Community Architecture

In 1979 I joined Stephen George and Partners as a Partner initially at 5 Dryden Street, Covent Garden. Stephen George M.C. formerly City Architect of Leicester created a practice which had the potential of becoming one of the first Community Architecture consultancies in UK. It included Chris Whittaker formerly of GLC and MHLG and who specialised in rejuvenating housing. Following the problems of user dissatisfaction created by Architects imposing their intellectual ideas on the housing and the environment, socially concerned Architects began to evolve better ways of relating to their users. Projects such as Tower Blocks, Brutalist concrete, and schemes which did not reflect the tastes and aspirations of ordinary people were the stimulus which created the idea of ‘Community Architecture’. In north London, the Manchester area and the Midlands a number of people began to evolve skills for Architects more effectively to interact with their clients to help them realise their objectives. One of these whom I later met was Tony Gibson based in Nottingham University who created ‘Planning for Real’. The work of the SGP practice was principally local authority and Housing Association new build and refurbishment projects. Almost as soon as I joined most of these projects were curtailed by the Thatcher government. However there were research projects commissioned by EEC on Passive Solar Heating.

Whilst I was associated with SGP I worked on new build Housing Association projects, a serviced Office development and a proposal for a large comprehensive community development. This was for the development of a complete grid square in Milton Keynes by a developer and a Housing association, containing not only homes but also a full range of facilities. The intention being to create a community in which the potential users and the growing community would be intimately involved with the designers and developers from the beginning. This we called ‘A Village in the City‘, a term created by Nicholas Taylor.

When at Coventry I began a part-time degree in Town Planning at the Birmingham School of Town Planning then led by Leslie Ginsburg, who brought a lively approach to current planning work.

I continued a degree at Oxford Polytechnic when I moved to Bucks.

Then, when from 1962 my work with Fred Pooley on a new city for 250,000 people (North Bucks New City) began to grow, and which was real rather than an academic  project, I found it necessary to abandon my work on a Planning Degree.

Returning from Auckland I joined the course at North London Polytechnic (now University of North London). The Planning Department there was being run by a true innovator in planning education, Ian Crawford (who with his wife Barbara, had been in the Coventry office). He had the brilliant idea of combining Planning and Surveying degrees, but it was an uphill task to persuade institutional attitudes to go along with such a foresightful notion. I had a great regard for Ian and his staff, particularly Annabella Fitch. I had every encouragement to do my dissertation “Planners and Counselling -The scope for Interpersonal skills in the Planning process”, it was a most unusual topic in 1981!

Later, I was also involved with other Architects and Planners from the Yorkshire Region in producing a study on ‘Design Guidance’ for housing developments.