Designing to Amplify Community

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Sophia Malik, AIA, LEED AP

Designing to Amplify Community

Designing to Amplify Community

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Sophia Malik, AIA, LEED AP

Architecture has an important role in helping to build community, though this idea isn’t often pinpointed in initial discussions with clients. Most clients/owners are focused on alleviating utilitarian needs such as selling a much needed product or service. For example, a small business owner wanting to sell coffee in a high traffic location or a hotelier needing a space with amenities to attract guests. It isn’t until we look at the entirety of a project that we start realizing how much community impact potential each building has. If we are able to educate our clients to gain an understanding from the beginning of a project on how it is going to impact the surrounding community, then the question becomes how can we start planning for community benefit from the start. This is something that we strive to do during visioning and goal setting workshops at the outset of all of our projects. 

"If we are able to educate our clients to gain an understanding from the beginning of a project on how it is going to impact the surrounding community, then the question becomes how can we start planning for community benefit from the start."

This was a fundamental question at the start of Publik Kitchen’s newest project with Lloyd Architects. The owner knew that demolishing the existing building to make way for a new building was going to get a lot of pushback from the community, many of whom are long-time, loyal customers of the beloved local coffee shop. To help alleviate these concerns, we worked with the owner to proactively create messaging geared toward showing the community how she was going to mitigate the demolition. One priority was developing a plan to recycle as many of the building materials as possible. A local architectural salvage yard came through in the days after the existing Publik Kitchen location closed to collect many reusable items from the interior spaces. The most unique community benefit was in giving the Salt Lake City Fire Department access to the building for two weeks prior to the demolition. SLCFD used the soon-to-be demolished building for tactical rooftop training which is a much needed resource that is hard for the department to come by. Some sustainably-minded features of the new building will be: large covered patio areas which diminish heat gain into south-facing glass, a small planted rooftop, and solar panels and beehives on the main roof which will benefit the entire ecosystem of the surrounding community.

Salt Lake Fire Department at Publik Kitchen for tactical training.

Starting with the End in Sight 

At Lloyd Architects, we approach the Pre-Design phase with the determination to establish the vision and goals for each project. This helps to get at this question of ‘how can this benefit our broader community?’ For us, this is the phase where we really begin to understand the client and the project. We guide our clients through visioning sessions where we walk them through a series of questions and conversations that help establish the scope of the project. We also solicit perspectives from other interested parties and consultant team members to build an inclusive process where everyone has a voice. As architects, we consider ourselves as interpreters. We listen carefully, consider all of the data and then uncover the priorities for the design. What we usually discover is that the priorities that we end up uncovering together through this process are not the initial reason for why clients come to us. The Pre-Design phase allows our team to do a lot of research and reflection while purposefully not doing a lot of drawing until we have a clear understanding of the project goals.