Natalie joined us during lockdown, so we’ve not actually been in the studio together, but she has already made herself at (virtual) home. From sharing her knowledge and enthusiasm around community design to taking us on a virtual walk through our local green spaces, Natalie has become an invaluable member of our team.

 

Natalie first got in touch with us as part of her research for her Masters dissertation, ‘The Art of Engagement’. She also collaborated with us in 2019 on a CoLab project, exploring engagement with school children as part of our work with Larks and Owls School.

 

Natalie’s research included holding a six week ‘consultation about consultation’ with residents local to Chelmsley Wood, where she talked with the community about their own personal experiences with consultation in their area, which has seen a great amount of change in the past 15 years. Together they gathered opinions, thoughts and experiences which became part of a display to illustrate the community’s feelings towards consultation processes, and most importantly, how this can be improved. Here is an excerpt from her dissertation:

As well as designing beautiful, well-functioning buildings, architects also have a social responsibility to ensure the places they are creating have a positive impact on the world around them; including their inhabitants. When architects are learning about the culture and context of a place and how it can be improved, who better to help inform them than the local residents that have inhabited the area for years - some all of their lives? How different would project outcomes look if stakeholders invested more time in engaging with the end users, or even better, if the stakeholders were the end users. The involvement of communities within this process has great potential to be mutually beneficial for all involved; and create more sustainable developments.

Building on this research, Natalie’s Masters thesis project looked into the history of the canal boat and waterways, specifically in the context of Birmingham, and how this could provide an alternative route to affordable housing through WikiHouse principles enabling people to build their own homes on the water.

Her project also focused on joinery and the craftsmanship of traditional narrowboats being painted by hand – a tradition that has been passed down and celebrated throughout generations.

 

We can’t wait to see Natalie unleash her imagination and talents at APEC.