th July we were invited to participate in a “Speed Design + Plan” workshop at Knowle West Media Centre in Bristol. The event was hosted by We Can Make, a citizen-lead housing organisation working in the local area. The one-day session aimed to test a Design Code that is being developed through a process of community engagement, specifically looking at potential for densification of Knowle West through development of gardens and backland sites. The proposed pathway is based-upon an opportunity for development arising during periodic turn-over of council tenants. While a particular lot is vacant, the site can be handed to a Community Land Trust for development of an additional home before re-occupation.
For this fast-paced design + plan workshop, 3 sites were selected with one team looking at each. Team consisted of designers (including ourselves), clients, and “pollinators” – professionals of different expertise (be that landscape, urbanism or planning) who moved between teams offering advice, ideas and insight. Neighbours and members of the community were invited in at lunch to provide their comments on some initial proposals. The day culminated in a mock planning committee to award or refuse planning permission to each of the 3 schemes.
Post event discussions centred on the role of the Design Code within a wider context of planning policy, and how the code could carry weight, ensuring decisions be made against this community-drafted document, rather than usual rule-book (think “in-keeping”). There was also discussion about the strategic perspective and masterplanning, considering how this might lead to a more differentiated code, with rules varying slightly depending upon the nature and location of each site. Wilf made an insightful observation that this kind of development also offers an opportunity to remodel and upgrade existing housing stock at the same time as engaging in infill development.
This was a very intense but also enjoyable day. We came away with many thoughts to digest, and inspired by the pioneering work that is being done in this Bristol suburb. For further information check out Knowle West Media Centre and We Can Make.