Collaboration with the Architecture School: LIVE Project

In autumn 2013 LIVEDIFFERENCE worked with the University of Sheffield Architecture School on a Live Project. Live Projects are real projects for real clients outside the School of Architecture that run every year for six weeks from late September to early November. They are carried out by students from the 5th and 6th year Masters in Architecture (MArch) and the Masters in Architectural Design (MAAD) courses.

Students worked with the LIVEDIFFERENCE team in translating our research findings into a ‘spatial experiment’. The research findings identified the types of activity and characteristics of particular spaces where ‘meaningful contact’ can be produced or facilitated. Here, ‘meaningful contact’ is defined as contact that actually changes values and translates beyond the specifics of the individual moment into a more general positive respect for – rather than merely tolerance of – others. Contact which has the power to produce social change. The contact that we have in mind is that between people across a range of diversity strands: disability, sexuality, ‘race’ and ethnicity, nationality, class, gender and migrant status. Though many urban centres are now highly diverse in terms of being inhabited by people identifying with these categories in a variety of ways (for example contemporary cities are class diverse, ethnically diverse, and often have a visible LGBT presence), most people only have contact with people who are similar to themselves. They are often residentially segregated and mainly (or exclusively) socialise with those of the same sexuality, ethnicity, nationality, and class background.

The Live Project team worked with LIVEDIFFERENCE researchers to develop a proposal for a ‘spatial experiment’. The ‘spatial experiment’ was undertaken in collaboration with a local NGO (partners in our research). This NGO does work around bringing people together across difference, particularly in the realms of faith and ethnic based differences. The Live Project team carried out this experiment and recorded the outcomes. The spatial experiment included inventing a self-assembly spatial kit (Diversity Den) which groups of people can use to create a ‘talking tent’ together, accompanied by a card game to provoke interaction amongst users and generate understanding across difference. This method was successfully piloted with at 3 events: a community rugby gala; an international event organised at a university for students from diverse national backgrounds; and a National Citizen’s Service event for school pupils aged 16+. In total 15 groups experimented with the kit. The Diversity Den was very effective at facilitating collaboration across ‘difference’ and has subsequently attracted attention from NGOs/community organisations, equality and diversity trainers, educators and professional facilitators who wish to purchase this tool.

For more information on Live Projects see www.liveprojects.org

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