Every month architects and industry insiders share their recommendations for the best exhibitions and events to visit in London.

June 2016
Tamsie Thomson
Director, London Festival of Architecture

London Festival of Architecture - celebrating communities in London


Communities are at the heart of so much transformation in London - the unsung heroes of development and change. Without the input of thousands of unpaid volunteers and campaigners, the city we know and love would look and feel very different. The theme of this year’s London Festival of Architecture is Community and within this there are many events which explore and celebrate the efforts of these individuals and groups, each revealing the impact positive community effort can bring.


As part of Late Tuesday, the RIBA will be hosting the LFA’s Charles Knevitt Memorial Debate: ‘Community Architecture Now’. Charles Knevitt, who died earlier this year, was a distinguished architectural writer and journalist who coined the term ‘community architecture’. This panel discussion, chaired by Paul Finch, honours Charles by examining the impact and legacy of the community architecture movement, and exploring its relevance today. Speakers include Rod Hackney (a founder of the community architecture movement), Robert Adam (ADAM Architecture), Sarah Wigglesworth (Sarah Wigglesworth Architects), Peter Runacres (Argent) and Rebecca Davies - an artist whose alter ego, Mavis Davis, gets communities engaged and talking about new development and housing justice.


When it comes to consultations about proposed urban developments, the individual’s voice is often overshadowed by competing demands of developers, local authorities and community groups themselves. For the London Festival of Architecture 2016, Oxo Tower Wharf will host 'Community Consequences', a new body of work by the multi-disciplinary architecture and design practice Projects Office, inspired by the Coin Street Action group of the 1970s. The designers will use the game of Consequences to explore the diverse factors that come together to make up a community.


Projects Office will play Consequences as a workshop with local community groups around the Coin Street area, but in this version, the questions revolve around the built environment. Each participant is invited to propose a fantasy development that would benefit and enhance their community. This unique method will test whether an imaginative architectural process, built upon principles of individualism and chance, can respond to the social aspirations of real communities. It will ask: if local people were given the opportunity to shape and determine the destiny of their communities what would these utopias look like? And how would they ensure that the complex and multifarious needs of their collectives are met?


The advent of Crowdfunding now allows anyone to propose an idea and ask the public to fund it. If enough people give just a small amount, an idea can very quickly come to life. At the event #CrowdfundLDN – Pitches & Pledges (GLA Regeneration) the pilot run by the GLA Regeneration team and Spacehive - the world’s first crowdfunding website dedicated to civic projects – has enabled community groups to publicly pitch ideas to regenerate their local areas. In the first two rounds of the pilot, the Mayor pledged a total of £600,000 to 35 projects alongside over 2,000 other backers. Round 3 is now under way; and the winners of Mayoral pledges from this round will be announced at this event. The winning community groups will then have the opportunity to pitch their project ideas to the crowd. Following this event, the groups will have just one more month to reach their campaign fundraising targets and, as crowdfunding is an ‘all or nothing’ model, they must raise the full amount for their projects to be delivered.


The opportunities created by crowdfunding initiatives is further explored at The future of crowdfunding & crowdsourcing regeneration in London panel discussion organised by GLA and the Centre for London on the future of crowdfunding and civic participation in London. The GLA Regeneration team and the Mayor of London have engaged with crowdfunding platform Spacehive to directly pledge money to citizen-led urban regeneration projects including the Peckham Coal Line and Good Food Catford. This pilot initiative has been recognised as a leading innovation at the World Government Summit. The event will debate the future of crowdfunding urban regeneration in London, as well as the implications for digital citizenship and participatory democracy. The GLA Regeneration Team will use the lessons learned to continue to push for a pioneering new relationship between City Hall and Londoners that realises the creativity and enterprise of local communities and businesses.


If you are interested in the impact of this type of collaborative practice, then 2015 Turner Prize winners Assemble, a collective based in London who work across the fields of art, architecture and design, will give the NLA Annual Lecture as part of this years LFA. Assemble’s working practice seeks to address the typical disconnection between the public and the process by which places are made. Assemble champion a working practice that is interdependent and collaborative, seeking to actively involve the public as both participant and collaborator in the on-going realization of the work. Paloma Strelitz and James Binning from the studio will talk about Assemble’s work, with a focus on London. They will discuss past projects including The Cineroleum, Folly for a Flyover, Blackhorse Workshop and Yardhouse, as well as thoughts around live and upcoming projects.  


And finally if this has encouraged the activist in you, then the LFA headline event Architecture – You Ask the Questions is your opportunity. Chaired by Razia Iqbal of the BBC, this event gives you the opportunity to put your questions to a panel of architects, observers and commentators on a range of issues facing architecture today: from housing, infrastructure and heritage, to the pressures shaping London’s skyline and the city’s development over the next few years. The panelists include Stella Creasy MP, Member of Parliament for Walthamstow, David Twohig - Chief Development Officer and Head of Design and Placemaking for the Battersea Power Station Development Company, Asif Khan – architect; founder, Asif Khan, Amanda Levete – architect; founder, AL_A and Sarah Sands – Editor, Evening Standard.


The London Festival of Architecture continues across London until 30 June.

Past Editors