Pure Research: How can Architects contribute the inclusive design agenda?

Pure Research: How can Architects contribute the inclusive design agenda?

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Architectural Apprentice Joanna Koning summarises her dissertation which explores how the architect can use a doughnut econmic model as a framework to design for inclusion within Argent’s Kings Cross masterplan.

My research originates from mapping the types of bins found within the Kings Cross Masterplan, recently developed by Argent. The bins created a visual expression of a boundary with the new masterplan development and its fringe with the surrounding boroughs and communities.Sparkling clean new recycle bins are found within the masterplan, meanwhile overflowing general waste bins, with a homeless person nearby are found only the street across. This gives the appearance that there remains a lack of integration for certain elements of the wider community. How can this juxtaposition and its nature be challenged?

The Doughnut Economic Model by Kate Raworth, an economist, questions the economic models of the 20th century which only consider economic growth, instead she focuses on creating a balance. Carrying out extensive research Kate Raworth has developed this new model to meet the challenges of the 21st century, named the Doughnut Economic Model.

The doughnut model creates a ‘safe space’ with an inner ring of social foundation and outer ring of an ecological ceiling. Any overshoots or shortfalls in meeting these boundaries causes an imbalance. The principles are outlined in her book Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist.
My research investigates how the architect can use a doughnut economic model as a framework to design for inclusion within Argent’s kings cross masterplan.

The objective was to do this using data led design and collaborative techniques to propose an intervention which enables inclusion and aims to contribute to a thriving community for all at Kings Cross. The aim is to create a pathway to opportunities for the most underprivileged and vulnerable.


Data (Context) - Doughnut (Inclusive framework) - Design (Typology)

The architectural typologies are based on an intervention to be placed within a recently redeveloped area of London with already highly urbanised character. The strategy was based on fitting into the existing urban grain. Focused to contribute but not take away from the existing uses of Kings Cross’s urban landscape. This uses intensification, identifying underused or temporary use sites.

Creating a portrait of needs through data and verifying decisions can enable a more collaborative process with other members of the team, for example in gaining client support for transformative design ideas and innovations to tackle the needs. Other sources and consultants input can be referred to prove data and decisions through the later stages results in a continuing data driven design process which is a consultative design process. The Data Driven Design process for this research will consider and incorporate three aspects of data:

Data and Design: The datasets are applied at various stages of the process: from the early stage considering census demographic information and carbon emissions through to microclimate and circular economy related issues for waste predictions data and buildability considerations at the detailed design stage.
In particular, attention should be paid to feedback data and evaluating the project subsequent to completion.
“Architects do little to obtain feedback on the outcomes of their work and are shockingly ignorant of the impact they have on communities. As a result, it is virtually impossible to predict or explain the positive societal impact of their contribution to buildings, homes and places.” (Social Value Toolkit for Architecture, 2020, p3).

Data and Inclusion: Specific data sets used are social and economic reports on the Kings Cross area and adjacent borough,alongside site analysis, census data, employment statistics and commentaries from stakeholders in the design process. A portrait of the community is established from this data as these examples illustrate:
Socio-economic benefits are collected from the area’s census data: 57.8% of the working population (aged 16-74) are economically active with 59.3% of children achieving GCSEs 5+ A*-C grades (including Maths and English) and low crime rate at 90 crimes per 1000 people (Camden Neighbourhood Profile- Kings Cross, 2015).

Data and Collaboration: Collaboration is important to testing hypotheses and variables within research and the data driven design process. However, this can be an inefficient process if individuals or each member of a multi disciplinary team adds their own variables in turn or uses restricted data sets, leading possibly to incomplete testing or evaluation and corrected options several times over.

Data categories of Kings cross census and site data:

Social - Thriving:

  • 59.3% of children achieved qualifications KS4
  • GCSEs 5+ A*-C including Maths and English.
  • Crime rate is relatively low at 90 crimes per 1000 people.
  • 57.8% of 16-74 aged are economically active.

Social - Not Thriving:

  • 47.9% of people over 65 are living alone
  • 48.6% of children are living in poverty
  • 44.8% of older people are living in deprivation
  • 25.2% of people are struggling with income deprivation
  • 31% of people are living in overcrowding
  • 20.7% of residents have no qualifications
  • 26% of adults are overweight

Ecological - Thriving:

  • 22% of the land in Kings Cross is public green
  • space, with 21sqm of green space per resident
  • 92.7% of homes in Kings Cross have access to a local, small or pocket park
  • 100% of homes in Kings Cross have access to nature

Ecological - Not Thriving:

  • 21.6% of households are without broadband
  • Domains of deprivation:
  • Barriers to housing and services 9.3%
  • Living environment 9.3%


The approach and methodology of the research results in a proposal for an intervention.

