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An introduction to Making It Happen

31 January 2019

Our latest exhibition in the Architecture Gallery presents the stories behind four recent examples of community architecture, celebrating how members of the public have come together with architects to help design, rebuild or reuse local public buildings. The four recent projects, drawn from across the UK, demonstrate the changing role of the architect when working in such circumstances.

Making It Happen © Luke Hayes

The featured projects are: the Old Manor Park Library in East London, now reopened as a community arts space; Hastings Pier, rebuilt almost entirely after a catastrophic fire in 2010; Coniston Institute, a multi-purpose community centre in the Lake District; and The Lookout, a miniature public space found in the beautiful surroundings of Loch Lomond and the Trossochs National Park in Scotland.

Working on the exhibition offered the RIBA curators the opportunity to travel the country and meet with the community members involved in each project, learning about the challenges in bringing public buildings back to life in the process. The outcomes of the visits are documented via film, photography and text, bringing into the gallery the voices of the volunteers, fundraisers and activists that made each project happen.

Old Manor Park Library © Nicholas Brennan and Astrid Smitham, and Hastings Pier © James Stephenson for dRMM Architects

These personal stories and testimonies are presented alongside materials drawn from the architectural process, demonstrating the skill and ingenuity that the architects brought to each project. Working at times to limited budgets, the featured practices - dRMM, Processcraft, Hayatsu Architects and Apparata - offered a range of skills that go beyond the traditional services of the architect, becoming at times fundraiser, activist and contractor.

The exhibition is presented within an immersive exhibition design by Hayatsu Architects that brings 1:1 elements from the four projects, offering a flavour of the original design and materiality of each. The playful layout encourages visitors to explore the gallery and discover wood, brick and even pebble floor surfaces, intended to evoke the sights and sounds of each landscape and environment.

Coniston Institute masterplan © Hayatsu Architects, and The Lookout, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park

As a conclusion the exhibition features a public notice board that will advertise similar projects happening elsewhere in Britain. Across the country communities are campaigning to keep open local museums, libraries, swimming pools, leisure centres and village halls in the face of council spending cuts and closures.

The notice board is intended to publicise and promote such projects, looking to help fundraise or make connections between like-minded groups, or simply encourage visitors to seek out opportunities to get involved themselves. The level of activism already taking place reflects the importance of public buildings to society, demonstrating why people have been inspired to take action and the reasons behind bringing the subject to the RIBA Architecture Gallery.

Making It Happen notice board

Find out how to visit the free exhibition, and view our series of talks, tours and workshops that have been planned to coincide with the exhibition, featuring participants from some of the exhibited projects.

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