Meet the millennial building mindful cities
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It is Sunday at 6pm and every bar I love is closed, so I lock myself in the bathroom and write a list. A meditation room with speakers built into the walls. A communal courtyard lined with grass and other soft-landing materials. Doors with locks. A variety of acceptable Zoom backgrounds to sit in front of. A soundproof playroom. The abolishment of all things open-plan. These are the gifts I’d ask of Urban Symbiotics; these are the items on my wish list to live in something resembling peace.
Stephanie Edwards co-founded Urban Symbiotics in 2018. The studio offers services in architecture, master planning, urban design and branding; each puts personal experience at the centre of projects. What started for Edwards with a short course in spatial design led to five years’ training at the Architecture Association and the development of a practice that is as profound as it is practical. The Design Museum and the London Festival of Architecture have praised her as promoting “architecture for a new generation”.
Edwards is continually trying to answer questions on how to respond spatially to the needs of people right now, while acknowledging that demands will shift in the future. She is also looking at ways to create built forms that make us feel present in our space. Current projects include an urban regeneration development in Croydon that prioritises pedestrians and brings the community together. A reimagining of the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton promises a design that both challenges traditional ideas of learning and encourages visitors to embrace a sense of agency. A student dorm project is asking how we integrate residential spaces where we also need to work.
Much of Edwards’ interest in these issues stems from time spent in her father’s hometown of Happy Hill in Grenada. To get to the beach, the family would trek over a series of caves that eventually brought them to a deserted shore. In the UK, Edwards would seek out that same calm in nature and contemplate the role of nostalgia in defining our experience of the surroundings we inhabit.
I too am nostalgic for calm and beauty; I amend the wish list to include a cave of my own.
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