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Architectural Agency: The Happy City

Hand-drawn plan of the market that captures the feel of what it’s like to live in this community. The sketch is based on the team’s site visits and the strangers who connected with them.

How can design improve the way we live in cities? Design Think Tanks (DTTs) at the LSA put forward proposals to help meet the targets set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Architectural Agency proposes ‘The Happy City’ — A neighbourhood strategy for creating meaningful connections between people through design.

Analysis of the third floor plan of PRP’s proposed development with suggested enhancements.

UN Sustainable Development Goals

  • 3: Good Health and Well-Being

Challenge

Abject loneliness is now recognised as severely detrimental to physical and mental well-being.While solitude can be valuable and desirable, loneliness becomes an issue when the person experiencing it has no control over an unwanted experience. This strategy explores the way in which architecture can give people opportunities to seek out company and make meaningful connections when they choose.

 

Extract from the design guide showing the five principles of meaningful connection.
Extract from the design guide showing the principles for creating connection applied to balcony design.

Proposal

A manifesto and design guide that examines the causes and impact of loneliness, and offers an analysis of architectural precedents, which have successfully encouraged:

  • Incidental connections: the chance encounters that give people the excuse to interact without advance planning.
  • Observed connections: interaction that occurs passively between people.
  • Shared activity: interaction that occurs actively between people, whether planned or impromptu.
  • Inclusive connections: provision for interaction across all demographics, catering to diverse tastes and rituals.
  • Sense of belonging: elements and experiences that people give to a sense of belonging, either a citizens of their community or citizens of the natural world.

This research is distilled into a set of principles that can easily be applied to other schemes. The principles were tested in a proposal to rework an existing design for new adjacent to Queen’s Market in Upton Park to improve possibilities for interaction.

 

A gently sloping ramp connects the market to housing, bringing the two groups of site users together through a variety of programmes. The variety of large and small spaces allow users to inhabit the space together or alone. The path is narrow in places to encourage incidental interaction as users negotiate the space.

 

Half landings on the shared stair core provide niches for stopping, creating opportunities for incidental interaction.

Impact

The overarching aim is to contribute to a shift from an individualised society to a compassionate society. The impact of educating architects to design spaces that foster social connections could be wide-ranging and profound:

  • Reducing object loneliness through design can significantly reduce the financial burden on public health services.
  • Reducing the alienation caused by loneliness could reduce the risk of radicalised violence in communities.
  • Strengthening civil society could significantly improve social mobility within communities.
  • Making places feel less lonely and improving the quality of the surrounding properties could significantly increase return on investment for those properties.
Polaroids of Upton Park residents who took part in consultation.

 

Design Think Tanks are collaborative projects between students and leading architectural practices at the London School of Architecture. The UN Sustainable Development Goals address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice. They are a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.

Leaders: Christophe Egret and MarkWarren (Studio EgretWest) andThomas Bryans (IF_DO). Students: Charlie Corciulo, Sara Edilbe, Nicholas Leigh, Jaymi Sudra, CharityWhitehead, StephenYiavasis.