Door-to-door engagement:

Reflections from the fieldwork activities

Early September ImaginationLancaster from Lancaster University and Lancaster City Council came together to collaborate in a personalised engagement with the residents of the Mainway Estate. This was an exciting opportunity to talk with every resident, and we had a fantastic response from people who shared their personal experiences of their day-to-day living experiences. We were surprised by the positive experience, which brought together the motivations and main reasons why we wanted to talk with everyone.

Mainway Estate was designed and built in a time where modern architecture and the brutalism were at the centre of the architectural design, prioritising the function above all. This came with a great school of thought where the exterior should reflect the use of the building, and the Mainway Estate is not the exception. These buildings were built to make a statement, with an impressive architectural design and the right balance between the built environment, surrounding greenery, countryside and river. However, with the changes in the built environment towards more energy-efficient buildings, perhaps drawn due to climate concerns, we realise some of the drawbacks of this architecture.

Brutalist architecture came to make a statement, as opposed with concerns for running and energy costs. Nowadays, sustainable home design is at the centre of the architectural process and Lancaster City Council aims to bring it to their council housing and improve the life quality of the many, but in a very particular way. They want their current residents to tell them what they want, rather than going back to the solutions of the past. This point is rather important, especially when making renovation projects with existing residents; their engagement is the key to the success of the project. They are the experts living in the area.

This part of the consultancy process took place between the 3rd and the 8th of September. Many of the residents were interviewed by members of Lancaster University and Lancaster City Council. Many of the residents have been living there a long time and where proud of living there and like to talk about those wonderful experiences living here. For instance, one of the residents mentioned: “I have been living here for 48 years, I remember when Mainway was built”. Although many of the people who were interviewed had a positive response, they were also intrigued and worried about the upcoming changes.

This process not only gathered the living experiences of the people, but they were also asked about how these experiences could be very valuable in reimagining the future redevelopment of the estate. So, the residents were happy to engage with suggestions to improve not only their homes but also the entire neighbourhood. One of the most common themes was “Community life.” Several residents would like to have a more active life and a way to engage in activities with their neighbours. Communal spaces and outdoor spaces, such as gardens, create this sense of community, which is reflected in today’s life.

As Lancaster City Council firmly believes that their residents should be at the centre of the attention, the consultation process will be running different activities until January 2021 in partnership with Lancaster University. During this time, the Mainway residents are key on informing the redevelopment, guaranteeing that changes will be sustainable and fit-for-purpose. There will also be an opportunity for residents to drop-in to a new community hub (7 Captains Rows), so come along ask questions and participate in future events!