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  • Writer's picturePeter Greaves

Intergenerational thinking at Make Architects

Make is an architecture practice working across many different sectors, from commercial offices and residential developments to heritage projects and large-scale masterplans. We research, design and collaborate to create inspirational architecture that improves people’s lives. This means thinking about all people across the whole spectrum of life – both in our designs and our company. 

An intergenerational world is one of mutual understanding, growth and unity across the generations. To us, being intergenerational means forming authentic connections between members of different age groups. It's about creating opportunities for people from various life stages to spend time together, learn from one another, and gain insights from a range of perspectives and experiences. We strive to cultivate an "intergenerational approach" – building meaningful bridges between generations. We embrace intergenerational thinking in two key ways: through our internal business practices and through our project work.  

Our intergenerational business 

As an employee-owned business, Make’s company structure fosters a sense of community. With every ‘Maker’ being an employee-owner, we ensure everyone has a voice and a role to play, regardless of their age or experience. This intergenerational approach promotes equality of ideas, where the best solution gets integrated based on merit rather than the position or experience of the person behind it. We've found this collaborative approach very effective, as different team members bring unique perspectives, passions, practical skills and experience to a team. By valuing and melding these diverse viewpoints, we avoid stagnation and keep our work innovative yet grounded in real-world experience.  

An important initiative fostering intergenerational connections is our "Make Forum" – a cross-section of Makers representing every level, role and age group across the company. Employees volunteer to join the forum and then collaborate on key issues such as company policies, new business and employee wellbeing, and everyone in the forum gets an equal seat at the table. This intergenerational forum promotes understanding between different groups while bringing diverse viewpoints together. It's one way we live out our ethos that good ideas can come from anyone, regardless of tenure or experience level. It creates an atmosphere of mutual learning and respect across the business.  

Make has a long history of supporting work experience and mentoring schemes across primary and secondary schools, as well as higher education. To expand these partnerships – and to pursue new opportunities – we established a dedicated outreach team called Aspire. Together, they coordinate regular school workshops, career days and mock interviews. Our dedicated in-house research arm, The Future Spaces Foundation, also runs an annual student competition for architecture students, giving them the opportunity to present their ideas and designs for a judging panel of industry experts.  

We also have frequent ‘Make Social’ events, such as workshops, trips to exhibitions, and team-building activities, that provide opportunities for Makers across the generations to get to know one another and forge genuine friendships outside the day job.  

Our intergenerational projects 

The second way we apply an intergenerational ethos is through our projects. Research is at the heart of everything we do, from sourcing materials and carbon assessments on our bespoke designs to wider research on broad issues in the built environment. The Future Spaces Foundation studied the huge benefits of intergenerational interaction for its report Kinship in the City, which explored the effects of loneliness in urban communities. Heartbreaking data shows that loneliness increases an older person's risk of premature mortality by a staggering 30%. However, our research found that those risks can be mitigated by building community support systems and creating opportunities for different generations to interact. 

Intergenerational practices can contribute to societal wellbeing by strengthening community cohesion, empathy and social bonds. Intergenerational connections can also be energising and inspiring for individuals. Our report outlines various ways to combat urban loneliness and better promote connected communities – with ideas ranging from intergenerational music programmes through to designing shared living developments for more cross-generational communities. We feed all of this research back into our designs and ensure that our learning is used to craft amazing places for people to live, work and relax.  

One example of these findings in practice is Chobham Manor, our RIBA Award-winning residential development on an Olympic Legacy site in East London. Forming a community was always at the forefront of our minds when developing Chobham Manor. We carefully balanced a mix of homes with beautiful open spaces to create a new neighbourhood. The masterplan encompasses over 900 homes, 35% of which are affordable, including specialised multigenerational homes, affordable wheelchair-accessible homes, mews houses, townhouses, maisonettes and apartments, plus a community centre with a café, event space and pre-school nursery. In a post-occupancy evaluation, the vast majority of residents (81%) affirmed that Chobham Manor is accessible for all abilities and ages. 

Our advice to other organisations  

Ensure your whole team has a voice, across all levels of experience. Create forums, working groups or collaborative environments where new recruits interact as peers with seasoned staff. This meaningful exchange forges connections between generations while allowing businesses to benefit from all the skills, perspectives and experiences that different generations bring to the table. 

At our core, we believe the richest experiences come from the exchange between diverse perspectives, so we embrace an intergenerational ethos. In the workplace, it fosters innovative thinking, equity of influence, and a dynamism that allows organisations to evolve with new generations rather than growing stagnant. 


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