Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Letters from Malmo

Good news today! Mend has been invited to present a paper at the "Psychoanalysis and Politics Summer Symposium" in Malmo, Sweden. The Symposium will be looking at the theme of "Narratives and Collective Fantasies" and will look at the junction of politics and psychoanalysis with literature, rhetorics, film, linguistics, etc.

We are ridiculously excited and not just because we've been reliably informed that the venue is so close to the sea that we can take a swim during breaks - oh, go on then!

Our abstract was submitted earlier in December and outlined our "Psychotherapy for places" idea that we posted on here a few weeks ago. We now have an opportunity and incentive to explore and develop this idea in time for the symposium in August.

Our basic concept is that places have personalities that are as complex and multi-layered as people. The theme of narrative and collective fantasy hooks onto this idea: that a place or the city itself is a character that we develop in our cultural imagination. In literature the Victorians talked about the Pathetic Fallacy- where descriptions of the landscape and the weather are used as a metaphor for human emotions and relationships.

Film and graphic novels take it a step further. The setting of a film (and a novel) is picked specifically to evoke a particular feel, emotion and social context. Blade Runner was a key source in my Planning MPhil because of the way the city itself is brooding and in conflict just like the main character. A powerful illustration of the relationship between our environment and our behaviour - and not messing with Darryl Hannah! Interestingly the Architects Journal presented their Top Ten Comic Book Cities in 2009 as a selection of the greatest illustrated urban spaces - there are stunning ones in there such as Dean Motter's Radiant City and of course Gotham City.

The graphic novel genre is a unique in that the city becomes more than just a backdrop to the frame of each illustration - it is a character itself. The city is used to communicate and illustrate the story so in this way urban space is read as text - it carries symbols, signs and meanings that we interpret visually as comic book illustration. This act of reading space is itself evidence that space is capable of holding and attaching emotional and behavioural information that we can then read.

The panels can present a distorted and mutated city to make or it can be brutally accurate pointing out warts and all - or it can be softened and sanitised, heavily stylised to appear beautiful and other-wordly, or nostalgic presenting an idyllic view of life as golden. Whichever, the graphic novel helps illustrate perfectly how place can have a personality.

Graphic Novels and comics grew as urban life grew and their depiction and portrayal of city life - whether its futuristic sci-fi terms, or the undeterred city detective, or underworlds and sub-cultures - have single-handedly managed to convey the personality and contemporary visualisation of what cities look like for over 100 years. We have them to thank for thinking that cities all look like Gotham City! (See the excellent "Comics and The City" J. Ahrens eds. 2010)

So these are the sort of things we will draw upon when we explore our ideas. We will keep you posted....maybe via comic strip...

The symposium is being organised by the Norwegian Psychoanalytical Society/University of Oslo/University of Copenhagen

Photo Credits: Dean Motter and Marc Antoine Mathieu

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Localism and other fairytales

The forthcoming Localism Bill is being speculated upon left right and centre. If the delays in publishing it are a cynical drive by the coalition to divert attention away from a myriad other hot political potatoes then it is almost working. The proposals will have far reaching influences upon the way local decision making will take place in our local areas, our interface with local authorities and require a level of community cohesion, joint mindedness and a commitment to working for the common wonder debate is raging.

However, way back in 2001 when New Labour published its "Strong Local Leadership, Quality Local Services" it spelled out that “By removing restrictions and requirements on planning, spending and decision-making and providing new powers to trade and charge, we will free up councils to innovate and deliver tangible improvements in the quality of services and effective community leadership.”

Sound familiar? It’s not the first time policy has been recycled, repackaged and resold?

Many are seeing the proposed relaxation of planning permission and increase in local decision-making as a traditional Tory assault on the planning profession reminiscent of the “jobs locked up in filing cabinets” sentiment of the Thatcher days. A further trip down memory lane would elicit such gems as “been spending most my life living in a NIMBY paradise” “Me & Mrs Jones (and her fat brown envelopes)” and “an unscrupulous developer ate my greenbelt”.

