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ARCH 433:









16 JULY 2014

Table of Contents





Research Content











Architecture, the art of science of planning, designing, and erecting buildings,

has a major role in the shaping of the environment and the society. In the past
decades, urban areas have seen the unsightly disintegration of buildings, building
complexes, environments and communities into slums and the destruction of homes
and environments to give way for what is thought to be better solution to the
occurring problem. The causes of this unfortunate turn of events have been linked to
experts/professionals, particularly architects and planners, which is thought to be, in
turn, caused by the incoordination with the end users in the building process.
In an effort to counteract these fateful events, people learned to assert their
rights and voice out their opinions to the people responsible for such outcomes. With
the help of the professionals themselves and some political back up as well, the
principles and practice of what is now known as community architecture became
prominent in the different parts of the world, especially in the United States and the
United Kingdom, who were the frontrunners of such movement.
Community Architecture is built upon the principle that involving the people
and/or end users in the planning, design, and building process will yield more
positive results of the end products. Community Architecture is the architecture that
promotes the active involvement of the people in the community in the building
projects. The practice Community architecture took many names and forms around
the world but with the same goals and objectives.
This research contains various information on Community Architecture
including the different definitions and descriptions of what community architecture is,
the principles behind it, the basis for the design inside the scope of community
architecture, and its evolution and history, how it came to be and what struggles it
faced to be what it is today.



Community architecture, despite having taken off some years ago, is a

relatively new movement and/or branch of architecture. The term community
architecture is quite hard to define especially that it is closely associated with many
other aspects and branches of architecture. Being that said, there are many
definitions and many tried to define and explain what community architecture is, in
which all, in a way or another, point to the same direction.
In the U.K., Community architecture has recently attracted considerable
professional attention. It is a movement that argues for the importance of user
involvement in the design, construction and management of the environment. Many
theoreticians see the movement as a reaction to the disastrous failures of modern
architecture and planning schemes. The important lesson that community architects
claim to have learned from these failures is that participation is a better process than
anticipation with regard to the users and their environmental needs. 1
Definitions of community architecture are often vaguely delimited, and can
encompass other activities such as community planning, community development,
community technical aid and community landscaping. There is a lack of definitive
proof as to the superiority of community architecture. The concern for the survival
and growth of this movement has led some advocates to claim that community
architecture is apolitical.2
Community Architecture in the UK is said to be an equal of the Community
Development in the US as both have the same principles and same goals. Also,
experts claim that Richard Hatchs (author of the book The Scope of Social
Architecture) term social architecture is same as the community architecture of the
UK, although the term is not so commonly used in the US.
Community architecture is said to be an alternative approach to the
conventional architectural practice of non-participation of users. It has developed in


Neal J. Mongold, Community Architecture : Myth and Reality (1980)

Community Architecture : Myth and Reality

many forms around the world with common vision, that is, public participation in in
decisions affecting their environments and hence their lives. 3
In 1986, a pamphlet published by the Royal Institute of British Architects
(RIBA), described the aim of community architecture as to improve the quality of
environment by involving people in the design and management of the building
spaces they inhabit.4
In another study titled A Community Architecture Framework for Designing
Sustainable Communities, community architecture is defined as a representation of
the relationship of the community stakeholders perspectives to the processes and
data that support them. Consequently, a community architect is defined as an
architect working in consultation with local inhabitants in designing housing and
other amenities.
Another definition of community architecture is that it is a scheme, mainly for
housing, that involves a study of the prevailing social conditions and consultation
with the people who are going to use them.5 The Movement enables the people to
work directly with architects in the design and building of their own homes and
neighbourhoods. 6
In the book Community Architecture by Knevitt and Wates, community
architecture is said to be an umbrella term which also embraces community
planning, community design, community development and other forms of community
technical aid. Community architecture, according to the book, is sometimes referred
to by people as anti-design, which in light is entirely untrue, although it can be said
that community architecture is not so focused on the eye-catching designs but is
more on functional solutions that benefit the users. It is said that community
architecture is very particular with the design process, which from the term itself,
heavily involves the community and/or end users, but nevertheless does not
compromise the end product but actually enhances it. Good design in community
architecture, according to the book, is that which works well/is functional, is of
human scale, recognizable and understandable, and nevertheless, looks good. In
community architecture, the three virtues of architecture (utilitas, firmitas, venustas)
is preserved. In addition, community architecture can also be said as the new
vernacular architecture because of the heavy involvement of people in the design.

