Designing for leaving care

As the 2010 academic year winds down, 80 third-year architecture students at UniSA will be finalising designs that are tailored to the specific needs of young people who are exiting the care system.

Lecturer in Architecture, Angelique Edmonds, explains that this year’s design studio exercise is a repeat of last year’s successful and award winning project that challenged architecture students to use their design capabilities to address an important social need.

‘We partnered with two community organisations and a private developer to identify three real sites which became the briefs to which the student had to respond.

‘Students heard about the circumstances of young people leaving care from the Guardian, Pam Simmons, and from two young women who had transitioned out of care. They were also given eight client profiles, in the form of narratives, of real but anonymous young people and their situations.’

Architecture student Tess Pritchard, now in her masters year, recalls how the lives of her young clients were much different to her own.

‘Many were isolated with no feeling of belonging anywhere and with very little money and support from family and friends.  I had no idea about what they were experiencing.

‘In my design I tried to provide good private living spaces where they could develop their independent living skills as well as common areas where they could come together to build social networks.

‘I provided a garden space where the residents could grow food for their own use or to sell at a nearby market.’

Former CREATE worker Emily Rozee, who presented to the students, said that young people rarely have the opportunity to provide direct input into the design and development of their physical environment.

‘Many of the UniSA students had not previously been aware of the issues faced by young people who are unable to live with their birth family.’

The 2009 pilot project received a UniSA Chancellor’s Award endorsing it as ‘an example of a best practice community engagement activity’.

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