Except these are the things people are complaining will happen under Localism. Is this really all that public planning debate really amounts to still? Who is to blame for this cynical and stereotypical outlook on what planning is about and for? Why is it that people only engage with the planning system when they are thoroughly browned off, want to complain or officially object? How did it become such a deficit model?

Planners? Well, what have we as a planning profession done to alter the perception of us as process monkeys seduced by the resounding kerrr-thunk of the “REFUSED” stamp? For most local people the planning process is a mystery, shrouded in tiny fonts, aggressive institutional-speak, over-the-top bureaucracy, inability to see things without the safety blanket of policy and a funfair of forms. Is this fit-for-purpose and in the public interest? No. It alienates people and divorces them from their local area by sticking up all manner of opportunities for them to go: “it’s just not worth it.” That is not good enough.

Councils? Councils are in the proverbial rock and a hard place; refuse development and they risk stifling any chance of local recovery; so under pressure to let development through it risks chucking hard-won goals to weave strategic, balanced and consultative planning framework
s out of the window. RSS’s have gone, LEPS are coming, LDF’s and AAP’s sit alongside outmoded UDP’s and the landscape is getting very crowded......oh and with less resources. But committee meetings are death by typeset, unsociable hours and go on forever. Why would anyone ever want to sit through that?!

Central Government: to quote Greg Clarke “The current sum of circulars, policy statements and so forth is bigger than the complete Works of Shakespeare, and not nearly as entertaining. Guidance on this scale flirts with the absurd: there’s no way a practitioner can keep it all in mind. “Thanks for your concern, but actually I know many a planner that prides themselves on being able to do this! It didn’t all arrive overnight. Some of us write, research, study and argue it out in court not to mention implement it on a daily basis! These people are also unlikely to be person reading your lovingly laminated planning notice in 5pt arial tied to a lamppost at the dark end of the street.....

Developers? Ah planning, the whipping boy of the development process and then some. Got an issue with your development – got to be something to do with planning! Why can’t I develop what I want, where I want, with what I want and not ask anyone what they think and then just walk away when I’ve got my magic number? Planning is a necessary evil guarding against unfettered development and irresponsible land use. It’s not perfect, is open to abuse and has many holes but it is there for a reason – to protect local areas and local communities from being rode roughshod. Developers need to engage with communities in ways that avoid the adversarial and that means real dialogue and real relationships.

Us? Afraid of putting local decision-making on planning in local hands? It’s as if you expect local people to just be in it to screw each other, self-promote, thwart everyone else’s happiness? It’s not like we are tone deaf when it comes to design, woefully narrow minded and petty, always moaning and never thinking beyond the garden fence? Well, there are a lot of people who ar
e interested and do care but don’t have the time, resources or skills to participate. Or they did once and they were roundly patronised and ignored. Or this is the umpteenth time I’ve been asked to do this now why will this time be different? It will only be different if we make it different.

OK I’m playing devil’s (pro-bono) advocate but it seems to me that we are all culpable. As a planner I would naturally say that it is for the planning profession to step up to the plate and change perceptions of us just being about fulfilling a process and more about enabling it. Communities, councils, developers, activists, businesses, organisations all have a role to play in that process. The real question is what will a planning system look like without planners?

Planners have to manage a wide variety of diverse and often conflicting issues, seeking the best outcome that marries the local with the global and represents wide interest whilst also thinking strategically and decades into the future. That is a craft and a skill and should not be undervalued and undermined. We need to be vocal and assertive about this and the need for sound planning rigour to underpin any transfer of power and decision-making to communities. Without it we could be counting the costs and consequences for a long time. Planners are not the vanguards of doom (mostly).

Localism could make a difficult and convoluted process even more so. Or it can provide an opportunity to offer clarity to local people, restore trust and faith in the planning process and profession, allow proper engagement between developers and the people they will be affecting and finally......treat community as client instead of receiver.

