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Queering Public Space - Q&A with Dr Ammar Azzouz

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June marks the 51st celebration of Pride Month – a time when millions of people come together in support of the LGBTQ + community. Here, APM speaks to Dr Ammar Azzouz, an architect at Arup, which has recently launched a report ‘Queering Public Space’ on which Dr Azzouz was project co-lead (in collaboration with Professor Pippa Catterall, University of Westminster). The report calls for a rethink of how towns and cities are designed and provides recommendations for how they can be made more inclusive for all.

Dr Azzouz presented at the Power of Projects conference, and his session ‘The forgotten dimension of inclusion: LGBTQ+ in the project workplace’ will be available on-demand for APM members from Tuesday 15th and non-members from 13 July. Visit here for further details.

What was the inspiration behind Arup’s project about ‘Queering Public Space’?

Public space is not always, well, public. My collaborator and myself wanted to explore how to make public spaces more inclusive for LGBTQ+ communities. Many members of LGBTQ+ communities feel unsafe and under-represented in public spaces. In our project, ‘Queering Public Space’ (QPS), we wanted to ask: what are the key characteristics that contribute to queering public space? How do we protect what remains of queer memory in our cities? And how do we move beyond the gaybourhood towards creating public spaces for all? We also make recommendations for queering public space in order to make it much more inclusive and welcoming for all. The project was launched in May, 2020, including a film and report, that are available online.

How do you think the report will help project managers responsible for delivering projects such as public spaces for the local community?

When designing public spaces, there is a need to diversify the teams that are working on these projects. Project managers, should seek diverse teams and encourage participation of LGBTQ+ staff members in their projects when planning and designing spaces in our cities to better understand the challenges, needs, aspirations and hopes of LGBTQ+ people. Furthermore, project managers should engage with local LGBTQ+ communities to ensure their voice is heard and their needs are reflected in these projects.

What project beyond your own work has inspired you the most? 

I have admired a project at Historic England titled Pride of Place: England's LGBTQ Heritage. The project uncovers the LGBTQ+ history in England. I have found the project inspirational as it celebrates the heritage of our LGBTQ+ communities, which is often erased or silenced in our cities and towns.

In your opinion how does Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) contribute to project success?

EDI leads to smarter, more innovative projects. It leads to boosting more intellectual potential at the project levels. Diverse staff members bring with them different perspectives, ideas, criticisms and knowledge, and hence contribute to more successful projects, and more diverse organisations.

How has the pandemic impacted the way you work?

The pandemic has impacted my work on different levels. However, one of the main impacts is the way we communicate and co-work with colleagues and collaborators. I enjoy meeting people in person for our projects where we can build strong relationships before and after the meeting, without feeling the pressure to run to another online meeting. During the last year, most of these meetings have turned to online ones and that sense of being together in the same physical space is lost, as well as the ability to socialise before and after these meetings.

What is/are the most important trend(s) that will influence the way projects are managed in the future? 

I think digital has and will continue to radically change the way we manage and deliver our projects. The pandemic has offered an opportunity to push the boundaries in terms of our ability to work online from remote and different locations. Whilst this has been also the case before the pandemic, we have seen how this has changed the way projects are managed. Digital, hence, will bring new tools, processes and technologies that will offer opportunities to enhance collaboration in projects. Another important trend that will influence our future project management will be sustainable development.



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