Architecture students help young people to Shape my City in Bristol

Issue date: 10 July 2014

Shape my City workshop at the Architecture Centre

UWE Bristol Architecture students and staff are helping young people to understand how places work and how they can be improved, through Shape My City, an innovative youth participation project delivered by the Architecture Centre.

Launched in March, Shape My City brings together 15 to 19 year olds from across Bristol with the aim of empowering them to play a more active role in shaping the future of their city. The project is targeted at girls and young people from diverse backgrounds, who are both underrepresented in the built environment sector.

Through regular monthly workshops at the Architecture Centre, the group are getting involved with industry professionals from across the city to develop knowledge and skills about design, public art, landscaping, sustainability, planning and citizenship.

UWE Bristol has a partnership agreement with the Architecture Centre and is working closely with them to deliver workshops for the project. At the first workshop, staff and students from the Department of Architecture and the Built Environment introduced the group to masterplanning through a fun activity involving giant lego.

Project participant, Cai Burton, enjoyed the challenges of the first workshop. Blogging on the Young Arnolfini blog, he said, “We were given some time where as a group coming up with a plan what Bristol would look like in the future. At least that was the rough guide – what we created ended up being quite different! We started to think about how we could use the different blocks and bricks to build taller and stronger structures. Our city needed to adapt to all sorts of issues such as earthquakes, floods and giant two year-olds meddling! The project seems really interesting at this stage and there is a lot to look forward to.”

There was also the opportunity to quiz visiting professionals including Elena Marco (Associate Head of Department for Architecture at UWE Bristol), Patrick Fransen (Architect, Herman Hertzberger), Elliot Ballam (BDP) and Jessica Booth (Soil Association) about their experiences of the architecture profession and their career aspirations as a 16 year old.

At a recent workshop, the group were joined by UWE Bristol lecturer in civil engineering, Fiona Gleed. She gave an engaging presentation about her experiences as a structural engineer and assisted with their latest challenge – to design a striking new bridge over the River Avon to link to the new Bristol Arena site. Read Cai Burton's latest blog.

During Big Green Week, UWE Bristol Associate lecturer Shankari Raj Edgar, inspired the young city shapers about sustainable design. She also talked about her interdisciplinary practice as part of Nudge Group, highlighting the career diversity of architecture.

Sally Daniels, Senior Lecturer in Architecture and Planning at UWE Bristol, said, “It has been a great privilege to be collaborating on this project: our staff and students have been able to share their infectious enthusiasm for Architecture with people outside of the studio; people who might just be inspired to follow their path. The teenagers they have been working alongside have gained an insight into the huge spectrum of ideas and influences shaping the city and our places and homes. We would love to see this opportunity to become a regular forum for young people at these early stages of learning and training; to design, make and share ideas together.”

Amy Harrison, Learning and Participation Manager at the Architecture Centre says, “We aim to inspire everyone about and through the built environment, and Shape My City is just one of the ways we do this. The Architecture Centre is passionate about using the built environment as a context to promote learning, creativity and citizenship among children and young people. Recent recommendations of the Farrell Review of Architecture to the UK Government include getting all UK school children to learn about placemaking, making architectural training more accessible and diversifying the industry - we feel Shape My City is a good example of how to achieve this.”

Shape My City continues into the autumn, when the group will launch the Shape My City - Youth Placemaking Manifesto for Bristol as part of national Takeover Day 2014 (Friday 21 November). Through a digital platform and public exhibition they will seek the opinions of young people on place-making and citizenship. Young Bristolians are encouraged to contribute thoughts and opinions through the Shape My City blog

Shape My City is generously supported by the Ove Arup Foundation and Arts Council, England.
For more information on the project visit:

For more information on the Architecture Centre Learning programme visit:

For more information on studying at UWE Bristol see:Architecture at UWE Bristol film

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