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Q&A: Two minutes with...Suzie Zuber

Words: Simon Wicks

Suzie Zuber is head of design advocacy and enabling at Open City, the architecture organisation. Susie is working with young Londoners on a built environment 'manifesto' to present to mayoral election candidates.

You’re leading Open City’s ‘My City Too’ campaign. What is it?
“It’s a campaign for a better-planned city for London teenagers. At Open City, we champion architecture education, get it into the classroom, and help people to understand it better. Open City Too is a way of getting to the more political side of architecture education – getting young people engaged in the design of the city and creating a manifesto to put to the mayoral candidates.”

Why focus on young people?
“They’re the future workers and professionals. We are looking particularly at teenagers – they’re not children, but not yet considered to be adults either. They fall between the gaps.

“We do a lot of work in this age group in other programmes and quite often we hear that they feel they are not listened to, and they don’t have an opportunity to inform decision-making. But under-18s want to be involved in design and decision-making.

“We’re looking at what the mayoral candidates have in their manifestos and where there’s crossover – in housing, transport and the environment. There are some points about young people, but there's not much about engaging them. We hope to put them on the agenda.”

What are you finding out from your work with young people?
“What’s interesting is that their top concerns are about personal safety and good public transport. We found that teenagers feel threatened when there are groups of unknown people around. They want to see better lighting and good clear views around them.

"The built environment has a responsibility to this age group to provide spaces for them where they can feel safe"

“They’d like to see activities and facilities provided for them to use and feel comfortable with public spaces. They don’t necessarily want to hang out at home anymore, but they’re not earning money so can’t hang out in cafés or go shopping. The built environment has a responsibility to this age group to provide spaces for them where they can feel safe. There’s also a sense that the transport network is geared towards commuters and business connections, rather than communities. It’s particularly a problem in the outer boroughs.”

Has there been any comment on the enormous amount of development in London?
“Young people we are talking to are very concerned about whether it’s going to be affordable for them. Young Londoners who want to stay near their family and home, their community, are worried that they’re going to be priced out of it. They’re not interested in social housing. They want genuinely affordable housing.”

My City Too is co-sponsored by the RTPI Future Planners programme as part of the institute’s outreach activities. RTPI’s head of education Andrew Close adds: “We see opportunities to promote planning as a career choice, raise the profile of the profession, and extend our model of engagement outside of the classroom. Our London regional ambassadors are supporting the project, which enables us to promote RTPI policy themes to mayoral candidates, to create volunteer opportunities for RTPI members and to build new relationships with the schools taking part.”

Find out about the My City Too campaign at www.mycitytoo.org.uk/
Find out more about the RTPI Future Planners programme: www.rtpi.org.uk/education-and-careers/rtpi-ambassadors-programme/

Image credit | iStock