Chorlton for all Ages
Lets kick off with our first post which comes from guest blogger, Matthew Hargreaves, from Manchester School of Architecture.
At the end of September LOPF Volunteer Miranda Miller and I attended an afternoon of mini workshops collectively called ‘Sharing the City’ . We were impressed with the involvement of the community in urban design and by such creative means at that. The project gives architecture students insights into the needs of all ages. Its great to see this happening in a field other than social work/care.
Chorlton, a ward of Manchester located south of the city centre, is currently in a process of regeneration as part of Manchester Council’s Strategic Regeneration Strategy for the city. In Chorlton, younger and older people (using the council’s definitions for these groups; 12-24 for younger people, 50+ for older people) represents almost 50% of the ward’s population. In fact, if you include the ages from 0-11 as well, it is 50%. This proportion of younger and older people is true for most of Manchester and the UK. It is imperative therefore, that the needs of half the population are fairly represented with respect to the planned regeneration of Manchester’s Wards and the architectural proposals related to it. This is especially pertinent, as last year Manchester became a member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Network of Age Friendly Cities.
I am an architecture student in the final year of my postgraduate architecture degree (BArch) at the Manchester School of Architecture, and am part of the msa-p unit. I have chosen to focus on this issue, and in particular the Manchester ward of Chorlton, for my studio design work until May 2012. My project is called ‘Chorlton for all Ages’.
I began this project by firstly trying to understand what makes cities good places to live for younger and older people, or in other words what makes a city ‘Age Friendly’. There are a number of terminologies that are used to describe such places, examples being ‘Age Friendly’, ‘City for all Ages’ or ‘Living City’. There is also a wide range of information available that explores what these factors are, two good examples being the World Health Organisation’s ‘Global Age-friendly Cities: A Guide’, which predominantly focuses on factors for older people, and UNICEFs information on ‘Child Friendly Cities’. Although there are various terms given to such places, they cover much of the same ground, and it is also apparent that there is a lot of crossover between what makes a city ‘friendly’ for younger people and older people. In the image shown:
(click here to open this pic as a pdf)
I have shown links between what makes a city ‘Child-Friendly’ and what makes it ‘Age-Friendly’, and it is clear that the issues related to urban design and city planning are almost the same for both age groups. For example, pleasant outdoor spaces in urban environments are particularly important for both age groups; for younger people they are a place to hang out or do activities such as skating, where for older people they are important spaces to rest and can have a positive impact on wellbeing.
With this better understanding of Age-friendliness, I carried out site analysis of Chorlton, focussing on factors that are important for younger and older people. This covered a range of issues including green spaces, public transport, car parking, house prices, health services and places to rest (pictured).
(click here to open this pic as a pdf)
As part of my analysis of Chorlton and with particular attention to the existing public spaces, I also made a short film which acted as an easy to understand way of showing how some of these spaces are currently neglected. The film used a playful mix of chalk drawings and stop motion animation to highlight some of the poor public spaces and obstacles in the area. This video has since been shown to residents and was an accessible means to communicate some of the problems in Chorlton, and acted as a catalyst to provoke further debate on the subject.
At this stage in my project, I am in the process of gathering opinions and ideas by engaging and talking to residents of Chorlton from these often ignored age groups. Using innovative techniques, such as showing a short film to encourage discussion, can help draw out information from people that traditional ways of practicing architecture may overlook. This draws from the ethos of my unit at the Manchester School of Architecture, msa-p, and previous projects where I have employed similar techniques. By developing my project having a continuous two-way dialogue with the younger and older people I am designing for, my final goal is to produce a design for the Chorlton District Centre that is truly made for all ages.