"Seizing power from central government and putting it in the hands of the people, who would dutifully come together, magic markers in hand, to draw up neighbourhood plans, sounded nothing short of revolutionary," writes Oliver Wainwright. "Yet more than a year later, not many of these 'local people' are sure how it works. Even to many planners, the finer points of neighbourhood planning remain a mystery."
"A new project at London's Architecture Foundation, masterminded by young architecture practice We Made That, aims to tackle this problem and put the workings of localism on public show for all to explore – and take part in."
"We were fascinated by the fact that communities were being given the power to write their own future, and yet they weren't being shown how to do it," says Holly Lewis, co-director of the practice with Oliver Goodhall. The product of their interest is The Open Office, "a live project space, part 'Citizens Urban Advice Bureau', part functioning practice," that will temporarily occupy the Architecture Foundation's street-fronting gallery in Southwark.
"The Open Office may only be a short-term one-off initiative," says Wainwright, "but it looks set to raise important questions about the future of participatory planning, and help unravel what the opaque implications of the localism act actually mean."