During the consultation for Brent 2020’s bid application, young people from the borough often talked about issues with public space – where they felt safe, where they liked to go, what they could do when they were there. Particularly in privatised ‘public spaces’, young people are often treated more as a security risk than users or stakeholders. Many of these spaces are not built to accommodate young people, nor are they necessarily shaped with young people’s needs in mind. Seen and Heard was a provocative action research project with LSE Cities at the London School of Economics, the Blueprint Collective and Metroland Cultures that explored young people’s place in public space and their role in designing it. The project provided a way for young people to talk about racism, crime, gentrification, and other issues affecting their shared cultural life.
Across a series of workshops during summer 2019, 22 members of the collective worked with a team of researchers from LSE Cities in a summer-school type environment at the Yellow Community Centre in Wembley Park, learning about public space and exploring different options for designing it. Across five day-long workshops, they built models, went on walkabouts and met with Quintain, the Wembley Park developers.
The outcome of the process was a co-designed space for young people in the new Wembley Park development, a set of policy recommendations for addressing the needs of young people in public space, and the ‘Yellow Charter’ a statement written by the Blueprint Collective calling for young people to have a greater role in the planning and design of public spaces. LSE Cities is continuing to work with Quintain on the design of a space on the Wembley Park site for young adults.
The Mayor of London’s new Public London Charter has identified Seen and Heard as an exemplary way of involving young people in thinking about the design of public space. The Blueprint Collective, now reformed as an independent group known as Blueprint, will continue to work on Seen and Heard with Metroland Cultures.