BAA Designing with Young People Event

The Birmingham Architectural Association hosted on Thursday 18th February at 5:30pm an event organised by Simeon Shtebunaev to find out about why it might be beneficial to involve children and young people in your design process and most importantly – how to do so!

Through presentations of a multidisciplinary set of speakers we explored a practical toolkit for youth engagement, aligned to the RIBA Plan of Work; the views from the public sector; alternatives modes of practice and entrepreneurship; and the future of digital engagement.

Children and young people are often marginalised in the design and planning process, due to their lack of experience, age or difficulty to engage. However, involving them in the design, management and reinvention of buildings, neighbourhoods and cities can produce unexpected results, stimulate creativity and most importantly, make young people stewards of their futures. Recent youth movements, such as the School Strike 4 Climate demonstrate that now, more than ever, it is important to pay attention to the views of young people.


Simeon Shtebunaev (BAA Committee and Doctoral Researcher in youth and smart cities) – Simeon has run a summer school in architecture and design for secondary pupils in Bulgaria for the past five years.

Tabitha Odutayo – BAA Student Ambassador – 2nd year student studying Interior Architecture and Design. Having a background in Visual Arts and Design, she brings a fresh pair of eyes to the world of design, with her bold and fun design concepts.


Nicola Wood – Community Engagement Manager, Grosvenor Britain & Ireland. Nicola is at the forefront of how Grosvenor connects with communities and gives them more power and influence in the development process. With a background in sociology rather than planning or surveying, Nicola brings a fresh perspective to real estate and placemaking. She has been  instrumental in the development of the youth engagement toolkit – Voice.Opportunity.Power, developed with the TCPA, Sport England and ZCD Architects.

Tamara Kahn – Design Guidance Project Officer at London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Tamara is an ARB registered architect and one of Public Practice Associates working within the public sector to introduce design expertise. Most recently she has worked on the Tower Hamlets Central Area Good Growth strategy, introducing design guidance (SPD) for small housing sites across the borough. Tamara is also an Associate of Architecture Sans Frontieres-UK.

Mariana Schiller – Project Manager for Central Area Good Growth Guidance, London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Mariana is an urban planner with a background in housing, research and community engagement. She is a Public Practice Alumna and currently works in the public sector, managing the Tower Hamlets Good Growth Guidance supplementary planning document delivery. She is also a freelance urbanism writer, most recently for the Quatro Cinco Um Magazine, São Paulo, Brazil.

Karen Jelenje – Founder of Activate the City! and Regeneration Officer at London Borough of Hackney. Karen is an entrepreneur, founding a social enterprise that facilitates youth-led community transformation through the activation of vacant and redundant spaces. She has been named winner of Deutsche Bank DBACE 2019 awards and the Innovate UK and The Prince’s Trust Young Innovators Award 2020/21! She also has extensive experience working in local authorities on regeneration and housing projects.

Sean Peacock – PhD Researcher, Designer and Urban Planner at Open Lab, Newcastle University. Sean’s work looks at interdisciplinary research centered on designing, deploying and evaluating digital tools to invite young people’s participation in city-making. He has been working with 8-18-year-olds in primary schools, youth groups and museums using creative, participatory research methods. Sean is a trustee of the Scottish-based charity promoting child-friendly planning ‘A Place in Childhood!’.

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