This guest blog was contributed by Matthew John Hargreaves an architecture student at Manchester Metropolitan University.
In 2010, the Valuing Older People team at Manchester City Council was successful in their bid for Manchester to become an Age-Friendly City. Since then they have worked in collaboration with local partners, including architecture students, to develop an understanding of what ‘Age-Friendly’ actually means in relation to the urban context of Manchester. As part of this, VOP have been active in the Manchester Ward of Chorlton to help represent the views of older people in the area, contributing towards the development of the regeneration Action Plan that has been outlined from 2010 to 2020.
With my work, and in line with the philosophy of my unit (called msa-p) at the Manchester School of Architecture, I wanted to develop an architectural project that was as accessible as possible. Accessible not only in terms of the physical design and features of the urban landscape, but accessible in terms of the design process and techniques used to arrive at my final proposals. Inspired by the work carried out by VOP and driven my desire to represent those who are often excluded by architectural design processes and building developments, i.e. older and younger people, I developed architectural proposals in line with the
Chorlton District Centre Regeneration Action Plan as a form of representation, to highlight the needs of these often overlooked or ignored age groups.
My final proposals and architectural ideas therefore can be seen as an interpretation of the Age-Friendly city concept specific to Manchester, and hope to highlight some of the issues faced by younger and older residents in Chorlton with relation to the regeneration of their community.
This project was unique from an architectural point of view as it explored ways in which inclusive techniques and methods could be used to help inform and influence the design process. In other words, there was a conscious effort to engage with the community, with consultations and participatory events held with local residents, in particular the younger and older people living in the area, at all stages of the project.
This includes initial exploratory experiments making an animation around the areato organising mapping exercises with local community and neighbourhood groups, through to an exhibition in the area and dissemination of my final portfolio, which was designed to mimic the original Action Plan for the area.
Details of the design itself can be viewed in more depth in my portfolio, ‘Chorlton For All Ages’, which can be viewed online at. The various spaces shown across the scheme, such as the art hub, outdoor spaces and public toilets, can be regarded as a form of design research that represent the views and opinions of the people I spoke to, highlighting the needs of the community as a whole. With the use of architectural propositions, it makes the information gathered more digestible and presents the ideas back to the community in an accessible and easy to understand way.
Overall, and speaking from the perspective of a designer and aspiring architect, I think this highlights the need for designers and urban planners to seek out engagements with the people they are designing for. By employing such processes, the locality and the social conditions of the environment being designing for can be better understood, with a more ‘bottom-up’, inclusive approach, something which I believe is necessary to design buildings and communities that are truly sustainable.