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Live community architecture – a transformative feminist practice?
A critical exploration of the experiences of students involved in live community-based architecture projects

Sara, Rachel


Rachel Sara


Internationally, Universities have introduced live projects as an increasingly common component of architecture education. In these projects students are typically taken out of the classroom or studio, and prompted to work with clients and/or real-life situations ‘as a way of learning the theory and practice of architecture.’ (SSOA, p5) The range of project types that are considered ‘live’ is varied: from hands-on 1:1 construction to client-initiated and participatory community-based design projects. Both approaches offer a distinctively different pedagogic approach that challenge normative approaches to architectural education (which have been critiqued as fundamentally masculinist, individualist and exclusive). However I argue that it is involvement in live, community-based and co-creative architecture projects that offers the most powerfully feminist alternative.

This paper reflects on the experiences of over 60 students involved in live community-based architecture projects run at the School of Architecture, UWE, Bristol, UK over two academic years. These projects have involved students in creating a series of community pocket parks [fig 1]; feasibility and detailed design for a farm run by people with disabilities [fig 2]; portable recycled architecture, [fig 3] etc. The research investigates how their experiences affect their perceptions of the architectural design process and explores the pedagogical implications (using a structure drawn from radical transformative feminist pedagogies, in particular bell hooks and Paolo Friere).

Initial findings suggest that in community-based projects, collaboration can generate space in which architecture students, academics and community clients work together to co-define the aspirations for their part of the city and design responses to transform their particular situation. As such these projects challenge the inherent power relations – not only between tutors and students, but also between professionals and amateurs. They begin to suggest a model of activist transformative feminist pedagogy that empowers participants, builds community and challenges traditional notions of architectural pedagogic practice.


A critical exploration of the experiences of students involved in live community-based architecture projects. Presented at Architecture and Feminisms Conference

Presentation Conference Type Lecture
Conference Name Architecture and Feminisms Conference
Start Date Nov 17, 2016
End Date Nov 19, 2016
Acceptance Date Nov 16, 2016
Publication Date Nov 16, 2016
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords architecture, education, live project, feminism
Related Public URLs
Additional Information Title of Conference or Conference Proceedings : Architecture and Feminisms: Ecologies, Economies, Technologies


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