On June 9th 2022, Grace Farms Foundation partnered with Buro Happold to host their first ever Design for Freedom Community Meeting. Buro Happold was one of the first members of the DFF Working Group, and offered to open their London doors for the purpose of this event. These Community Meetings were created with the vision in mind of expanding awareness for the movement abroad and bringing in different perspectives and ideas to the conversation. After the recent opening of the first international Pilot Project, the 21st Serpentine Pavilion: Black Chapel, by Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates, in London, Design for Freedom hopes to continue to have these impactful discussions globally.
London Community Meeting at BuroHappold
The format of these meetings includes an introductory slideshow to familiarize the attendees with the movement. Following this, a question and answer session accompanies an open discussion. Led by Sharon Prince and Chelsea Thatcher, the dialogue in London was both informative and inspiring, sparking discussions about how each attendee could begin to address the movement. The meeting was an incredible first step, as most participants left the room suggesting tangible actions they could take, with one even stating, “what I learned is that you just have to ask the question.” There were 16 attendees, and firms present included HKS Architects, David Chipperfield Architects, Michaelis Boyd, Community Design Agency, Anti-Slavery International, Know Your Place, and Artvisor.
Mumbai Community Meeting at Community Design Agency
Following this meeting by less than a month, on July 1st 2022 Design for Freedom partnered with the Curry Stone Foundation to host a Community Meeting in Mumbai, India. After attending the London Community Meeting, Sandhya Janardhan, founder of the Community Design Agency, was so inspired that she offered to host this next event in their offices.
During this meeting, 20 different attendees were able to share different perspectives and contribute experiences from a variety of disciplines. Participants shared that India is a diverse developing country that is optimistic about its potential for sustainable development. For instance, India is pleased with their recent announcement to ban single use plastics, and they have also made changes in government policy by means of public-led outcries. Furthermore, attendees discussed the importance of partnership to end forced labor. The conversation highlighted how top-down and bottom-up approaches can create both a market shift and support those most vulnerable to forced labor.
Moreover, these Community Meetings were a great opportunity for BuroHappold and the Community Design Agency to tangibly show their commitment to the movement by offering meeting space and extending invitations to leaders who could become new champions for the movement. They were able to reach out and invite connections within their regions that we may not have had access to or been aware of.
When asked about her experience at the meeting, Sandhya Janardan stated, “I believe that as practitioners it is our duty and responsibility to participate in achieving a just and equitable world with every opportunity that we get. And Design for Freedom is one such opportunity”. Beyond this, when questioned regarding changes she was willing to make, Sandhya responded, “to me it only seems natural that we try to bring in the Design for Freedom framework into our construction and see how far we can push our mission and values to every aspect of our process in ensuring access to safe, healthy and vibrant places to live, work and play for disenfranchised communities”. These responses brilliantly illustrate the impact that these meetings can have, and the tangible differences that they can make.
Feature photo: Abbas Baig