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University of Edinburgh

Amber Richardson

Architectural Technology Review

OPEN SOURCE ARCHITECTURE WALTER-SEGAL vs. WIKIHOUSE

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2015 Walter's Way & Wikihouse

A discussion into the accessibility and acheivability of open source community-led self build


01./OPEN SOURCE ARCHITECTURE | WALTER vs. WIKIHOUSE

AMBER RICHARDSON | PORTFOLIO OF WORKS

OPEN SOURCE - A DEFINITION./

Open source is the universal access of information that can be altered and improved by anyone.1 Its application in architecture is by no means a new concept, but a process that has been revolutionized by new technology, networks, labour, design and big architectural ideas. It can be described as a constantly evolving model of new procedures for the design and construction of buildings, Infrastructure and spaces. Whilst it encourages collaborative design by introducing a participatory process of networks and systems, it also transforms architecture into an accessible, transparent multi-tier system which includes both construction professionals and end users working together democratically.

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AMBER RICHARDSON | PORTFOLIO OF WORKS

ORB SWARM Kinetic artwork consisting of six semi-autonomous spherical robots. All hardware and software for the robots is open-source.

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AMBER RICHARDSON | PORTFOLIO OF WORKS

01./OPEN SOURCE ARCHITECTURE | WALTER vs. WIKIHOUSE

'Open Source Architecture' by Ratti & Claudel, 2015 outlines how collaborative platforms can facilitate a shift from ego-driven design to accessible architecture

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Walter Segal's prototype dwelling, The Little House in the Garden, 1962 was demolished in 2015

One of the earliest examples of open source in architecture is the Notre-Dame de Chartres, constructed in 1193. The multi-tiered system allowed the more experienced masons of the time, with a good sense of practical vernacular engineering but no advanced mathematics, to lead the process whilst the less skilled workers supplied the physical labour, complementary skills and teamwork.3 The skilled and unskilled masons would one-day become members of the church once construction is complete. In this way, a collaborative approach between unskilled end-user, skilled worker and the church was achieved. Open source is particularly interesting when applied to the self-build sector. The complete beginner can access designs and construction details, and take total control of the creation of their own home. This process was revolutionised in 1962, when Swiss-born Architect Walter Se gal unintentionally discovered a new method of construction

whilst designing his own home in Highgate, London. The prototype was a temporary structure located in the garden. The structure utilized standard-size materials and a simplified post and beam structure that would allow even the most inexperienced construction novice to edit and build. Segal advanced these processes to provide individual families in need of housing with the opportunity to become self-built communities. Another revolutionary of the time - writer and architect Bernard Rudofsky -completed an epochal study titled "Architecture without Architects" in 1964. His work investigated the importance of adaptable vernacular design and the process of trial and error when collaboratively designing and constructing within a community. The modern definition of open Source utilises available technology to encourage everyday


open source in architecture cted in 1193. The multi-tiered masons of the time, with a gineering but no advanced t the less skilled workers supary skills and teamwork.3 The -day become members of ete. In this way, a collaborauser, skilled worker and the

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esting when applied to the er can access designs and ntrol of the creation of their Figure 4: South Elevation of Notre - Dame de Chartes. sed in 1962, when Swiss-born discovered a new method platforms such as home Collaborative in Highgate, London. Facebook, Twitter, Google, Wikire located in the garden. The pedia and BIM; at the same time s and a simplified post and it has branched off as the most inexperienced con- tools for architecture that have ignited a al advanced these processes change in the industry. This f housing with the opportunity change in the way we access information has allowed designers such asarchitect Alistair Parvin e - writer and Ber- to create free downloadable study titled “Architecture designs that Bernard Rudofsky looked arethe accessible world-wide, nameestigated importance at what ancient structures ly the WikiHouse. reveal about collaborative he process of trial and error design. Marrakesh, Moroconstructing within a communico (above) and Anticoli on The current definition raises quethe Sabine Mountains, near Rome (right) ries about the accessibility of design to those who need it Figure most. 5: Bernard Rudofsky looked at what ancient structures reveal about Have the advances in building collaborative design. Marrakech, Morocco (left) and Anticoli on the Sabine Mountains, near Rome (right). technology and provision of onw Has it Affected Community Self-Builds? 4 line creative platforms given worldwide opportunity to download, print and build; or alienated the self-built communities of the 1980s in modern day? By comparing the simplistic form of open source from the 1980s in Walter Segal's self-builds and contrasting with Alistair Parvin’ s modernised adaptation we can attempt to understand the advantages and limitations of 21st century open source on the accessibility of self-building.

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01./OPEN SOURCE ARCHITECTURE | WALTER vs. WIKIHOUSE

THE SEGAL METHOD PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE: CASE STUDY - LEWISHAM HOUSING ESTATE

Little House in the Garden was originally designed as a temporary wood cabin, and cost 800 £ taking 2 weeks to build. In fact, the structure became a precedent for the concept of involvement by the client, choice, and economy, using standard components and simple construction methods. Lasting over 50 years this house became the prototype for what became known as the Segal selfbuild method.


London Architecture Diary. (2015, FEBRUARY ). 'An Evening With: Walter Segal Self-Build' organised tours of two Walter Segal selfbuild schemes in Lewisham.