Or.....maybe that’s just my fairytale.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

wild hackney tonight!

the first meeting of the wild hackney project is being held tonight and we hope you can join us to talk street art. we have had some great responses from street art blogs across the world, artists, writers, the media and local politicians so we are all fired up and ready to demonstrate some localism. 6.30, Fellows Court Community Centre, Weymouth Terrace E2 8LR - the Council have already agreed to review their policy and now it is up to us to get in there and get our hands dirty.

photo from

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Psychotherapy for places

Last week Cameron unveiled his plans to create a Happiness Index (Happinex?!) which will measure environmental and psychological wellbeing alongside GDP measuring economic health. The Happinex will include measurables and data which will be collected and analysed at various spatial levels from post code to whole cities but what will it tell us about the experience of a place compared to another? What makes a happy place?

On the other hand unhappy places (with high crime, unemployment, poor housing etc) continue to persist despite continual investment in them and all places will be made less happy by cuts to investment and services. What happens to the people that live in them and the future of those places? We need an approach to managing the negative impacts of these cuts that considers the human vulnerability of places to change. This has to happen at a local level or the Happiness Index could lead to vulnerable places being even further disadvantaged on the basis of their position in the index.

All places and areas despite their socio-economic standing will experience a material decline in their quality of life and well-being as a result of government cuts, but places that are already struggling face grim prospects. It is possible that the HI could make it even harder for those areas that are struggling to attract investment and support in the future. Therefore we need a means of guaging the level of vulnerability of places to cuts and how we can manage the negative impacts of this.

The resource invested in making places happy is minor compared to the money needed to intervene in unhappy places: to turn them around, change perception of them, and bring inward investment. The term “Feral Places” (Dr Tim Williams) has been coined to describe a place where, despite countless levels of investment and intervention it remains a problem place (high crime, unemployment, reliance on benefits, poor quality housing.) Is that because intervention has failed to tackle the “happiness” factors?

Herein lies the problem: government, developers and investors are NOT place-makers – they put kit in space. Places are made by people and their varying and uniquely local attachments to place; people are profoundly affected by change happening in their place – i.e. closure of employment centres, rise in house prices etc, which in itself makes development and regeneration process not just a physical one but actually more of a psychological process.

As we have said in other posts, we believe place is the spatial "self" and like the human self, places are vulnerable to change and negative impacts. This manifests in symptoms of decline, abuse and neglect. If places are to remain or even become happy in a climate of austerity and cuts then we must look at places as assets that require the same support, help and analysis that people need.

Places need to be examined in a way that tells us how it has got to where it has, what has gone wrong, what makes it hard to move on, what it is for, where it is going and what it needs to grow – psychotherapy for places.

Over the coming months we will be developing the idea of "Psychotherapy of Places" into a tool for helping places and communities understand, cope and respond to the coming cuts and remain resilient. As well as speaking to people living in vulnerable places we will also meet emotional geographers, psychogeographers, psychotherapists, artists, psychoanalysts, writers and filmakers, community workers and young people to understand what it means to experience and identify happy and unhappy places.

We want to look at cities and places in a completely different way - as living personalities that can be developed, grown and strengthened and appreciated for what they are - warts and all - in the face of change and challenge and able to fight back!

Let's have some urban love!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

the signal project

In doing some research for wild hackney we came across the Signal Project, a professional street art organisation that creates large scale public art and runs graffiti workshops. They are involved in the Stockwell gallery project which got some publicity in august as a hub for street art with strict curatorship from artists including Solo One. One of the many great ideas we have come across in looking at ways for Hackney to rethink graffiti management!

Check out the work of the signal project - and solo one's great blog 'say something beautiful or be quiet' -

Monday, 15 November 2010

I am yours

The “Hackney Rabbit” was recently saved from the threat of eviction/obliteration from the side of Premises Studios where it had been a recognisable local character for over two years. The extent of public support and activism around saving the rabbit was overwhelming and strongly suggested that the Council’s policy towards street-art needs to change to reflect local attitudes and opinions.

