Architects Aware is urging London to build on advances made helping rough sleeping during lockdown and use good quality existing and redundant buildings to house the homeless.
Architects Aware was launched in January and was founded by Heather Macey, associate at John McAslan + Partners, who told New London Weekly that:
Although the Covid-19 period had seen 90% of rough sleeping eliminated in line with the ‘Everybody In’ government initiative, the hotel solution was not a long-term one, only helps single rough sleepers, and high quality alternative models need to be found. ‘We can’t go back’, she said.
The London-based think tank of built environment professionals that formed to find design and policy-based solutions to the problem are, said Heather, ‘developing research to consider how a holistic design approach could offer more long-term lasting solutions for homeless accommodation in London.
The group has written a four-page document called: ‘Rough Sleeping Post COVID-19 – it takes a crisis to solve a crisis’ (below) on approaches to homelessness, in particular rough sleeping, post-COVID-19. The document includes generic design studies on three ideas: the reimagined small hotel, the reimagined commercial space (offices, pubs and retail units) and the role of meanwhile use, especially given that projects are being put on hold for longer as a result of COVID-19. Macey is looking at one particular meanwhile site after chatting to a site owner at a networking NLA event before lockdown. ‘This presents an opportunity for the built environment sector to consider how these buildings could be utilised and provide a meaningful solution to the homeless crisis’.
The group has 19 founding members and believes that a cross-disciplinary approach is required to address this important issue ‘head on’. It has also published a manifesto with its research underpinned by six core principles, which are to:
- Research different homeless groups to understand individual needs and identify client groups
- Explore and develop design and policy based solutions to the UK homeless crisis
- Create a set of “design guidelines” for providing homeless accommodation with associated support facilities
- Establish strategic business models to define how homeless accommodation could sustainably co-exist with other planning uses
- Collaborate with a wide group of industry leaders
- To develop thought provoking research to influence and establish new ways of addressing the crisis