Community Hub

Beyond Studio

Staff and students from the University of Westminster are in the process of designing and building a new QHT funded Meanwhile Live Community Hub in partnership with the local council, local community organisation and locals.

Students gain direct, hands-on experience of the planning and construction process, enhancing and broadening their range of skills, and developing their confidence through dealing with stakeholders and construction professionals. 

The project aims to be a beacon of community engagement inspiring children and young people. A series of co-creation workshops supports activities for young people in the area as well as being accessible to others and the university will be able to exhibit work on a continuous basis reaching out to the local community.

Students engaged in public consultation in collaboration with the council to better understand needs and aspirations of locals. Students then developed designs for a visionary community hub based on the initial research. 

This Project derives from the previous 1:1 pavilions students built, that now have a permanent home at our Harrow Campus. In addition, local outreach exhibitions organised by local Wilfred Achille, Part III course leader at the University of Westminster, promotes architectural education from and for black and ethnic minority parts of the community and engaging locals who usually would not have access to academic environments. 

The next step was to further develop our knowledge we have gained by reaching out to a local community, where the university has a large student intake and further encouraging knowledge exchange. 

Live projects involve participatory activities that can bring together diverse stakeholders. Significantly, the projects have a tangible physical aspect which makes participation exciting, engaging and most importantly, empowering. Our innovative approach is to use Live Projects as a way to understand issues and ask questions. We introduce new ways of working collaboratively across sectors and take our multidisciplinary skills within academia and use these in live projects to serve communities and have a positive impact on society whilst introducing students and staff to alternative practice. 

Live projects provide a deeper understanding of the complex relationships between spatial, political, financial and social factors in connection with our lived urban experience. There is the possibility for practical and tangible outcomes, which can be communicated to a wide range of audiences in an engaging way. Live Projects promote an understanding of complex relationships of stakeholders and introducing novel ways of practice whilst being useful, applied and with specific project outcomes. 

Maria Kramer

Project Location 

The project is sited at Stanley Rd Car Park in Bakers Arms. The council owns designated 424 sqm site.

Aims and Objectives of The Project

The University’s aims for the project align are:

  • Widening participation: The project is located in or close to a number of areas from which the University already recruits students and that are also areas of high deprivation. The projects aims to involve Westminster students who are local to these areas. By engaging in outreach exhibitions (building on initiatives started in 2019 and 20) the project will enable students to use their own local and community knowledge to build networks which will enhance their future employability. Students can apply their academic learning to local contexts of which they may have significant prior understanding thus enhancing confidence and recognizing the value of their prior knowledge. They will be working in teams with a common goal, so able to participate in the achievement of results higher than that of any individual effort.
  • Employability:  Live Build projects develop students’ organisational, management and creative capacities in a practical context and thus increase their confidence in demonstrating the impact their skills can offer the community. Students from Architecture and Construction courses will gain hands-on experience of the building construction process, enhancing and broadening their range of skills, and developing their confidence through dealing with stakeholders and construction professionals. 
  • Engaging students across the University: working with the Student Enterprise Centre, the project will enable students to get involved at a range of levels and through a range of different roles (from website design through to practical construction work). This will support more focused graduate ambitions and a clearer understanding of the range of career paths
  • Embedding work experience and cross curricular collaboration: The projects would act as a prototype for University courses in applying students’ technical and social skills outside the classroom, demonstrating new ways to develop students’ empathetic and collaborative skills, and confidence and robustness through taking responsibility for the complete design and realization process. 
  • Social Enterprise and Knowledge Exchange: Students will be testing and developing their practical knowledge and their wider capacities by collaborating with stakeholders, consultants and contractors and potential funders. They would be acting as ambassadors for the University, presenting their work in a public context and inviting communities in to visit us.  There would be workshops at various learning levels where students can experiment with traditional and new methods of making, researching innovative design and build methods. 

The Council’s aims for the project align are:

  • Connecting People with Jobs by creating a community facing neighbourhood destination for young people, vulnerable and unemployed residents would be able to engage with each other in activities in safe setting gaining information, advice, guidance and skills;
  • Supporting Safe and Healthy Lives bringing people from diverse backgrounds together, breaking social isolation, and empowering residents to co-create the future of the area and the borough;
  • Delivering Regeneration (of 15-minute Bakers Arms Neighbourhood) by increasing town centre offer, putting residents at the forefront of change and establishing a location for local arts and events, with the potential to create a kiosk café and workspace units;
  • Instilling Confidence in Our Future attracting investment in a diverse area, addressing socioeconomic inequalities, and by supporting local networks, ongoing debate and promoting principles of sustainable architecture and potentially adding to development of green economy locally. 
  • In context of Covid-19, the Council has adopted new Corporate Strategy ‘Public Service’ which focuses on connecting local residents with jobs, supporting safe and healthy lives, developing 15 minutes Neighbourhoods which cater to broader range of local needs, and instilling confidence in future by growing local economy and through discussion about the future.