In community design, architects work with residents to influence the built environment collaboratively. Interacting with current and future users, it aims to enhance the culture, heritage, and identity of a place. Community architecture is a way of shaping homes, towns, villages, and cities. 

The principle at its core is that: “the built environment works better if those who use it are actively and directly involved in its creation and management”. The best community architecture draws people in by giving them a sense of ownership over the buildings they work, play, and live in.

Here are some examples of community architecture across the globe.

1. Family House, San Francisco

In this design, the designers prioritized communal gathering spaces, filtered air, and natural light when considering wellness and sustainability. No matter what kind of program is scheduled in the lobby, the conference room, or the courtyard, the architecture supports and accommodates new opportunities. The building was divided into ten “neighborhoods” to create smaller groups that would help families connect as they deal with difficult times.

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Dinning area of The Family House _©Noah Berger
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Community space_©Bruce Damonte

2. La Borda, Spain

La Borda, a cooperative housing project in Barcelona, Spain, was built with extensive community engagement. In the center of the building, a central courtyard creates a flexible meeting space that encourages residents to socialize, gather and connect. As a part of the rhythms of daily life, communal spaces such as the laundry room and the kitchen-cum-dining room allow residents to mingle and connect. During winter, the polycarbonate roof draws energy from the sun while providing increased ventilation during summer. The Spanish cross-laminated timber infuses the building with a natural, organic feel.

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Central courtyard for socializing_©Lluc Miralles
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Sectional elevation of La Borda showing community spaces_©Lacol Architects

3. The Duke, Vancouver

Located in Mount Pleasant, the project consists of 201 rental units and a ground floor retail component, all contained in an open-air atrium court building, a new typology for Vancouver. The characteristic open-air atrium was designed for circulation and to enhance a sense of community. The multi-colored entrance doors breathe life into the atrium space against a backdrop of brilliant white surfaces. The building materials and rooftop green space also contribute to the building’s energy and water efficiency.

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Open atrium court_©Michael Elkan
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Units in The Duke_©Michael Elkan

4. The Six, Los Angeles

The Six, a 52-unit affordable housing complex for disabled veterans, was designed to provide maximal comfort and healing to residents, many of whom have experienced homelessness. The building consists of both private studios and one-bedroom apartments, a communal living room, community gathering areas, and a rooftop garden. The communal and outdoor spaces provide residents with a sense of community. As a result of optimal natural light and airflow, as well as structural orientation, The Six is 50% more energy efficient than a conventionally designed building.

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A large public courtyard at second level _©brooksscarpa.com

5. Springdale Library, Toronto

With its eye-catching design and eco-friendly features, the Toronto Springdale Library represents a new era in public spaces. Through its green roof, geothermal heating and cooling, and greywater systems, the library is targeting LEED Gold certification. Additionally, the library has daylight harvesting systems and electric car charging stations. From doors, lighting, and furniture to concrete and steelwork, the team specified all locally available materials. The building’s fluid design and green space were inspired by its location alongside a ravine, which is adjacent to a flat suburban lot.

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The organically shaped perimeter that joins building and courtyards_©Nic Lehoux

6. The Night Ministry, Chicago

Wheeler Kearns Architects renovated a former manufacturing facility in Bucktown into a headquarters and shelter for community members facing poverty or homelessness. The Night Ministry’s headquarters include a serving kitchen and dining rooms, administrative offices, meeting rooms, and multi-purpose programming spaces. By repurposing the heavy timber masonry of the four-story building, it sequesters the carbon and embodied energy it contains. Additionally, the floors and windows were repurposed to reduce waste as well. In the building, 95% of public spaces are lit with natural light.

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The Night MInistry_©Kendall McCaugherty
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Colorful and dynamic interior_©Kendall McCaugherty

7. Lubber Run, Arlington

At the heart of Lubber Run, this community center is a net-zero center surrounded by lush greenery. The building is organically designed and features a living roof with trees and benches. Its multipurpose rooms are available to people of all ages and backgrounds, from the fitness center to the gymnasium to the popular preschool program. The building is made from wood that gives it a soft atmosphere. The building appears to grow out of the ground, and the surrounding forest acts as a metaphor for the design.

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The Lubber Run playground_©www.vmdo.com
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Lubber Run community center_©www.vmdo.com

8. Grace Farms, New Canaan, CT

The building of this community center, appropriately referred to as the river, seems to flow and weave through the sloping landscape of Grace Farms. With its widened bands, the center offers a wide range of non-profit and community activities, discussions, performances, art classes, athletics, and worship services. With its twisting shape and transparency, the river is designed to help visitors appreciate the surrounding natural beauty, much of which has been preserved as open meadows, woods, and ponds. A connection to the land is also evident in the center’s furniture, which is made from trees that were cleared for construction.

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River as part of landscape_©Dean Kaufman
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The sloping and continuous roof over the programmed entities_©Arenson

9. The Barn

Barn Pavilion, located in Sacramento’s once struggling Bridge District, has breathed new life into the area along the Sacramento River. The Barn’s curvilinear design rises out of the pavement, inviting passersby into its shaded nooks. The public plaza below the Barn hosts gatherings, while inside you can shop, wine, and dine, making your way out to the extensive open-air breezeway. The Barn’s multifunctional and organic atmosphere make it a perfect community gathering place.

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The Barn_©Roberta Firoved

10. Arcus Center for Social Justice, Kalamazoo, MI

The Arcus Center provides a variety of meeting spaces to facilitate gatherings, discussions, and understanding. Three extending wings of the building have a living room, hearth, and kitchen at their center to serve as communal spaces for casual interactions and chance encounters. Each wing of the building ends in floor-to-ceiling windows that focus attention on the important issues and discussions that take place there.

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_Exterior cladded with cordwood masonry_©Steve Hall Hedrich Blessing
Single flowing space that is spatially distinguished by clear glass sheets_©Steve Hall Hedrich Blessing

References:

  1. Tya Abe. Come Together: 7 Contemporary Community Centers Across the United States. [online]. Available at: https://architizer.com/blog/inspiration/collections/come-together/ [Accessed date: 18/04/2022].
  2. www.thinkwood.com. The Architecture of Community: How Participatory Design Builds Connection. [online]. Available at: https://www.thinkwood.com/blog/the-architecture-of-community-how-participatory-design-builds-connection. [Accessed date: 19/04/2022]
  3. Shawn Adams. WHAT IS ‘COMMUNITY’ AND THE ROLE OF ARCHITECTURE IN SHAPING COMMUNITIES? [online]. Available at: https://deroseesa.com/architecture/what-is-community-and-the-role-of-architecture-in-shaping-communities/. [Accessed date: 20/04/2022]
Author

She is an Architect and an artist who loves to paint and watch movies a lot!!! A nature enthusiast person loving Nature and believes that conservation is a state of harmony between men and land. She likes to learn new art forms in her spare time.

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