Our desire is to realise the potential of a group of young people and their local built environment through a range of architectural and creative activities, which empower them to influence immediate and long-term regeneration in Gateshead and beyond.
ArchiGRAD is a group of architecture & design graduates wishing to develop professionally through engagement and project management. As young practitioners we have the enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit to exploit opportunities and are well placed to engage young people. The project will be led by Rachel McDonagh who is passionate about community-led regeneration, is experienced in youth work and longs to see young people’s innate creativity fuelled into action.
Our goal is to equip participants with hands-on experience of the planning and architecture sector and a grasp of regeneration at a local scale, empowering them to discover their own voices and how to make them count. The idea is not to turn them into architects – rather, it is to highlight what each member is good at, raising their self-esteem, personal aspirations and confidence. We believe that one of the greatest barriers to sustainable regeneration is a sense of powerlessness – we hope to challenge this through a beacon of young individuals who demonstrate that tangible social and spatial change is possible. This in itself leaves a legacy of empowerment, but we anticipate that the spaces that are transformed in the process will be enjoyed for years to come and sow seeds of inspiration for similar interventions.
Place exploration – armed with documentation and analysis skills from an early workshop, we kick-start the programme with a day-trip to London to visit the Architecture Crew (Britain’s first Youth Architecture Forum who have been working projects surrounding the 2012 Olympics). Returning home, we analyse communities within Gateshead using photography, sketching, mapping and talking to people. We assess, evaluate and understand the challenges and opportunities in the local area.
Design – with guidance and training from the archiGRADs, other practitioners and partner organisations (eg. Gateshead Council), and in consultation with the community, the young people develop proposals for events, activities and installations to animate under-used spaces along Gateshead’s main High Street.
Place-making – Proposals become a reality and the wider community are involved and engaged through improved or altered spaces, and associated events, exhibitions and activities.
This project builds upon the archiGRAD model of creating opportunities for architecture graduates to develop their skills and experience through speculative projects for community benefit. The project would replicate this approach, facilitating a younger group in identifying opportunities for physical changes in their neighbourhood.
Young people will develop the idea within the proposed framework, drawing on their particular interests, addressing their identified needs and contributing to improved relationships and dialogues with the wider community. The archiGRADs’ role is to facilitate rather than stipulate the direction of the project, empowering the young people to devise, lead and manage the project to realise their desired outcomes. The group will consult the community, develop proposals to respond to their and the community’s aspirations and then implement their proposals culminating in events and activities to engage a broad spectrum of people, who may even become partners or clients in future projects.
We would look to involve other creative practitioners such as photographers, film makers, illustrators, web and graphic designers as well as other built environment professionals in the creative workshop activities and implementation of installations and activities.
In terms of project development, we are progressing well. The project has developed a good relationship with the Progression Consultant who oversees the Aim Higher programme in all of the Gateshead secondary schools - she has circulated our promotional material to relevant staff in each school and we have set a deadline of 29th July for applications - this will also enable us to use the Metrocentre launch event as a means of recruitment, leaving enough time to gauge response and make a second recruitment drive if necessary before workshops begin in September. In terms of programme, we might consider holding fewer workshops but extend them to a half day or full day.
We are now working on our exhibition/installation for Saturday's launch event and looking forward to engaging with the other projects as well.