Bringing people together and addressing unmet needs are common aspirations of many communities. For a building to do so, designing it should bring people together to decide what these needs are. This is most effective when the process is community-led, with the assistance of professionals who have a sensitivity to group dynamics and community projects.
Community Hubs, Halls and Cafes
The principle purpose of a community building is to bring people together. The concept of a Community Hub is to do this by providing a focal point and centre of gravity for community activities. To be successful, these buildings should run by and for the whole community, and be geographically central to its village or town.
Many communities are well served by an ensemble of buildings, serving slightly different but complementary purposes to each-other, such as halls run by groups, simple community cafes and drop-ins.
Many churches find running such spaces to be an effective way to nurture an open relationship with the wider community. When a church decides to pursue a new community building, it often represents an empowering moment in the evolution of its mission. Developing this into a brief and then a design are best managed as mutually complementary processes, which we enjoy helping with. If we are involved with developing the brief, then by definition the design should be better.
Community, Culture and Arts
Bringing people together around art and culture sends a positive message about a community. It is therefore no surprise that many community building projects do just that. The most successful of these encourage people of all ages to get involved in a diverse range of activities and have fun!
The design of such a building is all about making it open and accessible, vibrant and engaging. In order to demonstrate this principle, we designed and installed The Ribbon in as part of the Unexpected Art exhibition in 2015. This was placed centrally in Dalkeith Arts Centre to encourage a variety of interactions with the artwork on display. It was fascinating to watch the ways people interacted with it and how this illustrated a more engaging use of this community space.
Re-Purposing Local Assets
Some of the most interesting community buildings have resulted from the re-purposing of a valued local asset. An existing building can be helpful to focus attention and illicit untapped community spirit. The challenge is to ensure that the building can be adapted to suit the desired use, and of course this is what Architects do best.
In Bonnyrigg, the prospect of losing a valued local asset catalysed a groundswell of community spirit and a desire for people to work together for the common good. We worked with a local school and Edinburgh University students to produce a virtual model of the building, which was used as a tool for consultation by design.
Recent changes in legislation have made it easier for communities to take-on the management and/or ownership of buildings currently owned by public bodies. This will increase opportunities for empowerment and for the provision of community facilities.