11th Aug 2023 — Delivering Social Value at The Highbury Roundhouse

Delivering Social Value at The Highbury Roundhouse

The London Festival of Architecture is “a month long celebration of architecture and city-making, taking place every June across London”. The Festival’s mission is to open up discussions around architecture, test new ideas and uncover and promote new talent.

This year, the festival theme was IN COMMON. “We have more in common than we know. But how do we create and shape the space we share: our city? How do we make the most of what we have in common – and explore the things we don’t?”

SWA have taken part in the LFA for many years and we were delighted to be involved with the festival once again in 2023!

On Saturday 17th June, we hosted a celebratory day of activities at one of our recently completed buildings – the Highbury Roundhouse Youth and Community Centre (HRH) in Islington – centred on delivering social value throughout a project’s lifespan. The HRH is soon to celebrate 50 years of operation and this event was a great opportunity to celebrate and reflect on the role the built environment has in delivering holistic social value for communities.

During the morning, we had a panel discussion focused on ‘delivering social value in community projects’. Our multidisciplinary panel was intentionally made up the many people who are typically involved in the shaping, designing, building and operation of community spaces…not just architects!

  • Danna Walker – Founder and CEO, Built by Us (chair)
  • Savanah Popal – Head of Services, Highbury Roundhouse
  • Eleanor Brough – Associate, Sarah Wigglesworth Architects
  • Daisy Froud – Participatory Design and Planning Facilitator
  • Martin Hughes – H.A. Marks Construction
  • Clodagh McCallig – Regeneration Team Leader, London Borough of Camden

The panel discussed people and process, measurable outcomes and bricks/mortar vs activities/people. Savanah, Eleanor and Martin spoke about how the new building had helped the HRH grow as an organisation, extending it’s reach and capacity to deliver it’s mission.

The panel reflected on who should be involved and when in the process, adding a note on support and stewardwardship of community assets. Daisy touched on how we can enable the community to lead and participate in the process. The discussion also focused on how the briefing, design and construction process can help in defining social value goals and delivering them. Cloadagh reflected on Camden’s processes to avoid a ‘tick box’ mentality and who should be setting the metrics we use to measure success.

Savanah provided feedback as an end-user – what has worked? What would be done differently?

For example, one observation was made about the size of doors – large doors provide better accessibility for those in wheelchairs, however, for the early years group, the doors are very heavy to operate. The importance of a thorough handover process to ensure the end users understand the operation and maintenance of the sustainable technology that has been installed was also discussed. Feedback such as this is invaluable to SWA and we hope that our ongoing relationship with HRH will allow for further post occupancy reflection, which we can share with other community clients.

She then went on to speak about the confidence and knowledge that has been gained during this process. The panel acknowledged that for many community clients such as the Highbury Roundhouse staff, they will undertake one project such as this one in their lifetime, therefore, the sharing of knowledge gained with other community groups is an important part of ensuring cultural capital and social value continues to blossom from this project. SWA and HRH recently showed another community group around the building, allowing them to learn from the process, including valuable information HRH learnt about funding applications and the practicalities of getting a project like this off the ground.

After the panel discussion, we took our attendees on short building tours, lead by Savanah, Martin and Eleanor and Katharine of SWA.

A yoga class was finishing in the dance studio and we were able to explore all of the spaces within the centre, including the youth club, computer room, dance studio and early years space, including dedicated outdoor play. Tour highlights included the tree tops view from the dance studio and youth club, the surprise of internal windows which connect smaller spaces back to the main hall (and mean you can wave at your friends!), bouncing on the sprung floor in the dance studio and the sliding, cork door which reveals the café.

After a tasty lunch together in the Highbury Roundhouse café, we hosted a mentoring style event for young people of the community centre’s Youth Club who are interested in a career in the construction industry. In this drop-in sessions, local young people had the chance to talk to the architects, engineers and contractors who designed and delivered the Highbury Roundhouse. We are delighted to collaborate with HRH project team members Heyne Tillett Steel and H.A.Marks Construction on this part of the day.

Reflecting on the theme IN COMMON, the SWA team are committed to shaping a more diverse and inclusive built environment. Our Eco-Humanist approach always seeks to find a common ground with our clients. With The Highbury Roundhouse, our shared passion is community, and by acknowledging what we don’t have in common alongside what we do, engagement and co-design has been essential in helping us create a place which meet community need.


Next year the London Festival of Architecture turns 20 – we can’t wait to start planning our next event!