Socially Engaged Architecture: A Tour

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Social architecture says that we are the products of our environment. If we let monomania and capitalism rule design, we’ll all be stressed out cyborgs living in a High Rise hell. Or is that the reality we’re trying to break free from?

With social housing in London being scrapped and big swathes of our city becoming privatised, social design has never been so important in positively shaping communities and inspiring change. Have a gander at some of London’s most impressive examples of socially engaged architecture.
Rowley Way, Camden
In 1968, Rowley Way was designed in response to the ugly tower blocks cropping up all across the city catering to the city's ever growing population. By building a low level estate featuring play areas, balconies, parkland and a school, the architect Neave Brown believed he could create a safer, more communal living environment in which crime would be reduced and living standards would be improved. He believed that within tower blocks residents felt no control or personal responsibility for shared space which resulted in disregard and higher levels of crime.
Evelyn Grace Academy, Brixton
The Evelyn Grace Academy was designed by the late, great Zaha Hadid who claimed "a school's architecture has a profound impact on all children as they grow up." The school was designed with functionality in mind and had the challenge of encompassing four separate schools within one location. In response to the building, one chipper pupil remarked, "it doesn’t make you depressed in the mornings like the temporary one used to."
Donnybrook Quarter, Hackney
Similar to Rowley Way, but designed more recently, Donnybrook Quarter is a low rise, high density housing estate in Hackney. The project is aimed at nurturing social cohesion and does so through a car free, open environment characterised by street level maisonettes, large French doors, communal courtyards and light, white walls. It's the white walls which also help to make the whole place look more like a set of Spanish holiday homes than a London council estate.
Lullaby Factory, Bloomsbury
The Lullaby Factory was imagined for the awkward, exterior space of Great Ormond Street Hospital. The buildings here sit uncomfortably close but the designers at Studio Weave - a creative and socially engaged architect's firm - reimagined the space by creating a site specific artwork. The network of pipes and listening posts positioned outside the building and within the hospital itself creates a calming and uplifting environment for young patients to recover in.
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