Architects can do so much more than what we are doing at the moment. It's not just about the design.
Photo of Tobi Sobowale
Birth Place: London, United Kingdom
Master of Architecture at The University of Manchester
Dissertation Topic: Knife Crime and Social Housing
with Tobi Sobowale
by Charlotte de Moor
Thursday, 24th October 2019
You're planning to write about Social Housing and Knife Crime in Britain. Why have you chosen these topics?
I’ve chosen these topics because they are relevant in terms of the issues that society is facing today and also because I can relate with them. I grew up in Lewisham, a borough associated with knife and gang crime so these issues aren’t unfamiliar to me. It is important to use my education and my career development to help tackle the issues that my community faces.
As an architectural designer, do you think there is a connection between social housing and knife crime?
I’m looking to explore how the design characteristics and layout of council housing contributes. Netflix recently released a series called Top Boy, which is a prime example of how these two factors connect. However, I feel like it goes beyond that. I want to look more into what RIBA do and the planning authorities, they can play a big role in helping the community. As you mentioned earlier, there are a lot of issues we are facing today and we can only really tackle them as a collective, different industry professionals need to come together. I think architecture definitely has a part to play in this, not just in terms of how we design cities or spaces but in terms of local bodies and councils. Architects can do so much more than what we are doing at the moment. It’s not just about the design.
What has been your experience of architectural education so far?
At the moment we’re talking about social issues and how we can use architecture to help tackle the problem, whereas my education so far hasn’t been about that. There is a chance for me to do this here at the Manchester School of Architecture, but my undergraduate was very much about designing aesthetically pleasing places with very little information on the social conflicts we deal with today and how architecture can be of help.
If you could change how we approach architectural studies at university, what would be your first action?
Live projects. I think live projects are a good idea but it needs to go further! I think we need to be looking at current issues constantly throughout and try to incorporate them into our studies more.
Issues like knife crime?
Yes, and the homelessness crisis. The MSSA - Manchester Student Society of Architecture - has a programme called WOAH (Without a Home) which looks into how we can contribute through design. So the society is looking at it, but it isn’t a major part of our curriculum. We are currently designing homes for our studio project so there is the opportunity but I still feel like more can be done. I can design a home for the homeless, but then what next?
How do you feel about diversity in UK Universities?
It could be better.
Cities such as London and Manchester are supposed to be some of the most diverse cities in England but it’s not being shown. There’s around 200 in our year and I think there’s about 10 black people out of 200.
There’s also the question of do young black people (and those of ethnic minority descent) want to be architects? But we can talk about that another day.
What is Ground Up?
Ground Up is an expansion of Question Architecture which consists of brief interviews with artists and professionals. Our mission is to share insights and communicate about social conflicts, creativity, architecture and collaboration!
If you would like to be involved in Ground Up, please send your thoughts, arguments and ideas to:
Charlotte de Moor