I’m Phillippa Banister – Director of Street Space – we are a social enterprise working with residents and the local authority in Barking and Dagenham to reimagine their streets and space as community spaces and places of joy and possibility. Streets as a possibility for community building - one of the main challenges of our times Want to share a bit about my journey and three projects that have used streets as a way to build social connection in communities in different ways.
Because I’m really into streets and the potential of streets to knit communities back together I always start by asking people how many streets have you lived on WAIT ONE MINUTE I’ve lived on 13 streets in my life - what about you? Wanted to share a selection with you
Grew up in surburbs of Leeds/Bradford on this grey street – bus route – never really knew anyone. Went to school on a bus in another town so didn’t really know my neighbours or play out Went to live in Rambukkana- Sri Lanka for a year before university and lived on this dusty street – a meeting place, a hidden ecosystem of houses beyond and beyond linked by footpaths and streams - met people on the way to wash in the river or well.
Lived as a student in selly oak in bimrinham – didn’t care what day I put the bin out, didn’t trim the hedge as I was in the TA.. Away a lot, had a few load parties.. After uni went to work in Cameroon in the NW – roads (2010) not paved acted as a lifeline to health services and education. To work with farming co-operatives and local authorities – found I really liked the space in between. But at this time so low trafficked still a meeting place
After many other London houses and streets, a masters, a start up, and three jobs ranging from service design – street design – cohesion to street space in Barking and Dagenham. Now I live here in Hackney, East London – very densely populated streets all different types of housing. It’s a rat run – and a school walking route and a popular cycling route SO WHAT???
I believe streets are the answer to make us happier and healthier. Huge potential By understanding the mini ecosystems that we live within Have worked with LA’s to Applying the collaborative design process to streets – as potential spaces for community - the fabric of our places. How we can make them great places and weave communities back together. – how streets can combat fear and help people reimagine/challenge an established narrative - how an individual parking space can be created and reclaimed into a community space for connection - how can the process of co-designing an under used car park bring community members together and start to reinvigorate a shopping parade
This is why I set up street space in Barking and Dagenham to look and collaborate around testing ideas to tackle this question. Where do you start? But who does a street belong to? Not one users group or target audience Far more complex Balancing movement vs place function of streets People may live on a street but others may want to use it – e.g. school run. Individual vs universal Who/which user matters most? Air quality… massive issues. Deprived areas suffering consequences of other people’s choices Improve a street – it becomes more expensive Top down vs bottom up
Barking and Dagenham – East of London. On the bottom end of a lot of indicators – de[privation, poverty, education, employment. Not actually as dangerous or crime ridden as people or residents perceive. But this is their reality. Barking Town Centre – an affordable ‘mini Manhattan’ ?! £2 billion investment, 6k new homes, many for rent or shared ownership: ‘More Greggs, less Pret’ Research project completed on perceptions of safety in 2017 51% of residents do not feel safe after dark in the Town Centre – compared to 21% nationally Majority of these residents are women, older people and disabled people
Wanted to do something practical – not another advertising campaign. No one trusts the experts anyway. Let’s go with people’s perceptions. Picked four spaces Key Insights Approximately 60+ conversations Clear priority locations identified Majority of women would not walk through Barking Town Centre at night Most felt safe in the daylight Nervous if not enough ‘eyes on the street’ Felt threatened by groups gathering, street drinking, different languages Many had direct experience of harassment or crime Wide acceptance of changing behavior due to fear of public spaces Led to increased reliance on car/family members Deeply held community narratives around specific locations where crimes have happened Impact of social media ‘Facebook Families’ Lack of night-time economy – changing demographics of the area Perceptions of population change and growth narrative Impact of litter, general environment
Make it 3D
All about the questions you ask Brought women together to design together – key question – if you had £50 and needed to hold your best friend’s birthday party – what would you do?
Connecting people – how can we use one parking space to add my value in a fragmented community
1981 Donald Appleyard book – Livable Streets How social interactions increase on streets with light traffic – it’s not rocket science SO how might in addition to place and movement we use streets to foster CONNECTION and social COHESION.
Organising a street party on my street
How can one parking space add community value to a street?
Let things grow organically – when enabled.
Context – Barking and Dagenham London borough at the top of most scales – not in a good way – poverty, education. Key problems around lack of trust, fear of crime, poor quality public space, poor road safety. How to design for something different? And how to engage with people to see the opportunity This car park – unused space in the middle
Getting under the skin of a place – how do people really feel Wanting spaces to connect that are safe and informal and equitable
COLLABORATIVE DESIGN Being humble enough to really listen to their agenda….. Work with children and older people - extremes. People didn’t want to zoom out and focus on opportunities Wanted basic maintenance of drains Not able to look at the bigger picture – our goals and opportunities Really listen to what THEIRS are and respect that. Fear of street violence is real problem – not of traffic Perceptions of safety so much greater than real risk affects behaviour
No such thing as creative people Everyone can add creativity and flair Rethinking what we want to deliver with the space available – what is our biggest need? How can streets help us? How can we design for the service of connection through streets? How can we apply collaborative design principles to planning/built environment/ streets and spaces in between the buildings.
Streets as a service for social connection
Streets as a service for social
@phillybanister | @street_space_