How can architects assist community led companies and charities achieve incredible results?

May 20, 2019

Charity architect

As architects at Vita Architecture we have a passion, drive and responsibility to design beautiful and functional projects for our clients. This desire is often met with the limitations of the budget and time.

Applying creative ways to achieve high-quality inspirational results on a budget for our clients is the drive of our practice. But how much of an architectural impact can we have on community-led companies and charities with limited budgets? What can be achieved under high financial constraints?

A community-led charity, that helps young people in local areas achieve higher potential through educational programmes, contacted us, asking whether we would be interested in assisting them with designing a reception area for their new Somalian Youth Development Resource Centre SYDRC) in N1C, London. Their brief was requesting a unique signature fit-out of the entrance space on a shoestring budget. Having worked with charities in the past, we knew that we would need to be innovative and make sure that the client’s message comes through in design, but we were up for the exciting challenge.

N1C installation (9)

Our way to approach the project was to ensure that the client is involved right from the get-go, in order to understand their needs and requirements that can be met, as well as exceed the expectations of the final result. Through meetings and workshops, we found out that the drive and support of the SYDRC is the community, which we took on as an inspiration to our design development.

A number of ideas have been developed throughout the process, but a particular approach has grown further that encompassed the story of craft and architecture as well as a community coming together. The reception area was designed in a way that it could be built by the community for the community.

We have developed a modular CNC-cut plywood centrepiece. The sizes designed were both optimised for the machining as well as manageable and easy enough to put together on-site by unskilled workers. It was delivered on-site as a flat packed and numbered jigsaw puzzle. Over the next two nights, ten centre volunteers have taken on the task of coating a number of pieces in protective oil to ensure longevity and then assembling the SYDRC reception centrepiece in place.

The principles of modules design, with assistance from CNC technicians and the manual help from centre volunteers, has resulted in personalised and unique entrance fit out with construction costs and savings of 7.5 times lower than initial quotes of over £30,000 down to £4,000.

This is not the only project that we are embarking on with the support of charities, the community and volunteers. We are currently in the process of building a dog enrichment park, reinstating a number of timber pallets, which were used to deliver dog food to the nearby dog rescue centre. Not only are we integrating cost-neutral materials on site, but we are also receiving help from charity volunteers in order to construct exciting tunnels, seats and shelters for dogs with a very low investment.

We, at Vita Architecture, believe that each project has a way of maturing and coming together beautifully, no matter what the budget is as long as there is a client with a dream, a strong support team and a little bit of design ingenuity.