Faiza Moatasim, Practice of Community Architecture: A Case Study of Zone of Opportunity Housing Co-operative,
Montreal (2005)
RIBA, pamphlet entitled Community Architecture: User Participation in the Design of Buildings (London:1986)

Community architecture demands a radical change in the relationships

between those involved in development. It is a part of a much broad pattern of
change that is emerging in post-industrial societies in which traditional cycles of
dependence are being replaced by new frameworks of self-reliance.7
Practitioners, advocates, and critics have aptly called community architecture
a movement because it represents a tendency toward a theory of architecture. Most
proponents claim that the built product of community architecture is often better than
the product of conventional architecture. Many critics suspect community
architecture to be primarily mythological because of the lack of a clear definition.8
In the end, community architecture is expected to and will hopefully result to
more self-sufficient and stable communities with contented and confident members
and professionals.
To make it clearer of what Community Architecture really is, in the following
table, taken from the book Community Architecture: How People are Creating Their
Own Environment by Knevitt and Wates, the diffrences between Conventional
architecture and Community architecture are presented.
Status of user

User/expert relationship

Conventional architecture
executed, managed and
corporate, public or private
sector landowners and
professional experts.
Remote, arms length. Little
if any direct contact.
Experts commissioned by
landowners and developers

define and consult endusers, but their attitudes are
mostly paternalistic and

Community architecture
Users are or are treated
as the clients. They are
offered (or take) control of
commissioning, designing,
developing, managing, and
sometimes be physically
involved in construction.
Experts are commissioned
by, and are accountable to
users, or behave as if they

Charles Knevitt and James Wates, Community Architecture: How People are Creating Their Own Environment

Neal J. Mongold, Community Architecture : Myth and Reality (1980)

Experts role

bureaucrat, elitist, one of
people to fit the system, a
institutional sense. Remote
and inaccessible.

Scale of project

Generally large and often

cumbersome. Determined
ownership and the need for
efficient mass production
and simple management.

Location of project

Fashionable and wealthy

commercial and industrial
areas preferred. Otherwise
a greenfield site with
power, water supply, and
drainage, etc.): i. e. no
Likely to be a single
function or two or three
(e.g. commercial, housing
or industrial)
Self-conscious about style;
most likely international or
Increasingly one of the
identifiable styles: postmodern,
revival. Restrained and
sometimes frigid; utilitarian.
Tendency towards: mass
production, prefabrication,
repetition, global supply of
materials, machine-friendly

Use of project

Design style


Enabler, facilitator, and

educator, one of us,
manipulator of the system
to fit the people and
challenger of the status
quo; a professional as a
competent and efficient
adviser. Locally based and
Generally small, responsive
and determined by the
nature of the project, the
local building industry and
the participants. Large sites
generally broken down into
manageable packages.
Anywhere, but most likely
to be urban, or periphery of
urban areas; area of single
or multiple deprivation;

Likely to be muti-functional

style. Any style may be
adopted as appropriate.
concern for identity. Loose
and sometimes exuberant;
often highly decorative,
using local artists.
Tendency toward: smallscale production, on-site
construction, individuality,
local supply of materials,

End product


technology, clean sweep user-friendly

and new build, machine technology,
intensive, capital intensive. recycling and conservation,
labour and time intensive.
Static, slowly deteriorates, Flexible, slowly improving,
hard to manage and easy to manage and
energy maintain,


