For Pedro Gil, architecture is a platform to give a voice to disenfranchised groups, push for positive social change and solve problems in creative and unexpected ways.

I relocated my studio from central London to my neighbourhood in Ilford Redbridge, not as a consequence of the pandemic, this act was taken quite some time before the global event, but rather as a response to believing in the importance of servitude and locality. Through our work in Studio Gil, I have tried to create a platform to give a voice to the disenfranchised and champion underrepresented groups, using my skill set as an architect to facilitate architectural projects and advocate for positive social change.  Our studio has often been located in the vicinity of the communities we want to serve and so I decided to base our architecture practice in Ilford, Redbridge on the border of London and Essex to serve the community where my family and I had laid down our roots.

When the world went into lockdown it felt like extreme privilege to have the ability to leave my house and walk to my studio which became a sanctuary – it was so much more than a ‘space to be creative’ in, and played a crucial role in helping maintain some sense of equilibrium. This all vindicated the thoughts and decisions about the strength of locality and community.

It was during these periods of sanctum that I was able to acknowledge three reflections on the situation we were all living in; firstly, that we are one planet bound by a singular but complex ecosystem and that we are very quick to forget this, especially in the global north, where the tendency is to be seduced by the trappings of capitalism and  consumerism. We are in fact one global society and until we are all safe, none of us is safe.

Secondly, that it is through our continued exploitation and abuse of the natural the environments which have selflessly sustained us as a species for millennia that we find ourselves in this situation. The global pandemic is entirely of our own making through an arrogant and misplaced belief that we can continue to plunder our planet’s resources without end or consequence. We are now living the direct consequences of our abuse and arrogance.

Thirdly, that climate justice and social justice are intrinsically interconnected. Much has been written about the disproportionate effect of Covid-19 on ethnic and minoritised groups and how it is the people and communities with the fewest resources that have paid the heaviest price. We must find a new way of doing things for the sake of the environment, social mobility, and equity for all. As architects we are trained to solve problems in creative and unexpected ways – now is the time to exercise that influence.

Nobody quite knows what the future will hold, but it is my longing that as we collectively emerge on the other side of the pandemic, we see this global event as an opportunity to recalibrate our priorities and help build a sustainable and resilient future that is equitable for people, places, and planet.

Pedro Gil
Ilford, Redbridge