The Intervention: The Vision Connectivity and Carbon are the driving force for the intervention. The vision includes:

  • The Upskill Centre. Here local workforce can be re-skilled and upskilled. The aim is to offer opportunity, orientation and training for future jobs and technologies. People in communities finding themselves unequipped (with digital platforms etc.) and underskilled can find a way/opportunity to be included.
  • ‘Skills Connectors’ which provide a linking/meeting space between potential employers looking for newly skilled aspiring workers. Provide an overarching master plan strategy for the urban area to connect to other areas of the site and to communities in neighbouring boroughs. The ‘Skills Connectors’ are focused on providing adaptable modules to be responsive to the type of future jobs requirements for each sector and social and economic aspects affecting opportunities at the time. For example, the pandemic resulted in the need for more lab technicians on a huge and sudden scale /on a short timescale. Engagement with thriving institutions, businesses, university and education developments already on site to increase connections to facilities and social and physical infrastructure already at Kings Cross eg Construction Skills Centre


The typologies and their forms are to act to attract the inquisitive nature of people. For this reason the Upskil lcentre is embedded into the public realm, with the skills centre located in Lewis Cubitt park. The intention to incorporate the connectivity and carbon aims by retaining and improving the park and making more accessible - so in balance the essence and activity of the park life within the accessibility of the centre and its programme of spaces. Retaining and enhancing the biodiversity.
Located in a semi-permanent way, taking up underused space, adding to buildings etc. In this way the skill connectors will act as ‘beacons’ both within the site and outside Kings Cross to provide visible form and advertisement to those in neighbouring boroughs. This is to provide visual connectivity.


The rationale follows from the aspects identified in the carbon and connectivity doughnut. These determined a portrait of the issues related to the site; responding to the ‘overshoots’ and ‘shortfalls’ found.


This follows from the imbalances shown in carbon connectivity doughnut to establish the brief and its programme requirements. These address shortfalls found in the Carbon connectivity model.


  • Improved access to, and visibility of, jobs available for local labour force.
  • Tailored facilities for future job and skills and knowledge requirements, training for these along with broadbandconnectivity for those that don’t have access to the software and hardware.
  • Skill Connector - localised interventions placed in Kings Cross and adjacent neighbourhoods in community places next to existing services - community spaces, health spaces, food banks or space shared with other global headquarters.
  • Public events, installations and job fairs spaces to increase face to face contact in the community and connectivity within the masterplan.
  • Ability to respond to changing demands from Job market, for example the COVID pandemic created new demands. This requires flexibility in terms of use of the Upskill Centre and Skill Connectors. To create flexibility in use requires reusable multi use design of the Upskill Centre and Skill Connectors.
  • The Upskill Centre to provide a neighbourhood centre - opportunities for families struggling to balance finding employment with child care. Collaboration with creche facilities within the centre’s programme.


  • The Upskill Centre to reuse and redistribute technologies including computer hardware that is donated and provide broadband connection.
  • Future jobs training of local workforce and the introduction to new technologies will have the potential to implement low carbon technologies locally, e.g. retrofitting gas boilers with hydrogen based equivalents, installation of solar panels, installation of electric charge points.
  • Local underused sites can be used for the Skill Connectors instead of demolition and new site in the process of Intensification with fit out modules,
  • The Upskill Centre will demonstrate use of passive design systems, sustainable materials and carbon neutral construction in its location.
  • Retention of the green space of the park and increase of its biodiversity whilst encouraging use by people in the local area.


  • Programme targets to create a Hybrid model for investment in communities in the UK. A link for those sourcing jobs from other countries. Information sharing of Insights, expertise, and effective practices for skills transfer.
  • To provide a design led example (exemplar project) for research Group DEAL that have Doughnut Economic Framework principles for global change. Or to collaborate with research groups such as DEAL to provide a exemplar project incorporating the principles of the Doughnut Economic model with its aims to create inclusive and thriving communities.
  • Creation of (and connection to) workforce skilled in / working with new technologies / interested in jobs for the future - commercially good for businesses.


  • Sustainable and adaptable assembly on site rather than transportation from many destinations to create minimal carbon footprint and pollution.
  • Network of exemplar Biodiversity and passive measures encouraged as exemplar. Through introduction of, and implementation of low carbon technologies in Kings Cross which provides an available skilled labour force to continue in London has an effect globally.
  • Role model for new urban developments to integrate and to collaborate with local businesses - skills connectors (connect with outside communities in urban Business and social aims combined to provide illustration of a economic system which not based solely on usual economic system and how this can benefit). Knowledge and practice can be compared. Acts like a High Street and can be a blend of digital and face to face connections for communities.


In assessing the contribution of architects to the ‘inclusive agenda’, this can be seen through the three elements - Data Driven Design of Process, Collaboration and Engagement where architects play a role. In all of these three elements social and ecological values are bound together to contribute to the Inclusive agenda, instead of solely social values.

However the architect needs to create a vision from these elements that incorporate other objectives such as thinking long term, creating shared value and behavioural change. These objectives relate to the fourth element required - Viability - which has emerged from the evaluation of the Data Driven Design Process by the developer, architects, and is essential to the development appraisals of investors and clients and businesses.The findings from the interview with Argent show that if investment in and appreciation of the long term value of buildings and the environment are held as important objectives, developments can be made to work both in societal terms and in the financial viability to clients. What is required is willingness to look at benefits other than financial. This seems to support the framework to design for inclusivity established around the principles of the Doughnut Economy.

Various ideas were proposed to be incorporated, in particular data related to the building as it continues its life following construction.

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