In the development of any design, the socoi-cultural aspect of each

community is an important basis in the planning and designing. In each community,
the peoples social and cultural aspects can vary widely. With the participation of the
people in the design process and with the consideration of their socio-cultural
characteristics, the end product can be assured to be functional and effective.
The communitys culture can be used as a source of information for the
planning, design, and development of projects that would connect to the users
characters and tradition. Research findings show that culture-oriented product have
meaningful content that reflect the peoples lifestyle as well as provide them with
symbolic personal, cultural and social values that helps facilitate product
This is true because this makes the users feel more at home with their
environments. In addition, the fact that the people were involved all throughout the
project development gives them a sense of pride and in turn boosts the acceptability

Richie Moalosi, The impact of Socio-Cultural Factors Upon Human-centred Design in Botswana (2007)

of the end products instead of being treated coolly by the people, as most
conventional architecture end products have experienced.
Community architecture has emerged as a powerful force for change in the
creation and management of human settlements. Like many of the other new
currents which are presently transforming societies all over the globe, its strength
lies in being both an activity rooted in rediscovered natural laws and broad political
movement cutting across traditional boundaries.10
In England, the failure to consider the end users in the design of community
structures and environments proved to be disastrous. The modern environment in
Britain, as in many other parts of the world, has become widely recognized as a
disaster story characterized by ugliness, squalor, congestion, pollution, wasteland,
vandalism, stress and destruction of communities. Development has come to be
regarded as a bad thing. Conventional architecture and planning rooted in the
parternalistic and centralized creation and management by experts have
failed.11This situation proves of how ugly the consequences are when the planning
and designing does not consider the people and their social and cultural
To aid this situation from happening, it is important to consider the end users
and their different socio-cultural aspects as early as in the planning stages of each
project. Considering what the people want in their community is an important note to
take. According to the book by Knevitt and Wates, the people should be given a
sense of pride and reinforce their identity with their local community, build social
facilities that are needed and looked after, and develop neighbourhoods in ways that
will enrich their lives by being responsive to their needs and aspirations. All these
considerations and basis for the planning and design increase the chances of the
projects success as finished product.
Building what the people want is surely a good starter for any project. This
approach to design ensures the acceptability of the end product by the users. Along
with this, every project to be developed should prove to be a real need of the
inhabitants to make sure it becomes functional and well taken care of. Building
projects that are not needed by the people will result to such a waste of time, effort,
and resources. Building with the people and involving them tremendously in the
process will boost their confidence in the end product, assure the functionality of

Charles Knevitt and James Wates, Community Architecture: How People are Creating Their Own Environment
Knevitt and Wates, Community Architecture

each project, and reduce the chances of blaming entirely the professionals for
whatever problem that may occur in the long run.
It may also be important to put in mind that in the designing and planning, with
the help and active participation of the people, the economy and the type of
environment for where the project is to be built upon to be considered with outmost
Community Architecture has provided alternative design basis and
development approaches in the form of three priorities. First of these is to save what
already exists within a neighbourhood, based on the communitys wishes. There
should be a minimum destruction of community networks, both in rehabilitation or
new construction. The second demands that the community members be included in
the design process of both the rehabilitation and new construction. It is an
established fact that the end-users are most familiar with their needs and
requirements, which is also directly related to the success of a project. Based on the
same observation, Community Architecture lastly acknowledges the involvement of
the community members in the decision-making and management of the
community-based projects.12



Different sources have varying claims as to when community architecture truly

did begin. However, it can be noted that most claims sites the latter half of the 20 th
In the U. K., community architecture movement started out in the 1970s.
Charles Knevitt is accounted to be the person who coined the term in his article in
Building Design. However, the activities and principles of community architecture
itself have been around for a long time. The concept of user coordination in the
planning/design process of building is not entirely new. It had been there for a very
long time which can be traced back to the early civilization and may even be earlier.
The disappearance of the idea and practice of community architecture in the
past centuries has been accounted to the industrial revolution that happened two
centuries back which made the development of urban areas so rapid that the people

