Building culture: co-production, context and justice

Ivett, Lee orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-4287-6145 and Gillick, Ambrose (2017) Building culture: co-production, context and justice. In: AAE Conference 2017: Architecture Connects, 6th-9th September 2017, Oxford Brookes University.

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As scholars have demonstrated mainstream architectural practice is characterised by collaborative and contingent activities, rather than by the autonomous vision of independent geniuses. Coproduction also functions throughout the global south as a normative mechanism of urban development, throughout the conception, design, construction and maintenance of buildings and the urban realm, both within the formal and informal sectors. The long history of coproduction likewise demonstrates not only its normativity but also its benefits to processes of urban, economic and social development and its centrality to considerations of justice within democratic society. As theorists demonstrate, coproduction's central quality as a mechanism for empowerment derives from the collective making and curation of common goods and satisfies the often competing values of lay, institutional and professional actors. Coproductive 'making' results in both improved products but also increased capacity and empowerment and critically, reveals insights about common needs and capacities to designers within development contexts. Through citizen-led making, creative practices and building, a more sensitive description of existing and future context is revealed. However, the reality and imperative of coproductivity is largely absent from architectural education in the UK, both in project conception and in design and realisation processes. This renders student architects not only less prepared for the reality of practice, but also with a skill-set less reliably applicable within other industries and less able to influence the urban environment towards the common good. As such, increasing coproduction within academic practice is essential if architectural education is to enable graduates to operate fruitfully, collaboratively and with agility in fluctuating
social and urban contexts. Focusing on the work of two practices in India and Scotland, this paper describes
coproductive architectural approaches and output and how common components of coproduction between institutional, educational and community actors can be seen to not only to generate better urban space but for the designer operates to generate improved understanding of social, environmental and economic contexts and therefore
better architecture. The paper then describes how such approaches can be fruitfully integrated into learning environments, both academic and 'in the field', towards
architectural education more closely aligned to social context, enabling new practitioners to engage more broadly in urban culture towards socially just ends.

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