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Image: © Catarina Heeckt

Apprenticeship Programme in City Design

A novel outreach programme for young adults from the London Borough of Brent based at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

The programme engages young adults to learn through practice at the London School of Economics (LSE). 

 Apprenticeship Programme in City Design responds to a profound level of democratic deficit in UK cities, where the next generation of urban dwellers are excluded from the process of ‘making space’ in the city. London is now growing at a faster rate than ever before with at least one million more residents expected by 2030. 15,000 new homes are planned for Brent, one of London’s boroughs with a significant increase in density and housing provision, approximately half of it centred on the substantial 85-acre Wembley Park project, led by developer Quintain.

The programme enables young people to be involved in the process of urban transformation before designs are developed and construction commences. It is a new model of citizen participation and collaboration for Brent and for London.

The LSE Cities Apprenticeship Programme, in its first pilot, has engaged with five young adults from the borough to learn through practice at LSE. They were hired as researchers at LSE Cities on hourly paid contracts offering a form of work experience rarely offered to teenagers and young adults within a research centre such as LSE Cities.

The apprentices undertook a 26-month period of online and in person learning which started with participating in a curated curriculum on design, development and planning relevant to the context of Brent and Wembley Park. They were trained to apply methodologies and tools – including social science-based ethnographic survey and mapping - to understand the potential and imagine the future of new public spaces in the Wembley Park development.

The apprentices then set a brief for four sites within the public realm of the Wembley Park development. Before moving on to develope the first of those sites which they saw through from concept to design and build. The resulting new public space, Samovar Space, was officially launched on 22 October 2022.

22_10_22_Wembley_Park_Samovar_Space017.1200x600Apprentices with Julia King at the launch of Samovar Space © Chris Winter

The apprentices ranged in age from 16 to 24 when they started the programme. This is a demographic which often falls through the gap in terms of the typical kinds of provisions found in the public realm. Too old for playparks but too young for restaurants and bars. Although the aim of the initiative was to design something for this demographic, we found that rather than designing other people out they ended up designing themselves in. Mindful that they didn’t want to design for themselves the group came up with the ambition to design ‘Brent in Brent’. To bring in the diverse cultures and people that made up their borough.

The intention was not for this programme to prime young adults for a career in the built environment but to rather acknowledge we are all city makers and offers a method by which those often not included in design and planning can do so in such a way that is sustainable over the long life-cycle of a project.

The long-term aspiration of the project is to improve the quality and sense of ownership of public space deepening LSE’s relations with key stakeholders in the capital. By connecting a higher education institution with a group of young adults, public officials and a major property company, the project is creating opportunities for young residents in London, offering them a voice in the process of making new public spaces for the city. Work on other sites remains on-going.

Uniquely for an academic research project, the process has influenced the real-time design development and realisation of a prominent piece of realm on the Wembley Park site. 

The Apprenticeship Programme in City Design is an ongoing collaboration between LSE Cities, and the Blueprint Collective and Brent Youth Parliament a network of young people closely involved with Brent 2020. It is a legacy project of Seen and Heard commissioned by the London Borough of Culture and has been supported by Quintain and the LSE Department of Sociology. 



Samovar Space
Launched on Saturday 22 October 2022, Samovar Space is the first of the four spaces to receive input from the young people involved in the apprenticeship programme. Located at the top of world-famous Olympic Way, at a small site previously used for car parking. The apprentices’ overarching intention to create a place for young people to ‘just be’ a place to ‘hang out’ without needing to spend any money.

Find out more about Samovar Space


Making Brent
A new graphic narrative document the process of the development of Samovar Space commissioned by Julia King with a text written by Marianna Janowicz and the illustrations by Sabba Khan. Making Brent draws on multiple conversations with the group of apprentices involved in the design of Samovar Space.

Read Making Brent


Note:  All bios written at the start of the apprenticeship programme
Ayan Abdi_bw

Ayan Abdi 
Age: 16
Ayan is currently studying her A levels in English Literature, Biology and Psychology this year. She doesnt know what career she wants but knows she wants to be part of a postive change for the greater good. As a Brent resident she wants to learn more about the decision making behind urban change and the impact regeneration has on locals.

Keshav Harivardhan_bw

Keshav Harivardhan
Age: 21
Keshav hopes to have a career in the service of his community after completing his degree in medicine. He wants to destigmatize how young people are perceived and believes that the strength of Brent can be found in its diversity and ethnic cohesion.

Loshini Subendran_bw

Loshini Subendran
Age: 17
Loshini is passionate about politics and youth activism. She is interested in the links between economics and politics and how this intersects with young adults. Having already been involved in campaigns lobbying on behalf of young Londoners she hopes to find herself one day as a policymaker. She is currently studying PPE at Warwick University. 

Nellie Khossousi_bw

Nellie Khossousi
Age: 24
Nellie graduated with a degree in economics and has a passion for different cultures and languages. She is currently a freelance web designer and video editor. She sees Wembley Park's multiculturalism as its key strength and has been involved in various initiatives as part of the Brent London Borough of Culture programming.

Shreya Kachalia_bw

Shreya Kachalia
Age: 19
Shreya is a student at Ealing Green College. She wants to do something in future to do with finance and hopes to be able to travel. She has lived in Brent her whole life and is passionate about the borough and the people who live there.  

Project Team

Ricky Burdett, Co-Director, Professor of Urban Studies, LSE Cities
Julia King, Co-Director and Principle Investigator, Research Fellow, LSE Cities 

Akil Scafe-Smith, Course Convenor and Researcher, LSE Cities
Bethany Mickleburgh, Course Convenor and Researcher, LSE Cities
Lisa Ker Jia Goh, Project Architect, Researcher, LSE Cities
Kayleigh De Sousa, Researcher, LSE Cities
Ragavendran Gowrisankar, Researcher, LSE Cities

Ricky Burdett, LSE Cities
Julia King, LSE Cities 
Akil Scafe-Smith, LSE Cities
Bethany Mickleburgh, LSE Cities
Lisa Ker Jia Goh, LSE Cities
Project Partners
Blueprint Collective, Brent Youth Parliament
Project Funders
Quintain, LSE Department of Sociology 
Research strand
Cities, Space and Society
September 2020 - June 2023
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