Faiza Moatasim, Practice of Community Architecture: A Case Study of Zone of Opportunity Housing Cooperative, Montreal (2005)

and their voices were neglected by the responsible people and the regulation and
control on building by authorities and the emergence of experts/professionals in the
Originally, the movement that community architecture is today can also be
traced back to the 1930s from the Urban Renewal measures of the government in
both the U.K. and North America.
In the UK, Urban Renewal can be directly linked to the economic boost that
the country observed in the post-war period when the attention turned to the
improvement of the living conditions in poor neighbourhoods. The story was the
same in the US, where the Slum Clearance Movement gave birth to the Urban
Renewal Policies. In Canada during the dirty thirties attention also turned towards
the deplorable living conditions of the poor.
Housing was seen as the ultimate solution in the removal of slums. At the
same time, the development of the Modern Movement in Architecture led by
architects like Le Corbusier propagated the notion of high-rise buildings employing
industrial construction techniques as the future of urban development, resulting in
the adoption of high-rise buildings as a suitable form of housing the masses and
resulted in demolishing existing slums and replacing them with heavily subsidized
high-rise buildings consisting of apartments in US.
The anticipation of Slum Clearance and Urban Renewal as solutions to all
social and physical problems of the blighted areas failed to live up to their claims
and expectations. It was assumed that the new high-risers would eliminate the future
development of slums and despite their initial costs would pay off in the long run.
Neither happened as it soon became apparent to the governments and authorities
that it was impossible to demolish and develop all the slums, which were growing
faster than ever. In addition to this, the management and maintenance costs of
these high-rise buildings was much higher than traditional houses, the lack of which
resulted in a new sets of alarming problems with the livability of these buildings.
Probably one of the main side effects of the Urban Renewal measures that
gave birth to the concept of Community Architecture was the disruption of social
networks and communities that existed in the slums prior to their demolition. People
were expected to move to new locations and leave behind the social ties that took
years to develop in the promise for a better future. The policy makers and authorities
made these decisions for them, without taking their consent on the matter.

When all the promises of these so-called developments seemed far from
coming true, there started an agitation on part of the, people, fighting to save their
homes and neighbourhoods from the fate of destruction. These residents belonging
to the bottom of the society with the help of visionaries, theorists and professionals
were able to plant the seed of the concept of community participation in the
decision-making process.
The first significant step as a result of the 1960s debate on community
participation in planning and decision-making was the concept of Advocacy Planning
in the US. Paul Davidoff, an Urban Planning professor, first introduced this concept
in an article published in the November 1965 issue of the Journal of the American
Institute of Planners, entitled Advocacy and Pluralism in Planning. Davidoff
presents the idea of pluralism and advocacy in planning as an alternative approach
where the preparation of plans no longer remains the duty of city planning agencies
but can be developed by other interest groups or individuals with the help of
planners. He believes that advocacy and pluralism in planning is a good thing and
works in favor of everyone involved, including governments and communities.
Paul Davidoff stressed on the urgency of representing low-income families in
particular by planners under the banner of Advocacy Planning. He argued that the
underprivileged group of the society was in dire need of professional assistance to
advocate their rights and protect their interests. This article stirred a new wave of
participatory planning in the US, with planners providing their services to poor
communities in order to improve their living conditions. The first practical example of
the concept of Advocacy Planning was the establishment of Architects Renewal
Committee in Harlem or ARCH in October 1964 in New York City. ARCH started its
operations in April 1965 and consisted of a team of architects and planners
providing their architectural and planning services to the inhabitants of Harlem in
New York in order to improve their living conditions.
Parallel to the Advocacy Planning movement in the United States, the
community groups in the United Kingdom launched community action in the 1960s,
50s and 1970s as a reaction to the governments policy of relocation and
redevelopment projects, resulting in property speculation. The project that laid the
foundation of the Community Architecture Movement in Britain was the Black Road
Area Improvement Project in Macclesfield, Cheshire, under the leadership of Rod
Hackney, the first community architect in Britain.
Hackney achieved major feat by attracting the attention of Prince Charles in
1984, which gave the needed boost and Royal patronage to the Community
Architecture Movement in Britain. Community Architecture is based on a democratic

