We have invited partners and participants in the Festival of the Future City to contribute articles on areas of work they are engaged in of relevance to the upcoming events. Rachel Sara, Elena Marco, Sally Daniels, James Burch and Matthew Jones jointly present this piece on work at University of the West of England.

In order for our future cities to remain relevant to the people that inhabit them, communities need to be empowered to co-create places that are appropriate to their needs, dreams and ambitions. Universities have the potential to play a key role in this, as institutions with an ethical responsibility to generate and share expert knowledge and practice. The city becomes a laboratory for students, educators and researchers to explore the challenges and opportunities to inform the future of the city. It also becomes the mechanism by which we can test and disseminate broader research about cities created within the university which could otherwise remain behind the closed doors of academia.

The school of architecture at the University of the West of England has developed a model of co-creative critical practice which brings together students and community groups in collaborative ‘live’ projects in which architecture students, academics and community clients work together to co-define the aspirations for their part of the city and design real solutions and responses to transform their particular situation. By engaging with the local community the students are able to experience the reality of the sometimes conflicting agendas of diverse groups involved in making the city. These projects transform the city by a process of collaboration and can be seen as fundamentally liberatory in that they can be both a critical and creative transformation of the society in which we live.

As an illustration of the type of work currently taking place, the images on this page are from Hands-On Bristol (www.hands-on-bristol.co.uk), a collaboration between the Bristol School of Architecture, UWE and the Bristol community, that seeks to encourage and strengthen knowledge exchange between education programmes and local communities through collaboration in live projects. This has included UWE Master of Architecture students exploring ways to redesign existing city sites and thereby enhance current and future city living.

Nooks and Crannies: A project to redesign tired urban fabric to make a positive contribution to the immediate environment as well as potential users. It focussed on an existing link bridge and access lane at Centrespace Studios, Bristol. Students: Eirini Gri, James Prior, Jenny Boddington, Danny Wenmoth, Brynmor Williams. Client: Centrespace community of artists and makers.

Nooks and crannies - UWE MArch Year 1 (1) Nooks and crannies - UWE MArch Year 1 (4)

Nooks and crannies - UWE MArch Year 1 (3)

Redwharf Outdoor Swimming: A project to develop a design that might encourage clean, safe and financially viable swimming within Bristol Harbour, while benefitting the local community. Students: Kyle Wylde, David MacDonald, Ben Pratten, Richard Kennedy, Louisa Heyworth, Will Kerry. Clients and collaborators: Nudge Group, Alistair Sawday, Clear Water Revival.

Redcliffe Wharf Outfoor Swimming - UWE MArch Year 1, 2014 (1)

Make Life More Absurd: A project to design low-budget interventions into small-scale spaces, which aimed to change perceptions and encourage a diverse range of users to create a vibrant high street. This included bringing colour to East Street, Bedminster through yarn bombing. Students: Andrew Murphy, Steph Austin, Tom Barker, Prince Henry Ajene, Anna Basso De Marc. Clients and collaborators: Bedminster Town Team and Bedminster Community.

Elena Marco UWE East street intervention

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