Smithfield Public Realm Project
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*Consultancy were jointly appointed by The City of London and Hawkins\Brown Architects to collaborate with the design team reimagining the public spaces around the historic Smithfield area.
Building on the aspirations of Culture Mile and the City Transport Strategy, we developed a brief for an Artist in Residence to work with the design team, fore-fronting community collaboration in built design and equity of public space.
After an open briefing session and interviews, British Ghanian artist Larry Achiampong was selected as artist in-residence.
By fully embedding the artist into the design team, and focussing on the design process as opposed to prescribed outcomes, we were able to challenge existing methodologies in architecture and public realm design.
The development of the brief was crucial in establishing the collaborative nature of the project and all partners were committed to keeping the brief open and malleable for the artist.
"We protected the openness of the brief, and it allowed the artist to come in and help shape what it would become. It wasn't 'you get on with this, and deliver this by then', there was a process of refining the brief together." - Esme Fieldhouse, Hawkins\Brown
The flexibility of the brief allowed the artist to be agile and dynamic in his connection of community and stakeholder voices, creating richer and more diverse public discourse.
Community engagement was key to ensuring the project had a lasting impact on the area. Instead of using fixed ideas within the consultation process, we empowered communities to become active citizens in place with the agency to influence outcomes. The artist was able to identify gaps of engagement, develop creative ways of bringing underrepresented voices to the fore, and give local people the opportunity to shape their built environment.
This expansive and collaborative approach to public realm design broadened perspectives and helped the team reimagine traditional design approaches. The artist, community and the design team worked together throughout, ultimately creating a deeper understanding of and investment in the project and its legacy.