Challenging Thresholds - Architecture students open up the conversation about homelessness.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Challenging Thresholds 1

Don't miss Challenging Thresholds, an exhibition at Open House Oxford on Saturday 18 May (4pm to 6pm) by the Interior Architecture students at Oxford Brookes.

We are delighted to see architecture education nurturing the role of future architects in engaging with social justice causes.

Lucy Warin, Transition by Design and Open House Oxford

The exhibition will look at what a ‘threshold’ means for creating public spaces. The students have been invited to imagine both how you take a unique space like Open House, styled as a kind of ‘public living room’, and make it welcoming to all. It will also look at how citizens of Oxford interact with their public spaces and where we draw the line between ‘homed’ and ‘homeless’. 

Encouraging students to interact with social issues is increasingly seen as a vital part of Architecture education, and is especially relevant in this city. Oxford is routinely ranked as the most expensive city in the UK when compared to average wages, so projects like Open House provide a valuable space to explore ideas around public space and the housing crisis.

Jacqueline German, a second year Interior Architecture student on the project, said: "The project has been a fantastic opportunity. It meant a lot to get to do design for a site in Oxford with a real, relevant and important agenda. It’s made us feel properly connected to the site and to the city and given us a greater understanding of the housing and homelessness crisis present in Oxford. Learning how to use our design skills to try and combat this crisis has been inspiring."

The exhibition has been organised by the Interior Architecture programme at Oxford Brookes, led by Dr. Andrea Placidi, and Lucy Warin, Project Coordinator at Open House Oxford. Open House Oxford is run by Transition by Design, a co-operative that specialises in social architecture.

Speaking of the exhibition, Lucy Warin said: “Orit has been a fantastic supporter of Open House Oxford and we were thrilled when she came to us with the idea for this project. We are delighted to see architecture education nurturing the role of future architects in engaging with social justice causes.

“This kind of progressive education matches a shift that sees architects transforming from ‘citizen experts’ to ‘expert citizens’ with full awareness of the social issues of the areas they help shape.”

Orit Sarfatti, the Lecturer in Architecture at Oxford Brookes who led the students on the project, added: “I feel privileged that we have projects like Open House in Oxford, which brings the discussion about the housing crisis to the street level and to the people who are most affected by it. From a teaching perspective it is exactly these projects that highlight the importance of a social agenda in the design process.”

The students have engaged creatively with the Open House model of public shopfront that doesn’t sell anything, but offers space for people and for stories. The ideas in their exhibition, and the exhibition itself, should help welcome even more people to this distinctive community space. Anyone with an interest in architecture, art, public space or homelessness is welcome to attend.

The exhibition takes place from 4pm to 6pm at Open House Oxford, 36 Little Clarendon Street, OX1 2HU and is free and open to all. Register your interest via the Facebook event.