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Taking architecture into Reading

Oliver Froome-Lewis believes that the study of architecture should be firmly engaged with the world around us today. Through his research and teaching, he is connecting people with public spaces to improve our wellbeing and sense of ownership. 

As BSc Architecture Course Director, Oliver uses wide ranging approaches in his teaching to relate architecture to the wider social and political world: 

"There is often a disconnect between what students study and the application of that knowledge beyond the University. Our teaching is designed to prepare students for current issues. The BSc Architecture is intellectually exciting, challenging and applicable to design challenges facing the wider world today." 

"Our students go straight out into Reading at the start of their first year; making projects in cardboard, installing them around the town and discovering how the public react to them. This project helps our students discover that creating projects which relate to people in public spaces is challenging, rewarding, entertaining and part of the purpose of their degree." 

"I have structured our design modules to take students from small scale interventions in Reading, through larger technical, cultural , social and historical projects further afield, culminating in a final project. All projects have topical locations and our students visit those places, spending time investigating and understanding them."

Engaging the public

Oliver's desire to connect people with their spaces is also apparent in his research: 

"I am researching ways that maps can increase engagement with public spaces and how they can make these spaces more enjoyable for people to use. I studied fifty minor public spaces in London and found that many had virtually no activity in them. To bring these spaces into use, I organised a series of events and produced maps to encourage the public to explore them. 

"Navigating areas by foot offers a sense of empowerment and ownership that demystifies a city, so I have created a series of walks linking and investigating spaces around London. 

"7,000 of my maps were distributed by London Legacy for the opening of the Olympic Park, reconnecting communities along the Lea Valley with the park and enabling people to explore and enjoy the extraordinary range of spaces and assets that are close by. I have also been working with Kensington Palace and the Design Museum to develop links between their galleries in Kensington."

Connecting research and teaching

Oliver's research influences his teaching at Reading: 

"Teaching students mapping processes helps them to visualise how to situate their work in the wider field, and helps them imagine a person's experiences, to take advantage of all the opportunities available. We're encouraging a community focus at Reading, and individual experiences are also important in all of our projects." 

"I hope my work with maps acts as a stimulus for our students and the public to discover the world around them, to gain confidence and to spend time creating their own readings. 

"I would like people to take a rest from big data and social media feeds; give themselves space to view and reflect on their surroundings and to reassess the world as a consequence of their discoveries."

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