London Festival of Architecture director Martyn Evans explains why this year’s month-long event will focus on the theme: ‘community’
From the end of the Ice Age, humans have been using buildings to create a community dynamic. The oldest known home in the UK was uncovered in 2010 by archaeologists digging near Scarborough: an 11ft-wide building, originally made from timber, it stood next to a lake and a wooden quayside. Was it part of a Neolithic version of Yoo’s holiday homes, The Lakes?
In 21st century cities, buildings and what lies between them are still at the centre of our ongoing search for community. In this search, Londoners, like all global city dwellers, are driven by the forces that affect our lifestyles, aspirations and resources and alter what we expect from our city and its urban spaces. From the demands for new types of workplaces to the ever-present dilemma of how we build enough homes, the one constant is the sense of community places must nurture.
Architecture is an often-undervalued tool in this search. As a developer, I spend my life writing briefs to architects. Initially, those briefs ask nothing about the buildings that will eventually populate the schemes we build. Rather, they start with a request to make a place: a place to deliver jobs, homes, social interaction, education and leisure, a place that creates or enriches a community with a socially and economically sustainable future. As more and more of our social infrastructure is built on public land by private sector developers, we have an enormous responsibility to deliver places that last: places for communities.
I want to work with architects who are storytellers – who design their buildings as a series of chapters in a Booker-prize winning novel you can’t put down, not as airport trash – a sea of residential blocks that might knock digits off the housing-need numbers, but do little else. That’s when architects come into their own – when they are authors, inspiring us to be better.
The London Festival of Architecture 2016, which takes place across the British capital throughout June, will celebrate and explore the role architecture and urban design plays in developing London as a city of vibrant, successful communities. How do we maintain our place as one of the most exciting, successful cities in the world while satisfying our need for more mindful lives and a desire for ever more human connection? How will we protect the existing in the face of the new, and provide inspiring places for young people to be educated and the sick and elderly to be cared for? These are the questions that truly great architects grapple with every day.