However, more widely we think a new policy should also cover the bundle of informal “things” in our public spaces and neighbourhoods that often go unrecognised and unvalued by formal definitions/listings but contribute massively to local identity, uniqueness and cultural landscapes. These are things like old signs and clocks, original shop fronts and architectural features, patches of grass or “spaces in between”, local characters and fonts, mosaics and stonework etc etc.

By recording, identifying and valuing these things we can help to keep them as key features in our neighbourhood that contribute to what we mean when we say “I love Hackney” in the face of rapid change and regeneration – they are pieces of Hackney and we should value them!

Mend is working with Premises Studios and taking up this campaign; using the positive local support and momentum developed from saving the Hackney Rabbit as a resource to develop a more relevant and responsive policy for our public realm. We will convene a public meeting (with reps invited from the council) to identity the things we value, define why they are important and develop key aspects of a new policy to take back to the Council.

This means taking a fresh look and reappraising what we consider to be assets and the cultural and creative value inherent in them. Some of the things people choose to value will surprise us and challenge our preconceived notions of what should and should not be in public space. Is this because we have grown accustomed to public space being full of instructions, information and guidance instead of a rich mix of experience, emotion and questions – things that prompt us to experience urban space and not just move through it like sheep?

In the 90’s Light & Smith likened post-modern urban space as sterilised sanctioned spaces that were comforting and predictable but altogether bland and unexciting – a comfy designer sofa; as opposed to modern urban space that was unpredictable and full of the messy richness and drama of everyday life – an awkward metal folding chair. But everyday life is messy and unpredictable and isn’t that what makes it so good?!

The informal stuff gets hidden and obscured by the layer of formality, sanctioned safety net of over-planned public space – a wonderland of the bits you live your everyday life in but aren’t supposed to see. The opposite of the emperor’s fictional new clothes; instead the emperor is wearing some pretty out there garb but we all pretend to just see the dissapointingly coy underwear?!

Countless councils across the UK, Europe and the US are re-examining their attitudes to formal and informal uses of space; embracing uses and activities that open our eyes to new ways of experiencing and appreciating urban space. In the US there is a wave of urban exploration or "recreational tresspassing" that sees people climbing huge bridges to get a glimpse of a new wof the city, exploring the hidden rivers under London through Victorian sewers, and seeing the beauty in urban decay; parkour/freerunning and its opportunities for people to touch, feel and bounce of different planes and surfaces, street-art and its movement away from the indecipherable tags and slogans of the 80’s and 90’s that told the public “this is for us, not you”........

To the Hackney Rabbit that says “I am yours, and for all of you”.

The first step in the campaign is a campaign slogan so please send through some suggestions and don’t hold back – be catchy and cheeky! Post them on here or if you would rather you can email me at:

will be in touch again about the campaign and details of the meeting, all are welcome!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

all hail the hackney rabbit!

we were really chuffed to hear to Hackney Council have withdrawn their threats to paint over the rabbit on the side of The Premises Studio. Julia and Viv got over 2000 signatures to their online petition to save the rabbit and over their 2 week campaign got national and international press with support offered from local schools and businesses. Read more on their blog -

next step a new street art policy for Hackney?

Monday, 8 November 2010

mending in bethnal green

Today we are going to meet with the team at Oxford House in Bethnal Green. Oxford House is a community and art centre with a great history in the area as it was the first 'settlement from Oxford University established in 1884. Back then Oxford House was built to be a home to graduates, tutors and those intending to enter the church so that they would experience first hand the problems of the city poor. Today it is a hub of activity, dance classes, art exhibitions and the Tower Hamlets futureversity (a poster from one of the films produced is on the right).

Bit of a hidden gem in the east!

Thursday, 28 October 2010

when will we move beyond the pilot?

Nesta has announced its 18 month Neighbourhood Challenge programme which is intended to provide practical advice, support and resources to enable organisations to trial innovative approaches to community-led regeneration. It is a great opportunity for organised local groups to get their project ideas off the ground and to shape the big society debate - here's hoping they are inundated with projects.

