School’s in for summer
This year’s University of Greenwich’s summer school was a chance for LDA Design’s Arlene Decker to find out what some of today’s teenagers think about the towns and cities where they live and how they could be changed for the better.
The week was organised by Greenwich’s Advanced Landscape and Urbanism team, working with Sayes Court, supported by the Mayor of London and in partnership with LDA Design and AECOM.
For the students, this was a chance to find out more about what shapes a place. For designers like me, it was a fantastic opportunity to find out what matters most to teenagers, what they think are the pressing issues of the day and what actions they would take to address them.
The week-long course offered by Greenwich is free. This is important. If we are to push for greater diversity in our profession, we need to find ways of appealing to people from all walks of life. Other schools charge up to £600, a significant barrier for many.
In total, thirty students gave up precious summer days to attend. They came from all over. One student travelled from Manchester, staying alone in a nearby hotel.
“For myself and the other tutors what the students produced was secondary to the understanding they came away with about the process of design, collaboration, and how our cities might function in the future.”
Capturing the imagination
We began in groups on a trip to Deptford to visit three connecting neighbourhoods, which were to form the basis of the week-long exercise. Together, we explored the sites and took photos for collage making. Our tour guides were Deptford residents, Roo Angell and Bob Bagley who run the excellent Sayes Court – a new kind of garden: part cultural centre, part research lab, and part education resource – and who also teach on the MA programme at Greenwich University.
Talk of the river Thames and Deptford’s connection with pirates really captured the imaginations of the teenagers in my group. Back at the University, the students used black and white photos of their site visit to make collages to bring their ideas to life.
Day two and the groups were challenged to come up with a manifesto for the neighbourhood to guide their design interventions. And then, modelling. Using only three colours, each group created a scale mode, which illustrated the improvements they wanted to make to their assigned area. And what improvements! They came up with some wonderfully innovative ideas about how to bring activation and new energy to Deptford, be it through green energy production, the use of QR codes, new creative centres, and even cable cars.
A fuller understanding of design
But for myself and the other tutors what the students produced was secondary to the understanding they came away with about the process of design, collaboration, and how our cities might function in the future.
It was lovely to see tight friendships form over the week and to see students who had previously been thinking about studying architecture start to consider urban design and landscape architecture because of the potential to create great places.
It was incredibly rewarding to be a part of and I look forward to seeing what the students produce next year.