This post follows on from my previous post regarding our studio phrase of ‘Design as Distributed Agency’, explaining in more detail the initiative that allows for distributed agency in the design process. This post does not focus on the final design, but more about the procurement and appointment of the project.
The initiative was established by a forward-thinking planning consultant at Sheffield City Council, who, after working on huge development schemes in Manchester, realised his passion for wanting to develop small, underused spaces within Sheffield.
There was a desperate requirement to consider discarded, leftover spaces. A flyer was distributed, which allowed people to get in touch with the Council regarding any sites they’re showing interests in and would like to see enhanced/developed. In this process, they become a stakeholder, and have agency over the design. The public are the ones who will be using the spaces, walking past the spaces and being the starting points for the schemes. This flyer and communication channel forms a tool to negotiate between designers and public.
When sites are emailed to Sheffield City Council, the council undertakes a desktop review in terms of area (conservation areas etc.), borough development plans, potential planning areas etc. and, if appropriate, follows up with a physical site inspection and helps to develop an very basic, outline brief with the key stakeholders. This information is then uploaded to the SCDC extranet portal.
Establishing a system of getting Architects and designers involved was the next step, to set up a framework of consultants and suppliers who would be interested. The problem with this, with sites and projects of such a small scale, businesses will refuse to spend thousands in resourced time for no financial benefit. The schemes are about enhancing public space, they are Council run schemes. The Council must locate its funds in the most appropriate jobs, which, it could be argued, is not in social spaces and parks etc. when schools and medical centres need building. This means there is incredibly limited monies available to pay the designers for their time.
Construction and design companies tend have a Corporate Social Responsibility policy, so they must do something charitable; be it a donations or sponsorships etc. The initiative takes advantage of this, and asks these consultants to donate time and skills towards a built project for no financial gain, but for fulfilment of their CSR and the chance to engage in a unique scheme. Consultants can add themselves to an application process where, after they have been reviewed by the Council in terms of financial stability, design quality, ISO qualifications etc., they are added to the framework.
The framework aspect works a similar manner of an OJEU process; sites, the appropriate information, an outline brief, and a list of key contacts and stakeholder groups are uploaded to an extranet site which all consultants on the framework can access after the council has issued a notification of a potential project.
Contractors follow the exact same process as designers within this initiative; procurement of materials in such a specific sort of project requires a specific engagement of a contractor. Within my scenario, the contractor is reusing materials from other sites in the area that he is working on. Contractors and Architects work closely within the framework, however the appointment always follows the Traditional method of contract, as design is more crucial to these schemes than efficiency and value for money.
Because of this, contractors never really bother until they’ve seen a scheme, but we’ve had a great response rate from Architects and Landscape Architects, and procurement and appointment have been relatively straightforward due to the size of the schemes.
If two firms wanted to design the scheme, it would have to work on a bid-like submission, presenting it to the end client who would eventually appoint the design team.
When sketch schemes have been produced, the council reviews the designs, along with key stakeholders, and issues comments regarding planning etc. This stakeholder input is crucial, as the initiative is based around public input and small space enhancement by non-professionals; it tries to embody the idea of lo-fi architecture.
The text we have just read explains the more ‘behind-the-scenes’ aspects of the initiative including the framework. The above diagram explains the entire process of the initiative in an incredibly simple manner, in terms of the actions of each member of the design team. I still feel like I need to map this process in a more detailed manner, and in more of a graphic form.