Below, is a project overview of Caistor Arts and Heritage Centre, which I believe is a prime example of design as a distributed agency. It is a project I was involved with (as a member of the community rather than professionally), but I am pleased to report it is still going extremely well.
Caistor Arts and Heritage Centre is a prime example of how ‘design as a distributed agency’ can lead to positive, meaningful and accessible architecture.
Many of the buildings located within the town centre sadly became vacant and fell into disrepair, but the community within Caistor responded, initiating Caistor Development Partnership (2001) and Caistor Development Trust around a year later.
These groups work closely with West Lindsey District Council and Heritage Lottery Funding, as the majority of the Roman market town is situated within a conservation area.
Once a Methodist Church, the most recent use of 28 Plough Hill was a youth centre –this closed in 2005 as it was financially unsustainable. By 2010, Caistor Development Trust had negotiated a lease for the property with Lincolnshire County Council.
The project was run and managed on site by a steering group that reported back to the Caistor Development Partnership. This is the real advantage of design as a distributed agency, rather than an architect leading the project. It was decided through many meetings and discussions with residents in Caistor, that the former church would be resurrected with flexible meeting/exhibition space, hi-tech IT facilities, a library and archive – all to be supported financially by a cafe.
The project was funded through a BBC SOS Village initiative, and was featured as part of a documentary on BBC One in August 2011. Caistor Arts and Heritage Centre set up a Social Enterprise and received £430,000 worth of funding.
Why was this project a success?
Arguably the main reason this was a deemed a success is because there was no developer involved wanting to make a profit. The end use of the building was something that the town of Caistor needed, supported strongly by community input, as well as comprehensive viability and financial assessments. Caistor Development Partnership engaged with the community, as they themselves are an organisation that are placed within the community, to get the most out of a dilapidated building, to benefit and improve the town where they live.