‘Nobody needs to feel like a spare part’

What one room taught us about community, civic space, and collective action on housing and homelessness.

The entrance to Open House on Little Clarendon Street in Oxford

At Transition by Design we seem to be most comfortable when not in charge. A common theme runs through many of our projects, one where we find a space, open the door, and ask a community of people to do a better job at designing the future than we ever could. It’s peppered through our community-led housing work, our alternative housing conference House of the Commons, and even our architectural services.

In 2018 we opened the door on an empty shop on Little Clarendon Street and invited citizens from across Oxford to come and have a go at designing a better housing system for Oxford. Together we did well. We sold out events, won an award, received much praise, and closed a year later, exhausted but buzzing with new ideas and connections. 

Lankelly Chase supported a researcher to spend a few days with us towards the end of the project to try and glean what the impact of Open House was, and what the elements were that contributed to it’s success. The report contains valuable insights for us and others on creating and stewarding community spaces, on meaningful participation, on placemaking, on the value of inclusive civic spaces, and on community action on housing and homelessness. 

We’re sharing it now, in times where community connections, and action on housing and homelessness are sorely needed in the hope of finding future partners to help us replicate and grow the Open House idea. If you’d like to start a similar project in your city, or want to talk more about any of the ideas contained within the report then we’d love to hear from you.