If only… We took ownership of our city, says Eleanor Brough, who is an associate at the multi-award-winning company Sarah Wigglesworth Architects
Cities are places of activity and resourcefulness with the potential to cross-pollinate and inspire. In every empty space I see the potential for a pocket park, a productive garden – a place to play, create or rest, to meet and interact – but instead I see hoarded-off sites, growing tall with weeds and rubbish. I would open up these blank facades to provide homes or services for the communities they should be supporting. I see empty shop units with absentee landlords, which could be given over to new uses – book swaps, co-working, homework clubs – bringing back activity and a sense of community. Why can’t underused office buildings provide a new model of co-housing, combining affordable living, working and leisure with views and public roof terraces? If only we could de-commoditise our housing market and turn empty ‘units’ into homes.
My city, London, is full of underused spaces. Our built environment could be doing far more for everyone.
Eleanor Brough is an associate at multi-award-winning firm Sarah Wigglesworth Architects. She leads projects across multiple sectors, and in 2016 won the RIBA North West Project Architect of the Year Award for her work on Mellor Primary School, an exemplar, sustainable project at the edge of the Peak District that incorporated an engaging, community-built habitat wall.