At a time when many larger scale cultural organisations are reassessing their purpose and core structure, our Arts and Culture team have been doing something similar. Historically we have tended to categorise our work into museums and galleries, the performing arts and community sectors – however, as is often seen when working with our cultural client organisations, these ‘labels’ are being challenged as multidisciplinary practice and co-collaboration increases, and the importance of community engagement is acknowledged as essential to support future resilience.
In this context in the recent Arts and Culture Monday morning session we revisited some earlier thoughts on how we work with communities to ‘Empower, Engage and Enable’, reviewing some of the learnings we shared in a seminar at the Resourcing Scotland’s Heritage conference held back in 2018.
Many of our ‘community’ projects derive from grass roots activism – with a local community mobilising to either save an existing building at risk or to seek space to fulfil local need. Projects such as Dunoon Burgh Hall and Rockfield fall into this category. Through the process our role as ‘facilitator’ is as important as ‘designer’ – seeking ways to engage and collaborate with the many communities which a building will ultimately serve.
Flexibility in design approach, building usage and project procurement is important – particularly in our current times. Indian architect Rehul Mehrotra, speaking at an Edinburgh International Festival webinar over the summer, offered sound advice when he stated, ‘something that is flexible is never broken’. That notion of elasticity, coupled with tenacity, agility and humility are what we need as architects to successfully collaborate on community projects.