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The changing face of architecture: Value difference

SofiePelsmakers8 March 2016

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The built environment is still not equated with a diverse work force unlike the stakeholders with whom we work with and for. The annual survey of women in architecture released last month, makes for uneasy reading: deep-rooted inequalities and perceptions of gender differences that seem to affect women architects particularly badly. So on international women’s day I’d briefly like to share my journey as a woman in architecture practice, research and academia. In June 2015, I was shortlisted among 11 others by the RIBA as one of its ‘Role Models’, hopefully inspiring others that they too can forge a successful career in architecture. Since I shared my story as part of the Role Model Project, I noticed a positive change within myself and how I view myself. It is hard to explain, but I am more at ease with myself and more accepting of myself. I no longer fear of speaking out about my background (read about it here) or being a woman in a still mostly male dominated profession (more about that here). On reflection, this makes sense: sharing our stories so publicly received positive responses and made me realise that I was wrong to be afraid to speak out. I no longer feel as vulnerable sharing my personal journey: I have a voice and I want to use my voice on issues that matter to me in the hope that it inspires others and to draw out the value of differences. I also realised I should no longer be embarrassed about my background, but celebrate how far I have come despite the challenges along the way and to see and use this as a strength. (more…)

The case for diversity in architecture

SofiePelsmakers9 July 2015

wordle 2by Sofie Pelsmakers and Stephen Ware

On June 2nd, the Royal Institute of British architects (RIBA) launched its Role Models project. Stephen and I are two of its 12 ‘Role Models’ and all our stories highlight the increasing diversity within the architecture profession, hopefully inspiring those like us to join us in the profession. Diversity is after all a good thing: not only does it make sense for a profession to reflect the society it operates within (and designs for), furthermore research has shown that diversity is a good thing: organisational diversity “enhances creativity. It encourages the search for novel information and perspectives, leading to better decision making and problem solving.” (more…)

How Community Architecture may help Decarbonisation

TiaKansara4 March 2014

Blog by Tia Kansara, UCL-Energy PhD student

Decarbonised local communities

Can people be the solution to the decarbonisation challenge in UK communities? With present reduction targets of CO2 emissions, it is only a matter of time before there is a clear and defined role for residents to play in the bigger picture of low-carbon living.  Through intelligent, integrated strategies, community architecture methods of active learning and skill-deployment may provide a process for decarbonisation.

Sustainable communities living within a cradle-to-cradle environment, promoting transition town-mentality and growing local resources may have more to teach us. As with community architecture, could there be a resource architect in your local neighbourhood who could pool the resources?
 
People are the power: The community architecture way

Over many years of slum experience, Kansara Hackney Ltd. have highlighted, internationally, the long-term energy saving potential of tapping human resources within slums and communities. Rod Hackney (co-director) completed schemes, and those where others have followed, have had an impact on politicians, to such an extent that the mass demolition movement has been replaced with an openness to harness the latent energy of slum dwellers.

Poverty Reduction

The community architecture methodology has benefited sustainable urban development and influenced many countries around the world. In 1971, 37% of the world’s population of 3.7 billion lived in urban areas. In 2003 UN Habitat reported a sixth of humanity lived in urban slums. In 2013, of the world’s 7.1 billion human beings, 862.5 million live in urban slums. This figure would have been 200 million higher without the UN Habitat’s highlighting slum improvement methodologies and the vital latent human energy that is waiting to be encouraged within the World’s slums. The community architecture methods have shown, since 1971 that there is an alternative to the bulldozers. Further, after winning the trust of officials, banks and the wider community around the slum can help deliver sustainable and long-term solutions to resident’s former housing problems. These schemes are recognised as pioneering examples of how ordinary people can thrive if encouraged to do so.

If sustained, the community architecture approach augurs well for world peace and stability, and UN Habitat’s mission of reducing the anticipated 1.4 billion estimated slum dwellers by 2020. Something can be done to reduce this figure. Slum dwellers should be encouraged to accelerate their interest in, and adopt wholesale the community architecture approach. It can be applied to each and every slum in the world.

Social Inclusion and Reskilling

The growing international prevalence of slum communities and the huge human potential they offer the sustainability debate, is perhaps the 21st Century’s greatest challenge. In slums, no rubbish or sunlight is wasted. Bio fuel from human waste, self-help solar collectors, re-cycling of scrap materials (leather, tin, electrics, plastic), regular maintenance of buildings, all work towards healthy and profitable entrepreneurial environmentalism contributing a major part in the green revolution of saving the planet.