Something is nagging at me from the press release however. The dreaded spectre of the word 'trial' is lurking in the announcement with only 10 organisations set to benefit from the pot of £3M. It makes sense that they will only be able to fund about 10 projects from the fund but to call them trials only reinforces the view that community-led regeneration isn't the norm nor should it be unless we have tested it and made sure it is safe for consumption.

At the RIBA lecture last week, Nabeel Hamdi asked the panelists when they thought we would be able to go beyond calling things pilots and just show them as projects that are achieving what they set out to do. If the sustainability debate has given us anything, it is that the obsession with pilot projects and trials has the ability to quickly lead to bling responses when a practical solution is needed.

The trial of 10 also raises the issue of how small but effective community ideas will get heard over the racket of projects pitched at £300K...

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Creating Change RIBA Public Lecture

On Tuesday night Mend participated in the Creating Change Public Lecture at RIBA which was the culmination of the Women in Architecture "Creating Change" 2010programme of events. Liane and Kate are members of the Creating Change panel and had a small part in helping to develop the programme.

The lecture kicked off with the current RIBA President, Ruth Reed succinctly clarifying the case for diversity within architecture: "architecture and architects work best if they reflect the client or community they are working for....this is why empathy is so important in design and why diversity is vital to this." Angela Brady, RIBA president elect reminded us that it is not just about women architects but women as users of architecture and spaces and how it is important that they work for them.

The three speakers treated us to insights, case studies and experiences of creating change through their work with communities and the challenges of designing for different lifestyles and circumstances.

Nabeel Hamdi gave an eloquent digest of the leading mantras that have shaped his outlook on design and working with communities over the course of his career - which have been brought together in his book "The Placemakers Guide to Building Community." We lost count of the "hallelujah" moments mainly revolving around celebrating the ordinary, design being about people and that everybody is an "expert" on their place not just professionals. Very Mendy!

Anna Heringer told of her work with communities in Bagladesh in which buildings are designed to respect local traditions and settings but allow opportunities for innovation and skills development for local people. The result is beautiful and happy spaces to be in that are low impact, sustainable and replicable in the face of floods and shortage of materials.

Finally, Anshu Sharma, Director of SEEDS, an Indian charity established to promote social justice, gave a great talk about unengineered buildings - not the fault of uneducated and illiterate construction workers failing to follow the plans given to them by architects, but actually the insenstivity and inappropriateness of the architect's designs in the first place. Anshu reminded us that some of the oldest buildings in India were constructed by the poorest and least educated but they stand to this day and furthermore are more responsive, well used and efficient than their modern counterparts.

In short we have forgotten much of the wisdom inherent in these great places but they are simple to re-learn. Most important - look around you at the communities you are building for and take your cue from them. People's notion of home can extend far beyond the front door but to the street, the green spaces, their neighbour's house. Recognise buildings don't use buildings - people do!

Friday, 22 October 2010

PlaceWest and Success

Last week we had our first public billing as Mend when Liane hosted a panel session at the Place West Conference held at Chelsea Football Club. The session was called “Southall – building on success” and focussed on what can be done to harness the opportunity brought by Crossrail and the Gasworks scheme without strangling the inherent uniqueness and character that makes Southall success in its own right already? The panellists were Pat Hayes, Head of Regeneration & Housing at LB Ealing and Phil Edwards Head of Sales and Lettings for National Grid Property.

There was an obvious question to ask at first which is how do you define success? And can a place be too successful? We only have to look at places like Spitalfields Market to see the dichotomy between one person’s perception of success (shiny new pristine blocks of steel and brick, housing sanitised brands neatly folded in corporate brands and nice prices) versus another’s (the shabby authenticity of its nearest neighbours that helped attract people to the place originally through its diversity, vibrance and unapologetic rejection of bland clones and chain to champion the creative entrepreneur.)

Surely success is about maintaining all that is unique, detailed, relevant and specific about a place in the face of all temptation to go High Street? Will there be anywhere left at this rate? Talk to the people that have just successfully revived Chatsworth Road Market and they will say yes there will - but it takes hard graft, support for local traders and people to care about keeping their place a local place – no mean feat. Congratulations by the way!

