Exploring architecture in civil society: social enterprise as an expression of localism and community advocacy in architectural design – A case study and critical reflection on practice

Sam Brown

EMES Conferences Selected Papers Series, ECSP-R11-24
Session: Early processes and opportunity of social enterprises

This paper draws on the author’s experience of working for an award winning environmental and social enterprise, Hill Holt Wood, alongside an analysis of the forthcoming legislation associated with the Localism Bill 2010/11 in the UK and suggests that social enterprise offers an exciting model for professionals, such as architects, who wish to support communities as they respond to Localism.

Architects, as one of a number of professional disciplines involved in the design and production of the built environment, have skills that communities will need in order to negotiate the challenges presented by Localism. However, “normative” professional practice in the construction industry is exclusive and does not easily allow for the participation of community groups on the design process. Architects may have to change what they do in order to continue to practice effectively and responsibly.

At Hill Holt Wood, a student-initiated design practice has been successfully integrated within an existing social enterprise that already provides other local services, such as education and management of the environment. In considering architectural design as a local service rather than merely professional consultancy, an opportunity may exist for architects to better support civil society through social enterprise.

This paper concludes that whilst the social enterprise model presented in the case study offers opportunities to architects to change how they practice, it too may need to review how it practices in order to respond appropriately to Localism. Further detailed analysis of the case study may reveal how this may best be achieved.

What are you interested in?