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The university as agent of change in the city: Co-creation of live community architecture

Sara, Rachel; Jones, Matthew

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Rachel Sara
Associate Professor in Low Energy Design in Architecture

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Dr Matthew Jones
Associate Professor & Dean and Head of School, Architecture and Environment


© 2018 Author(s). Universities have a civic responsibility towards the cities of which they are a part. This is typically operationalised through Outreach and Engagement, which aims to share and apply the expertise and knowledge generated by the university with communities. The model is typically a onedirection path from the University to communities, but there is potential for the engagement to take on more of a two-way collaboration, in which there is an intent to generate new knowledge and enact positive change. This paper reflects on the practice of Hands-on-Bristol, a collective bringing community members, architects, trainee architects, and academics together to co-create projects. This practice is conceived as a form of Spatial Civic Agency that empowers a community organization to participate in making and remaking their places. Projects typically involve a process of co-creation, bringing into consciousness the conditions that shape a community's place in their world and catalysing possibilities that seemingly cannot otherwise be unlocked. The paper analyses the process of the projects using four key civic agency concepts which identify a need to: Involve the citizen as co-creator; Engage with public and community places; Reconceptualise the role of the professional; and Understand democracy as a lived social and cultural experience grounded in everyday life. The analysis suggests that this participatory approach to education questions the primary focus of education as provider of practice-ready graduates and makes a place for the University as civic agent with transformative potential to co-create more sustainable, resilient communities.


Sara, R., & Jones, M. (2018). The university as agent of change in the city: Co-creation of live community architecture. Archnet-IJAR, 12(1), 326-337

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 6, 2017
Publication Date Jan 1, 2018
Deposit Date Jan 9, 2018
Publicly Available Date Jan 9, 2018
Journal Archnet-IJAR
Print ISSN 1938-7806
Electronic ISSN 1938-7806
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 12
Issue 1
Pages 326-337
Keywords community, university, civic agency, co-creation, live projects, higher education
Public URL
Publisher URL


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