Anyway…..back to the Conference. It was refreshing to hear, for once, West Londoners heap praise on East Londoners for their success in developing a credible “narrative” around the East London ask and what it’s about. This is fundamentally what West London lacks – this sub-regional identity that will be all important for underpinning the economic and political logic for an LEP. But it’s also all important for galvanising the bridging capital that is needed between business and individual boroughs to work together and make clear what that logic is and sell it. It took blood, sweat, tears and a number of years to grow that in East London but there are lessons learned which I am sure any battle scarred practitioner will be only too eager to share with you!

Monday, 18 October 2010

creating change at the london met

Today we were part of the role playing team at London Met working with students studying for an MA in Architecture for Rapid Change and Scarce Resources to explore participatory design. We were looking at the reuse of the school building on Holloway Road as a Sure Start Children's Centre and there was lots of discussion about play, flexible spaces and security vs creating a welcoming presence on the high street. Pleasantly surprised that there wasn't a post it note explosion and instead lots of thoughtful bubble diagrams and models for helping to define 'fun' for children, parents and their teachers.

In addition to the brain work out from the students we also had a presentation from Nabeel Hamdi who is a guru in this field and one of those people who draws you in with his knowledge and reverence for the informal. His work taps into the opportunities from small-scale grass roots interventions and here at mend we are inspired by his approach not only to design but in acting as a catalyst for change.

The workshop today was part of Women in Architecture's Creating Change programme in partnership with RIBA 'Architects for Change', the RIBA Trust, London Metropolitan University, the Building Centre and the 'DiverseCity-Architects' international exhibition network. The programme concludes tomorrow night with a lecture at RIBA in Portland Place from Ashu Sharma of SEEDS India and Nabeel.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Wednesday, wednesday, wednesday.....

......Just seems to be the day we post on here - it's not really deliberate. Wednesdays are quite usefully midway and "top of the hump" so have that momentum behind them.

Anyway, today is day 1 of post-job-quitting reality and it still feels good, exciting and absolutely the right thing to be doing so that is good!

Have met some absolutely incredible people so far in this process of going from idea to reality snd its only been a matter of months. What has struck us is the enormous amount of encouragment and also willingness of people (often strangers) to share; advice, ideas and experience with us. It is overwhelming how people get behind you. So thank you to them, they know who they are and we are so excited about building this with you.

Lots of people have asked us why we have picked this particular moment in time to quit our day job and set this up. In many ways it has got to the point where if we don't do it now the momentum we have built, the ideas we have been developing, the people we have met and the way policy and government sentiment is converging would have been a massively missed opportunity. And we literally just can't wait any longer. And our business cards arrived this week and they are just too bloody nice to sit in a box! (the sad fascination with corporate stationary has already started.....)

Met the wonderful Alexis Kier from Elfrida Camden today who passed us a hoard of great stuff on VCS and settlement areas. Looking forward to Place West tomorrow and then it's Creating Change with RIBA Women in Architecture on Tuesday.

Will be testing our ideas (and business cards)on unwitting punters and will report back next,....erm Wednesday?!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

when revealing to a collegue that our new business...

When revealing to a colleague that our new business was to be called "Mend" they looked deep into my eyes (not around the eyes) and charged that they did not believe the "Broken Britain" rubbish that had been peddled of late in an attempt to shock doctrine us into voting Tory. I heartily agreed. Britain is alive and kicking; vital if not a little snarly in its stats.

Show me a generation that hasn't said society is heading in the wrong direction and not railed against the generation champing at its heels that is so obviously going to lead the world to wrack and ruin? It is human nature to give in to this type of pessimism when your bubble bursts so violently and suddently as it did 2 years ago....

Our society isn't broken its bruised and a bit battered; reflecting on a decade of pomp, easy credit, showy flats and retail therapy and it feels utterly short changed. Angry, betrayed, taken for a fool, culpable, flat and definitely hungover - but not broken.