system of decision-making that advocates the inclusion of community members in

issues concerning their built environment.13
Community Architecture since then has developed in different forms around
the world with a common vision. The literature in community participation mostly
written in the 1960s and 1970s played a vital role in the development of the concept
of Community Architecture.
In 2013, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) released a paper titled
Guide to Localism composed of two parts, Part one being Neighbourhood
Planning and Part two Getting Community Engagement Right. The paper is part of
the Localism Bill being proposed. This project of RIBA now termed as Localism is
another form of the Community Architecture movement, with the same driving
principle of getting the people to join in the designing and development process of
their own places. The paper presented three policy proposals which require the
designers the Duty to Consult, and the community the Right to Build and the
Right to Buy.14 This step by the Institute is proof of how community architecture is
starting to be widely accepted by both professionals/experts in the field and the
common people/locals.
For many years, since the beginning of the movement until now, it has been,
and still is, the goal of community architecture to discover how people can be more
involved in the shaping of their environment. As we move on into the future, it is the
hope of many advocates that community architecture be the answer to a more
harmonious living in communities around the world.


Community architecture emerged in the 20th century due to the problems

faced by the decaying urban environments from the industrial revolution. It came
from the efforts of the local people to assert their rights as members of the
community. Community architecture has taken many forms and names and may
have had little differences as to why and how it was developed but the driving
principles are the same.

Faiza Moatasim, Practice of Community Architecture: A Case Study of Zone of Opportunity Housing Cooperative, Montreal (2005)
RIBA, Guide to Localism - Part 2: Getting Community Engagement Right (2013)

The term community architecture may be a little hard to define or have

varying definitions, one reason due to its close association or similarity with other
practices of architecture like community planning, community development, etc.
Some experts site Community Architecture as a movement, as it is in the U.K.
Generally, Community Architecture aims to involve the community members in the
execution of projects to increase or ensure success of each endeavour and avoid
the same disastrous outcomes of the urban developments and solutions made by
experts before without the consent and the neglect of the end users. It is what they
saw as the solution to the past failures basically due to the fact that the people
themselves are more familiar with what they really need and want in their
environment and community, and with their participation, acceptance of the end
products is certain and the people are given a sense of pride and confidence in the
end products.
Community architecture, in a sense, opposes the urban developments that
generally neglect the citizens in the community where it is particularly being done.
Similar situations are projected even in films. This is proof of how the practice and
concept of community architecture is gaining acceptance in both sides of the party.
In the U.K., community architecture movement have gained easier
acceptance due to the support of his Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales. This
situation shows how political back-up had been useful and how needed it is in the
advancement of the practice/movement. In the U.S., some of the efforts for the
advancement of community architecture had been unsuccessful and fruitless due to
lack of funding and support from the government as well as from the people. In the
end, it can therefore be concluded that the success of the community architecture
will greatly depend upon the support and commitment of the people, the
government, and the professionals.


Charles Knevitt and Nick Wates: Community Architecture: How People are Creating
Their Own Environment (1987)

Faiza Moatasim, Practice of Community Architecture: A Case Study of Zone of

Opportunity Housing Co-operative, Montreal (2005) [PDF]
Neal J. Mongold, Community Architecture : Myth and Reality (1980) [PDF]
RIBA, Guide to Localism - Part 2: Getting Community Engagement Right (2013)
RIBA, pamphlet, Community Architecture: User Participation in the Design of
Buildings (London:1986)
Richie Moalosi, The impact of Socio-Cultural Factors Upon Human-centred Design
in Botswana (2007) [PDF]