Welcome to the Empowering Design Practices

Issue #4 / Autumn 2017

We are now three years into our five-year project exploring how community-led design can help empower those who look after historic places of worship to create more open, vibrant and sustainable places.

To date we've engaged with over 40 communities who are looking after historic places of worship across England, providing direct support, training or specialist workshops to more than 400 people.

It's been an industrious summer for our project team with various activities across England supporting groups to develop design skills and knowledge and exploring the role of the place of worship for different faith groups and communities. We've also continued to follow our three longitudinal projects - Bow Church, St. Peter's Chester and ISRAAC - in their journeys to improve the quality of their spaces.

Read more below about our recent activities and plans for the next few months.


Design Training for historic places of worship

Since our last update in May, we've held two Design Training courses - in Manchester (20-21 June) and London (12-13 September) - with six different groups who are involved in looking after a historic place of worship. These intensive two-day courses which are based on the Buildings by Design course developed by EDP partner The Glass-House, helped the groups to develop their design skills and knowledge, learn from each other and from completed projects, and test ideas for the future of their spaces. Led by Leo Care of Live Works, participants found new tools and language to explore and convey ideas and aspirations.

Feedback from one of our participants (from Cemetery Road Baptist Church, Sheffield):

"The trip was immensely enlightening and I feel truly blessed to have been offered this opportunity. Not only did the course open our eyes to the amazing architectural possibilities, it enabled us to broaden our perspectives on 'looking outwards', considering the greater needs of the community."
Read more about the courses on our blog:

Exploring assets, challenges and opportunities

With the help of Geoffrey Hunter, Church Buildings Consultant with the Diocese of Ely, we organised a one-day workshop for 7 church groups from the diocese, which was also attended by members of Great Bavington United Reformed Church in Northumberland. The aim of the workshop was to help participants reflect on their assets, challenges and opportunities, share experiences, learn from other projects and get a taste of some of the activities used in our project to support people to engage in design. Learn more about the workshop in this post by Dr. Katerina Alexiou on our project blog.
EDP Ely workshop July 2017

Exploring perceptions of places of worship

Through new collaborations, we've been engaging people from different faith groups in conversations about the role of the place of worship in their lives and communities. With the Baroness Warsi Foundation and its CEO Mandip Sahota, we hosted a multi-faith workshop in Bradford in May that explored people's relationship with their place of worship, and the role that faith plays in the social and cultural life of the city. Working with Ritual Reconstructed (another AHRC-funded project), we held a workshop at West London Synagogue in July which invited people who worship and work in synagogues to reflect on the significance of these spaces and how they can support social action. Sophia de Sousa shares the key themes emerging from these workshops on our blog.

Mapping impact

In May 2017, Gemma Burford (Green Spiral Arts) was contracted by the Open University to
undertake a mid-term impact review of the Empowering Design Practices project, to help develop thinking about its impact narrative and to make recommendations for priorities and mechanisms for capturing evidence of impact. Her first report will be publicly available on the project website in the next few weeks.

Developing resources and sharing learning

Over the coming months, the EDP team will focus on the development of resources including stories to inspire, a design guide and other materials for individuals and groups who want to learn about community-led design and how they can help make it happen.

About Empowering Design Practices

Empowering Design Practices: historic places of worship as catalysts for connecting communities is a five-year £1.5m research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council under the Connected Communities and Design highlight notice.

It is a collaborative partnership between three Open University faculties (Maths, Computing and Technology, Arts, and the Institute of Educational Technology), The Glass-House Community Led Design, Historic England, Heritage Lottery Fund and the Historic Religious Buildings Alliance. Additional professional support is provided by Wright and Wright Architects, Live Works and heritage consultant Becky Payne.

You can contact us via the project website, email or find us on Twitter
Copyright © 2017 Open University, All rights reserved.


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