The Open Office: a drop-in centre for neighbourhood planning

Here’s a great idea reported in the Guardian. The physicality of local planning makes local workshops easy to arrange – could you have a central Government policy equivalent?

A new project at London’s Architecture Foundation, masterminded by young architecture practice We Made That, aims to tackle this problem and put the workings of localism on public show for all to explore – and take part in.

“We were fascinated by the fact that communities were being given the power to write their own future, and yet they weren’t being shown how to do it,” says Holly Lewis, co-director of the practice with Oliver Goodhall. “The built environment professions haven’t traditionally been very open or communicative, and people aren’t really taught about planning at school or on TV – it’s a very murky process. You may be familiar with house extensions, but the idea of being able to write policy is completely alien.”

The Open Office, which will run for the next five weeks at the Architecture Foundation’s street-fronting gallery in Southwark, is conceived as a live project space, part “Citizens Urban Advice Bureau”, part functioning practice. Staffed by We Made That, along with a changing group of six to eight volunteers, the team will explore different case study areas on a week-by-week basis – from the emerging neighbourhood plan for Hackney’s Chatsworth Road, to Croydon town centre and the Southall industrial area.

“We’re trying to create an open forum for thinking about what localism – from neighbourhood planning to the National Planning Policy Framework – actually means in practice,” says Lewis. “We don’t have all the answers, but we’re hoping to bring people together, from council planning officers to local residents, who do.”


Published by Anthony Zacharzewski

Anthony Zacharzewski was one of the founders of Demsoc in 2006. Before starting work for Demsoc in 2010, he was a Whitehall civil servant and a local government officer.

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