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Home / Resources / News / IN BETWEEN SPACES


I’ll admit it, I’m not the best fan of organised networking, but RSA Fellows Reboot creates a refreshing change by introducing creative techniques to make it fun. On one of these Reboots, I bumped into Catherine Greig, founder and director of make:good, a “small but mighty design studio that engages with communities to create positive change in their neighbourhood.A few days later, we were sat drinking builder’s tea in her new studio, where the smell of paint and the sound of drilling provided the background senses to the interview. Enjoy!Tell us a bit about what make:good is all about?

It’s an architecture design practice that works with community groups in particular neighbourhoods to help them think about change in their space.

You studied architecture. How did that influence your design practice?

Architecture is definitely one of those courses where what people think it is on the outside is different from what it actually is on the inside. You do a lot of thinking about space – outdoor and indoor buildings, as well as spaces in between buildings.

Over the space of six years at university, I started to hone in on what I was really interested in. People on my course mainly focused on buildings, but my work was all about the places in between and how the people who live around these spaces can influence what happens within them and how they’re run. So it was a natural progression that when I left university I knew the work I wanted to do.

When you say that you knew what you wanted to do, was there a particular trigger that made you think “this is what I want to do”?

It was much more incremental in some ways, figuring that out. make:good has a very wide portfolio of work and it’s about that journey where I’m interested in lots of different things. When I left university I knew that I didn’t want to go and build buildings. That was the one thing that I knew I didn’t’ want to do. There are enough buildings out there.

My final project had been quite different to what the rest of my year group were doing, because I started looking more at adventure playgrounds and the way they were set up in the 1970s. I thought that the idea of people taking over an abandoned space and matching it with a need and saying “you know what, let’s just do it ourselves”. I thought “I want to do something like that”.

make:good from Make:good on Vimeo.

When did the idea for make:good come about, the point at which you didn’t just want to work in that area, but actually set a business up around it?I think that the idea percolated for quite a long time. I’m not going to say that I’m a very speedy person who just came up with an idea and made it happen. After four years of university, I was learning amazing methods, but I liked doing things my own way.I didn’t have an idea of how the business would work financially but I knew the work I wanted to do; there was something about using art practice, drama, performance and architecture and making it into something that puts people at the heart of change.

So did you need to do another three years to figure it out?

Architecture is a brilliant discipline. You learn so much which is why you want to pursue it. The structure of the course was four yours, then a year out, then two years post graduate.

In my third year, I studied in Denmark for a year. I had this epiphany moment just being there. The way they manage housing and spaces in between buildings is very different there. The way they think about public space is very different in Scandinavia in general.

That was a really formative year for me and so when I finished my degree, I absolutely could have stopped and gone on and started my business but once I started I wanted to finish. It’s only been in the last couple of years that my professional qualifications has been pretty useful

Is that in the eyes of others?

Yes, in the eyes of others. There are definitely moments when it legitimises the work that we do and I don’t know why. I don’t project it onto people. But there are certainly situations where we get work from clients on the basis that I’m a qualified architect.

A lot of the work that we get around schools and space is because I’m an architect. This is even though they know way more than I do and that the premise of the business is that the people are the experts. Having a professional qualification reassures people.

Going back to when you set up make:good in your head, what were the steps that you plotted to set up your business?

There was stuff in my head around “what is the message, what do I want to do, who are the clients now and in the future” and finding out as much as I could about those clients. All of that thinking is much more important than getting an office, building or a website or even having a business card. Those are the things that are much easier to do and might make you feel like your business is real.

But you still need a really good offer. That’s what I spent a long time doing and the concept was percolating through my final two years of post-graduate – “who commissions this, who gets this work, who delivers this that’s very close to what I want to do and how do I get this work”.

Having studied architecture for six long years at UCL, Bath and in Copenhagen, Catherine decided she wanted to work a little differently. After qualifying as an Architect her process became less about planning and building, more about people and their stories first. She set up make:good to combine her appetite for conversation and people-led design. Her innovative approach to engagement is what gets make:good’s work noticed across a range of sectors including Local Authorities, Schools , Community Groups and even Big Developers. She is also a fellow at the Awesome Foundation, which helps find and fund innovative social change projects and a fellow at the Royal Society of Art.  
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