Mend is not about fixing broken britain. Mend is about reattaching people to place.

There has been a gradual and now evident erosion of the connection people have to the places they live work and play in. For some there is no connection to begin with. Places, neighbourhoods, houses become inert containers for stuff, experiences and transactions. Nightmarish alienated urban existences played out in some Lynch-ian postmodern anywhereville.

Cities are alive. They thrive on networks, nodes and connections of energy, resources and flows. They are dynamic systems of multiple unending inputs and outputs and processes (capital, labour, transport being a few examples.) They precipitate out shapes and forms. They grow and decay. They are real and imagined, painted and filmed, drawn on a page only to appear in front of your eyes. They shape and are shaped by our behaviour. They prompt emotional responses in us from love to fear to anger to sorrow. Cities have identities and atmospheres that are never the same from one to the next.

Places are where these feelings, meanings and experiences crystallise into unique platforms for us to live our lives. Good and bad. Why is it some people are happy living in the same place all of their lives? Why do some places consistently remain popular to live in or visit over hundreds of years? Why is it some of our places remain dangerous, unhealthy and dark places to live despite millions of pounds of investment, decades of prodding, countless studies and efforts to turn them around? Why do some places that are relatively affluent seem alienating and bland?

Ponzetti (04) will tell us that "The places people live in acquire an emotional significance. Place attachment is the emotional connection formed by individuals to a physical location due to the meanings given to the site as a function of its role as a setting for experience."

Over the last decade we have watched our high streets become cloned, brandnames "validating" a town centre, buy-to-let crazes see property owners view property and homes as commodities, people living in them for less than a year, churning neighbours through neighbourhoods, volume housbuilders knocking out "units" not homes. The steadfast professionalisation of the built environment sector that has separated people from the process of crafting, designing and planning their places. Public spaces that are identikit slogans for chilly minimalist glass and steel apologies for democratic space.

This amounts to transient communities with no longevity of population to allow for the development of anchors or personalities that have been there, invested and set down roots long enough to call a place home, like it there enough to stay and to attach themselves to their place.

We are left with an eroded sense of attachment to the places we live in. Aren't they not the most important places in our lives? No amount of money can buy this. Its about looking closer at what we have, where we are and what we want from it. Ironically the current housing market situation and economic gloom has given rise to a "stay-put" mentality and I'm all for turning a negative into a positive. So we have to stay put? Well while I am here I'm going to see what I've got and make it work for me. I might find I like it and actually stay.

So I think its no coincidence that our feelings of detachment, emptiness and need for change at a society level is reflected in our detached sense of place. There are glimmers in the form of urban farms and orchards, guerilla gardening, pop-up shops and Meanwhile spaces that speak of an urge to re-attach. I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Mend is born

So, Mend is born after a monumental 24 hours in which we have come clean, got 2 board members under our belts, the blessing of some of our favourite people, had some beers to celebrate and still enough time to slot in a hangover and dinner with a regeneration legend.

We now breathe a spark of life into a project that started out as a bored trip to the office kitchen to get a procrastinatory glass of water! Life is all about these little segments.

This blog will chart our experiences growing a social enterprise in difficult and extradordinary times in the UK and the future of our cities. We will bare all: the ups, the downs, the why's the how's and the people we will meet along the way that will make Mend work.

Mend moves away from space as "container": inert and waiting to be filled with stuff - to space as fecund, real and organic: alive and teeming with personality, energy and emotion. Place is the spatial "self" - with all its complex meanings, identities and conflicts.

Mend is about reconnecting people to places and understanding the complex interactions between them - to reinvent them and make them work for us. Seeing the city and urban environments as extensions (not just reflections) of the life that happens around it. We don't believe that places and spaces are just the stuff architects and planners do - they are ours; we live in them, they belong to us and should speak of us.

But they won't unless we get involved. Mend exists to provide a platform and route for people - anyone - to reconnect with their space, place and city.

Tell us what you think! Vent. Spout. Clamour. Disagree. But don't moan. Get involved.

Kate & Liane