‘Housing to 2040 — Present Voices Future Lives Exhibition’ by Kate Carter, ESALA
Article 6 of 7 in the Smart Places illustrated blog article series featuring thought pieces from a diverse line up of thinkers, practitioners, experts and leaders in this field. View the other articles here, or find out about the full programme of events.
‘Present Voices Future Lives’ — It’s an exhibition, workshop, and a series of films all about ‘Housing to 2040’. We (ESALA, Collective Architecture and Peak 15) designed the exhibition to capture voices of people around Scotland talking about the future of housing and communities, which will feed into the Scottish Government ‘Housing to 2040’ vision. The exhibition was commissioned to get ‘the public’ talking about how they want to live in the future, and ultimately help shape this vision. It was taken to 12 communities around Scotland during winter 2019.
‘Present Voices Future Lives’ presents broad challenges facing our homes and communities, and how we live. These explore the impact housing has on the environment; how our lives of work, learning and home are interdependent; and the realities of an ageing population. It also includes the concepts of sharing resources and building communities, and the link with biodiversity and healthy places.
What are the Challenges for Housing?
People were asked to rank the most important challenges for housing. ‘Environment’, ‘Well-Being’, ‘Work’ and ‘Healthy Places’ all ranked highly in communities around Scotland. A group of young people at Craigmillar High School took part in the exhibition workshops in December. Talking with them about what their homes and communities should be like by 2040, the three most important issues to them are ‘Resources’, followed by ‘Healthy Places’ and ‘Environment’. ‘Resources’ refers to recycled and reused building materials, new digital technologies and access to renewable energy.
This is all within the context of the local area. They were happy with where they lived, saying they liked ‘neighbours’ and ‘location’ but were concerned with ‘crime’ and that their homes were ‘unsustainable’. It is important that peoples’ voices are heard when working to improve a place.
The ‘Present Voices Future Lives’ experience has shown us that young people are deeply invested in their futures — with a balance of optimism and deep concern. Getting young people involved in developing their (future) homes and communities is vital.
A Vision for the Future
My vision for a ‘smart’ place is to get young folk involved. It does not need to be complicated.
The exhibition demonstrated that they are able to understand the challenges facing our communities from a very early age. They will be the ‘grown-ups’ by 2040 and deserve to have a role in shaping where they will live.
So, how does this connect with the idea of a ‘smart’ place, and how can this make a difference to the lives of young people in Edinburgh? Where better to start than in school. Getting young people using data from their own communities seems obvious — developing digital skills while using data from where they live allows young people to learn while bringing the data to life. There are lots of simple ways that data can help us know more about the places people live.
For the young people in Craigmillar, ‘Resources’ (e.g. renewables, building materials, energy) and ‘Environment’ are priorities for the future of housing and communities. They are intrinsically linked.
Building Information Models (BIM) commonly used by architects and builders can provide data on the materials used to build our homes.
Sensors in homes can collect data on energy use, carbon emissions and how a building is performing.
‘Healthy Places’ another priority to the young folk. It is linked to places for growing food; good quality outdoor spaces; air quality; and access to active travel. Digital approaches connecting people to services in their communities could emerge from schools, giving young people an active role in improving the place where they live.
Young folk can get involved or even lead community projects using data and digital innovations. Raising this from being a school ‘confined’ approach to one that involves them in the place where they live. Providing real-world insight to where young people live and an ability to be empowered by the knowledge that this brings is central to a ‘smart’ place. Who knows where this could lead? Finding ways that data can reduce social inequality and environmental pollution? Creating healthier, safer communities?
Some communities are facing deeply rooted and complex challenges that will take generations to unpick. Ultimately will a ‘smart’ place-based approach improve things in a tangible way for individuals living there? Involving young people using digital innovation and technology offers real potential to speed up change, leading to better places to live.
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You can find out more about the Smart Places series on the Edinburgh Living Lab webpage, including other upcoming authors and key dates for our online events. Or read the other published articles in the series available here on our Medium account.
Illustrator’s response to Kate’s article and future vision, by Katie Chappell
These illustrations began life as a sprawling A3 sketch of all the themes and visuals that had sprung to mind as I read Kate’s article. Initially, I divided the page into boxes, and then decided to keep those boxes in the final artwork. A more cleaned up illustration was also an option. I wasn’t able to choose a favourite, so I sent in both.
When I first read Kate’s article, I thought of the Craigmillar High School students now and how they will be running things in 2040. It was great to read that the young people in Craigmillar were most keen to see renewables, active travel, new digital technology and healthy places. It immediately conjured up images of growing vegetables, biking to work and using the data we get from sensors to improve our local area. Getting young people involved and working in schools will be one of the best ways to permeate the community organically. Giving school pupils a voice, and the knowledge to analyse data will empower them to create a better future for us all.
Kate Carter — bio
Dr Kate Carter is a researcher in housing, architecture and sustainability. The ‘Present Voices Future Lives’ exhibition was commissioned by the Scottish Government, to engage people across Scotland in the Housing to 2040 vision. Young people and community members took part in workshops and contributed to a series of films produced as part of the work. Kate worked with colleague Iain Scott, Collective Architecture, Peak-15, Gaia Research and Chris Leslie Productions. Kate is a Senior Lecturer in Architecture, Technology and Environment at ESALA (Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture) within the University of Edinburgh.