Arkki an architecture school for children

Arkki an architecture school for children

Arkki is an interesting non profit, the first school in Finland specialising in providing after school architectural and environmental eduction for children and young adults.


The weekly architectural clubs are tailored for each age range. 4-6 year olds learn about architecture, nature, light, colours and shapes through play and imaginative projects like model making. 7-14 year olds explore issues like ecology and sustainability as well as cultural history and the impact of tradition in design. They also analyse the spatial experience and use their senses to experiment with space.

As they get old the topics become more complex, by the time they reach the 14-18 year old age group they explore design problems from small scale like designing door handles to the larger designing houses and city planning. They also learn about architectural history and contemporary architecture.

Around 500 children between the age of 4-19 participate in the courses on a long term bases. They also run short term courses every year.

They use a range of methods including models, 1:1 scale, using their senses to experience architecture and digital tools. Play is essential as it is the way children explore the world and learn natural, so a playful approach allows the kids to use their imagination, intelligence and experiment.

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Find out more on their website


Dave Eggers: Once upon a school

Truly inspiring TED talk by Dave Eggers on the Pirate Supply Store. Purveyor of great looking supplies for the working buccaneer and provider of extra curricular help for English.
“Some of these kids just don’t know how good they are, how smart and how much they have to say, you can tell them, you can shine that light on them one human interaction at a time…”
Amazing mobile halloween costumes

Amazing mobile halloween costumes

magic-wheelchair-costumes-psfk-881x644This melted my heart. Ryan Weimer, who has three children with Spinal Muscular Atrophy started the non profit Magic Wheelchair to give kids in wheelchairs the halloween costumes of their dreams. Read the full article here.

“My favourite thing about Magic Wheelchair is that it’s a creative way to create awareness in communities. It’s a great way to make kids feel included.” Ryan Weimar

Find out more at Magic Wheelchair.

People Centred Architecture

People Centred Architecture

Ideo recently published their Field Guide to Human Centred Design which reminded me of the importance of people centred design and architecture in todays rapidly changing world. 

I recently worked in a recently renovated theatre and it was a great lesson on how essential it was to design spaces for how people would actually use them instead of just the aesthetics. I had many gripes about the architecture. The architects had obvviously designed what the client wanted, a grand building that stood out in the streetscape and city. But for those of us working there the new design was tricky to navigate; pillars that prevented patrons from seeing where the bar was, high bar tops difficult for shorter staff to work or be seen, locking doors that made it hard to get around the building. 

The way architecture is taught in architecture schools means that people are not at the centre of the design process. There is a discussion of aesthetics, the image, context, light, the form. this continues to the office where the concern is about cost savings and making the client happy with little dicussion of people or how they actually use or engage with the space.

All to often as architects we feel as though we must be the master builder, designing to the last detail. Which is fair enough especially as the icons in our profession work in this way. However participation does not prevent this method rather it looks at a holistic approach which encompases not just the design and construction but also puts the end users at the centre of the design process. 

John Habrekens explanation of participation has stuck with me since seeing the brilliant documentary De Drager. He spoke of participation being a paternalistic that implies that professionals make the world and they are willing to let the people in. Whereas it is the other way round. There is the built environment that has its own laws and has been around for thousands of years, so instead we should ask to what extent can the architect particpate to make it better. Not participation of the people in the work of the architect. Creating a new dialogue with the building and the professional role. If we get feedback from the way people use the building and we can understand this. We begin to ask ourselves what is the intervention the architect can make?

His interest in feedback is similar to that of the lean start up, which advocates testing and iteration, creating short feedback loops that inform the next iteration. In impact design or people centred design we are constantly looking at and evaluating the impact of a project on the community. This hardly ever happens in traditional architectural practice. The project ends with the construction of the building with little follow up to see what lessons could be learned or feedback gained.  This should be practice that is wide spread in the profession. Not just the impact to the individuals using the space but also the wider social and economic community. It begins with actually speaking to the people who use or will use the spaces. 

A brilliant example is ‘Koolhaas Houselife.’ Exploring the everyday life of the housekeeper of one of architect Rem Koolhaas’ buildings. It’s reality versus the polished images often depicted. 

The Civic Shop_ shopping for good

The Civic Shop_ shopping for good

Based in the new wing of Somerset House the Civic Shop is a retail space that “showcases the work of a new generation of civic activists and social designers – inventors of new public spaces, new economies and champions of public good in everyday life.” It is run by a group of people looking at ways to reframe our everyday experiences, socially and physically. The group includes, Cassie Robinson, Snook,Women’s Engineering Society and Future Gov.


