Architecture students bring to life a wellbeing space for men in Barking
Architecture students design support 'shed' for marginalised local men
Eight University of East London students on the MSc (Hons) Architecture course have designed ‘a shed’ retreat space for men, young people and volunteers in Barking.
The initiative is the result of Shed Life, a community project set up by local people from the Thames View Estate in Barking, east London, who wanted to create a purpose-built shed where marginalised and excluded men can meet with young people and volunteers to share hobbies and skills and have access to friendship and a support network.
University of East London student Ronahi Kaplan said, “Architecture can serve as a powerful tool to connect people together. We are very pleased with the opportunity to learn while contributing to the community of Barking in the form of designing a communal space.”
The aim of the project is to help reduce the loneliness and isolation that some men feel and to help them harness and share their individual talents and skills and create a programme of activities that are led by users. The shed will act as a point of contact for local men who have complex health needs.
A recent Public Health England survey revealed that Barking and Dagenham has the shortest life expectancy rate for men in London. This unique place will support the physical and mental wellbeing of local men and create positive changes.
The University’s students met with the future users of the shed, who have formed a steering group, to find out how they will use the space and what their needs are, allowing those users to help shape the space.
Susie Miller Oduniyi, project lead at Shed Life, said, “The Shed Life steering group was very happy collaborating with the students, who really listened and valued their opinions. Together they have achieved a modern, bespoke building, designed to capture attention and encourage and inspire local people to get involved.”
The steering group guided the students towards ensuring that the design incorporated ramps for users who have a range of mobility issues. They also steered the students into including extra windows and light fittings in the design to assist users with sight impairment. The space has flexible storage boxes which allows the space to be reconfigured for a range of uses and a large meeting table can be set up if needed.
Security was also an important consideration for many of the users and so there was plenty of discussion on creating a safe space while prioritising access. A covered area was added to the design for outside activities like woodwork and gardening.
The students presented the final designs and model to the community group on 3 and 10 October, and they were received with great enthusiasm. The students are also helping to prepare a planning application for the shed as part of their technical studies course.
Alan Chandler, reader in architecture at the University, said, “Designing buildings for social benefit should be an aspiration for all architects, and projects such as Shed Life are fantastic opportunities for students to listen and translate community ideas, needs and desires into reality".
Shed Life have so far received pro bono support from local companies as well as some funds from the National Lottery for materials to build the shed. However, more funds are needed to finalise the project. If you would like to donate please visit Shed Life’s crowdfunding page.