Winners revealed for ‘Co-designing Equity in the Public Realm’ competition

9 November 2022
By Amy Zamarripa Solis

The London Festival of Architecture (LFA), City of London Corporation and its cultural district Culture Mile, and Foundation for Future London have revealed the winner for the ‘Co-designing Equity in the Public Realm’ design competition.

Re-Fabricate and The DisOrdinary Project won the competition with ‘Seats at the Table’, a proposal that will explore the intersection between equity, accessibility, and sustainable design. The team will work with local disabled and non-disabled youth to co-design spaces of sharing, making, learning, nourishment and socialising. These will form part of a series of installations across East London and in Smithfield that will bring people together before, during and after LFA 2023.

At the same time, they will celebrate and support the vital richness of our bio- and neuro-differences, as diverse individuals create and add a multitude of chairs and other artefacts that represent their relationships to, and accessibility requirements for, enabling equal places at the table. Through this process, they will ask how different materials, practices, places and people can produce equity, by challenging what kinds of bodies are valued and devalued in conventional designs for public space; by co-exploring alternative ways of working and making that are inclusive from the start; and by communicating lessons learnt to wider audiences by exhibiting their research and design development alongside the installations.

The Re-Fabricate and DisOrdinary Project team have extensive experience in engaging the public, youth, and disabled art groups across London. Re-Fabricate is a collective of architects and architectural professionals focusing on eradicating waste by promoting a circular economy and sustainable design in the built environment. The DisOrdinary Architecture Project is a platform that works across various projects to show how starting from disability – from the rich differences that biodiversity and neuro-divergence bring – is a powerful creative force for design.

The team will bring together disabled and non-disabled architects and creatives at different stages of their careers to creatively engage with diverse co-creation and co- partnering methods for making inclusive and adaptable sustainable urban spaces.

The winning team will now embark on the delivery of workshops across the Culture mile and East London Bank, working with disabled artists, young people for Special Educational Needs (SEN) and mainstream schools, built environment students, and the general public. The result of these co-design workshops will be the final scheme that will be co-built and installed for a period of three months from April to June 2023.

The competition intends to deliver one or more temporary public realm interventions in Smithfield and East London that collectively develop a deeper understanding of the public’s experience of streets and public spaces. Re-Fabricate and The DisOrdinary Project will now work with, Foundation for Future London, Culture Mile and LFA on the next steps of the project including engagement and design delivery.

‘Seats at the Table’ builds on The DisOrdinary Project and Re-Fabricate’s different but complementary expertise, to create interventions and supporting events that we hope will have impact long after they are gone.

The competition’s Judging Panel included:

  • Sandy Abdelrahman (CEO, Skaped)
  • Maria Adebowale-Schwarte (CEO, Foundation for Future London)
  • Daryl Chen (Urban Design Lead, Hawkins\Brown)
  • Tim Jones (Culture Mile Manager, City of London Corporation)
  • Siraaj Mitha (Head of Accelerate, Open City)
  • Clarisse Tavin (Environment Department, City of London Corporation)
  • Manijeh Verghese (Founding Director, Unscene Architecture and Head of Public Programmes, Architectural Association)
  • Rosa Rogina (Director, London Festival of Architecture) – Chair

Re-Fabricate and The DisOrdinary Project will be awarded £50,000 to deliver one or more temporary small-scale interventions alongside public engagement activities ahead of June 2023 when the next edition of the London Festival of Architecture will take place.

Maria Adebowale-Schwarte, CEO, Foundation for Future London said:

“The vision that the Foundation for Future London had for this design competition was to address inequality in our society through design and placemaking and to provide an opportunity for true collaboration to achieve this. So we are more than pleased that ‘Seats at the Table’ had addressed this brief, by using participatory approaches to create temporary structures to challenge ableism. We look forward to hearing the conversations that are provoked by this invention across Smithfield and East London. Well done to all our shortlisted teams as well!” 

Chair of the City of London Corporation’s Culture, Heritage and Libraries Committee, Wendy Hyde, said:

“Competitions like this which help create inclusive public spaces will continue to draw people back into the Square Mile as our recovery accelerates. “It’s fantastic to see the City is busy and bustling again. Congratulations to Re-Fabricate and The DisOrdinary Project.”

Clarisse Tavin, Group Manager for Major Programmes and Projects at the City of London, said:

“The competition process has been a very compelling, thanks to a variety of thought provoking responses from very diverse practices. Re-Fabricate and The DisOrdinary project will allow us to understand better how we make can our public places more equitable in East London and Smithfield area, and inject the learning into the future permanent design of the public realm in that part of the City.”

Manijeh Verghese, Director, Unscene Architecture said:

“The talented shortlist presented a wealth of ideas for how our public realm could be transformed through co-design, with imaginative ideas to connect the East London boroughs with the City of London. ‘Seats at the Table’ addresses not only who doesn’t usually have a metaphorical seat at the table when discussing who owns, uses and accesses public space, but it also employs co-design to create a table and chairs that reflect the many different bodies who use or should be able to use public space. A clear and powerful concept, it is a reflection of what equity in the public realm can mean in its widest and most inclusive sense.”

Re-Fabricate and The DisOrdinary Project said:

“We are very excited to be bringing ‘Seats at the Table’ to life at the LFA 2023 and start the co-design process with young people, Culture Mile and the public. ‘Seats at the Table’ will explore the intersection between disability, accessibility and sustainability and challenge what kinds of bodies or spaces are valued and devalued in conventional design processes.

“Through inclusive co-design workshops, we want to create a venue that connects East London and Smithfield, and celebrates and supports the vital richness of our bio- and neuro-differences by showing how representation on both the design and user sides can be achieved sustainably and within a circular economy.”

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