A colourful ambience and simmering bustle greets me at S1 Artspace. Toddlers clamber on scaffolding structures. Everyone else avoids a red latex-painted floor labelled ‘still wet’, cautiously inspecting the gallery and its archive of emotions. This space they're sharing is called The Garage and its creators are RESOLVE Collective, an interdisciplinary design collective fusing architecture, engineering and art to generate social change. At The Garage's launch night, RESOLVE's founders Akil Scafe-Smith, Gameli Ladzekpo and Seth Scafe-Smith give me the pleasure of sitting with them for a conversation about their practice’s origin, their interdisciplinary methods, of course their latest project here at S1 Artspace.
Firstly, why RESOLVE Collective? Gam: “Like re-solve, re-solving and re-attacking different problems. And also having resolve. Like when you’re in a tough situation, you need to have resolve.”
In 2016 the collective, transitioning from university to the real world, designed a project for Brixton Design Trail called Rebel Space. A permeable space formed from recycled wooden pallets, open 24 hours a day for 8 days, it celebrated art, women, diversity, the African-descended diaspora, and Brixton. This event spawned the idea that became RESOLVE Collective. It was, according to Akil, “very serendipitous, not super planned and strategised. We had an opportunity and we took it and more opportunities came after that, and it snowballed into this.” The connection between these men felt more than professional or financial. It felt familial. And you can feel this familial vibe throughout The Garage.
With backgrounds in urban design, structural engineering and project management, RESOLVE have a plethora of skills to draw on. With this comes a fluidity not commonly seen in collectives of this scale. Seth: “You find a lot of small collectives are quick to define their roles. We are not that. The only person who has a clear defined skillset is Akil, who comes with the graphics, that urban design, that built expertise. We go to Akil for that but for everything else it’s a free for all.” Something has to be in place to maintain a balance in their work? Akil: “We have a human understanding between us. Interdisciplinary is exemplified in our case because we’re not interdisciplinary in terms of what we do. It’s about the method. We have different approaches to doing proximal things.”
This way of working gives RESOLVE the versatility and malleability to focus on a clearly defined goal for each project. Generating a social impact is always their driving force – from Off Grid, analysing how migration and division shape our cities, to this, their latest endeavour, The Garage, tackling division dictated by postcode. What does social impact mean to them? Akil: "Meaningful changes and systemic changes is what’s really important. Not necessarily how many kids do you get into Oxford, that’s part of the problem.”
One way in which RESOLVE aspire to achieve this social impact is by giving voice to those who aren’t heard enough. From obscure artists to people from minority backgrounds and young people, they begin an exchange of knowledge with their workshops. Akil: “It’s not even us teaching them like, ‘you don’t know this, we know this, here you go, that’s it.’ It’s like, ‘you know this; I’m just telling you how you know, and how to instrumentalise that knowledge. We did the same with these kids in Sheffield – we didn’t know Sheffield, you know Sheffield." This reference is to Longley Park Sixth Form and Sheffield College, who created Emotion Maps with RESOLVE and revealed swathes of knowledge about their city. Seth: “it’s an opportunity for them to influence our practice and hopefully see the results of what they’ve contributed. For us it’s an interesting way of working of developing our own methodology.” The client is the user for RESOLVE – not someone wealthy in the middle of nowhere with a spare barn but the youth going to school and being taught the myth of meritocracy but probably seeing things differently.