They explore and question the relationship between the commercial and civic sphere. By civic they refer to public space and how that is becoming more and more privatised and commercialised today. Community centres and public libraries are shutting down, even town squares are being closed off. Civic functions are starting to take notes from corporate spheres in order to increase “efficiency” and “productivity”.

The store is designed to encourage people to explore questions such as “Has the world of commerce encroached too much on our civic spaces, and how much do we care?” There are items for sale as well as things that are free and the money generated goes back to the causes that inspired the products. It is interesting that they use a familiar typology, retail, as a way to engage and inform the public about social and civic initiatives as well as to question what is happened around us. Cassie also makes a weekly podcast, which explores the wider discourse.


Here are some of the participants

A-Z Genova Project

A-Z Genova Project– 26 Urban interactions in 2 days. The project explored Genova as a city in decline, where the built environment is increasingly seen as a challenge. The interest was in how interpretation shapes our reality, and ways to adapt perception to mediate change. Taking inspiration from an Italian phrase used to call for change, “Cambiare dalla a alla zeta / Change from a to z”, the city was framed using the alphabet. Each letter identifying theme of the city, with an interaction created to make a new perspective. For example the response for G for Gardens was to create mini gardens.

A-Z genova project

Dearest Scotland

Dearest Scotland is an apolitical campaign crowdsourcing future visions of Scotland for a common good. They ask people to write a letter “dearest Scotland” to the future citizens of the country. Be it literal, fictional, poetic or metaphoric. Run by Snook in Glasgow, letters are collected, published and shared with the world. The aim is to give citizens a platform to share their thoughts and voice that is often not shown in the media. They recently successfully ran a crowdfunding campaign to raise £10,000 of funding to publish a book of Dearest Scotland letters.



Started by the Noun Project, KindSigns is a movement using signage as a force for good. The Noun Project is on a mission to create, share and celebrate the worlds visual language. They started KindSigns a series of open sourced design workshops where participants get the chance to create their own personalised KindSign and place it at a location they choose and inspire others around them.


Random thoughts: some ideas

Random thoughts: some ideas

I’ve been having some ideas about projects I’d like to do, but haven’t done much about them. So I thought it’d be a good idea to list the ones that have been on my mind and write a little exploration about them.

Superhero workshop

Superhero definition: A type of character possessing extra ordinary talents. They have a moral code and desire to help people.

Inspired by the Monster Street Supplies Store and would love to do a project that encourages kids to explore their imagination. I’m really interested in making and encouraging people to talk and explore through making, so the idea is that It’d be a series of workshops with kids aged 8-12, asking them to make a superhero mask/ costume that could change their environment.

It’d start with a mapping of the local community and the problems they perceive in their community. These could be the villain of the story. We’d then explore solutions and inspirational projects. The fun bit would be imagining, designing and making the superhero who’d be able to tackle those issues. Focusing on inventing the tools we’d use simple materials like cardboard.

Urban Projections

I love the idea of a moving interactive project. I was at first interested in a transportable space or pavilion but now I’m thinking about cycling as a mode of transport. The idea would be to give people a voice the chance to change their environment. To make an impact somehow.

We could project wishes onto empty spaces/ dilapidated buildings, there are lots in Glasgow. Or reimagined existing spaces and places. Whether it’s through text, images or sounds. We could paint the city, project stories, write love letters to the city, visualise the future, highlight important places in the city….

Wall project

I was particularly drawn to “Before I die” the project by Candy Chang where people wrote their wishes on a wall painted as a chalkboard. I have some ideas of how you could transform walls to make them more engaging and playful. It would be interesting to make them into spaces that could be adapted by passersby. Leaving their imprint on the city in some way.

It could be a wall that becomes a musical instrument. People playing it as they walk by it and the music created could be recorded over time. It’d be fantastic to create a feedback loop, an interaction between past interactions and the new recordings.  It could be a wall that turns into a place to sit and have lunch in summer, protect you from the rain or even a place to have a nap.

I haven’t fully thought out this idea yet. It’s inspired by Matthias Vestergaard’s “White Shirt” project, which explores the effects of clothing and presentation by putting homeless people in white shirts and photographing them. The other inspiration is photographer Justin Bettman and stylist Gozde Eker’s project “Set in the Street” where they built elaborate sets from unwanted items and furniture found in new york and photographed them. 


I like the idea of changing the image of something. Reframing something by taking it out of its context.