The Civic Entrepreneur

> 2020 Projects

The following is the brief for the 2019-20 academic year at Diploma 20.

Architecture of Generosity: An Invitation

Warning: the architectural profession you are about to enter may or may not meet your ideals!

A career in architecture does not necessarily lead to increased social benefit. As public institutions that grant agency to communities get weaker, the role of the architect in city-making is reduced to the provision of services to real-estate development. In recent years, there have been many practices that have defied this narrow role, proving the ability that architects have to address the most pressing challenges of the contemporary world. Yet, we are still facing a crisis – not of resources, but of impact.

DIP20 will look at new models of practice while engaging with the Custom House Partnership. Ranked among the most deprived neighbourhoods in England, Custom House is an area of Canning Town in the London Borough of Newham with a highly international resident population – forty-eight percent of inhabitants were born outside of the UK and thirty-two percent do not speak English. With residents complaining of ‘broken promises’ and ‘ever-dwindling community spaces and facilities’, Custom House has been the subject of numerous regeneration projects over the last three decades.

However, in spite of its economic status, in recent years there have been efforts among residents to self-organise around civic renewal projects and a communal vision of regeneration. Through collaboration with The Custom House Partnership – a group of ‘unlikely allies’, from residents to entrepreneurs, police, shop-keepers, doctors and councillors – we will participate in the creation of public spaces and witness a neighbourhood coming together. We will crowd-source, codify and open-source proven models of social enterprise with community members and co-operatives, allowing them to animate any space in their community affordably, quickly and effectively.

Above all, the unit will contribute to change in Custom House because change is better made together. This will require a shift in our current mindset and approach: from treating people as beneficiaries to supporting them as active citizens; from working alone to working together with common purpose; from single issues to root causes; from under-utilised, individually owned assets to fully-utilised, collective assets; from reinventing the wheel to sharing everything that works.