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During the housing boom of the 1970s, Lewisham Council purchased every vacant site on the market for future council housing. The main limitation was that the sites were sloping, small, softsoiled and covered in trees. It was here that Walter Segal's adapted and simplified method of design and construction was established and a partnership between Colin Ward, Nicholas Taylor (Lewisham Council) and Segal began. Segal, Ward and Taylor initiated the idea of a cooperative hous-

ing estate that allowed families on the council's housing waiting list to build their own homes. 13 houses were built between 1985 and 1987. This is still relevant today, as shown by the proposed implementation of Segal's selfbuild methods on a site in Ladywell, Lewisham by the original Lewisham residents. They hope to secure funding for a 'zero waste, energy plus, carbon negative social housing project', with custom-designed houses, under the management of the local authority. 


01./OPEN SOURCE ARCHITECTURE | WALTER vs. WIKIHOUSE

e of Construction:

No ‘wet-trades’ such as bricklaying are used, instead simtimber frame is used for dry jointing techniques with bolts and ws. There is also no need for heavy duty on-site machinery due he size and weight of the individual materials and assembled mponents. Each stage of the construction has been thought to be as simple and efficient as possible. For example, the roof mbrane is laid over the are used, instead sim-insulation/framing like a tablecloth for 12 ehniques of assembly. with bolts and AMBER RICHARDSON | PORTFOLIO OF WORKS

ty on-site machinery due terials and assembled on has been thought e. For example, the roof ng like a tablecloth for

DESIGN FREEDOM AND USER PARTICIPATION

Modular Grid, Layout Drawings and Structure. The structure is designed to fit within a Modular Tartan Grid ' posts are spaced either 600mm or 1200 mm apart (width of standard wall panels). This allows the end-user to easFigure 11: Diagrams displaying how ily create a floorplan within and lift into pla those boundaries.

Non-load bearing sandwich panels are used for the infill walls and partitions. These can be planned on the grid and also a Estwick & Amber Richardson (MArch1 2015) - Architectural Technology Research built tousing standard panels. Figure 11: Diagrams displaying how assemble the frame This allows end-users to alter and lift into place. the design footprint as long as it remains within the same outlines of the grid. The self-builder can use squared paper and Figure 11: Diagrams displaying how to assemble the frame models to personalize the design and lift into place. with the architect. Openings can Architectural Technology Research 9 be placed anywhere due to the positioning of the loadbearing structure, allowing changes to be made throughout the conACCESSIBILITY OF 9struction process. A surprising INFORMATION amount of design adaptability and future-proofing is evident, Layout drawings, designs and deas shown by one particular resitails are sheets of hand-drawn A4 dence within the Lewisham estate passed from person to person and extended their house to provide amount of design adaptability redrawn as the design evolves.


laying are used, instead simng techniques with bolts and avy duty on-site machinery due ual materials and assembled nstruction has been thought possible. For example, the roof n/framing like a tablecloth for

Figure 11: Diagrams displaying how to assemble the frame and lift into place.

EASE OF CONSTRUCTION Jon Broome in the 1986 special issue of the Architect's Journal offered an in depth explanation of the Segal self-build method.

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No 'wet-trades' such as bricklaying are used, instead simple timber frame is used for dry jointing techniques with bolts and screws. There is also no need for heavy duty on-site machinery due to the size and weight of the individual materials and assembled components. Each stage of the construction MATERIALS has been thought out to be as AND TOOLS simple and efficient as possible. For example, the roof membrane Self-build novices attend 12 eve- 9is laid over the insulation/framning classes to learn the basic ing like a tablecloth for ease of skills required; these include assembly. hand and power tool use, typical joints, basic plumbing and wiring. SITE SPECIFICATION Throughout the process the architect is available evenings and weekends, but the self-builders The building stands above the essentially learn as they go ground on posts allowing for with regular meetings on site. separate in-situ concrete bases below each timber post and The structures are created using eliminates the need to flatten standard size materials sourced sites. The size of the concrete from a local timber yard and ba- foundations also makes it simple sic carpentry tools. Segal made for the self-builders to dig the use of standard material sizes, footings holes by hand and filled each 8 foot in length so less with concrete using a wheelbarcutting and waste is involved row. This type of foundation almaking the process simple and lows the houses to be built on a economical. slope and around existing trees.

and future-proofing is evident, as shown by one particular resi2015) - Architectural Technology Research dence within the Lewisham estate extended their house to provide an extra bedroom as their family grew. The extension cost ÂŁ 1200 and took a mere three weekends displaying how to assemble the frame to complete. and lift into place.

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01./OPEN SOURCE ARCHITECTURE | WALTER vs. WIKIHOUSE

THE WIKIHOUSE METHOD PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE: CASE STUDY - FOUNTAINBRIDGE (EDINBURGH) WIKIHOUSE

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In Fountainbridge, Edinburgh, architect Akiko Kobayashi led volunteers in building a local community meeting space on a brownfield site. Beginning in March 2015, the community project was finally constructed in 3 days on October 11th, 2015. The former Fountainbridge brewery would become a new community meeting space for the temporary project.

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London Architecture Diary. (2015, FEBRUARY ). 'An Evening With: Walter Segal Self-Build' orgainsed tours of two Walter Segal selfbuild schemes in Lewisham.


The WikiHouse is an open source building system by Architecture 00 that allows novice self-builders and designers to collaboratively create homes. In 2011, lead architect Alastair Parvin designed online, open source housing designs that anyone could download and print. The scheme utilised plywood and a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) mill to create a design likened to a "complex Ikea kit".

His first prototype was displayed at The Building Center in London in 2014 and called WikiHouse 4.0. The home was inspired by the housing crisis in the UK and aimed to be the world's first downloadable 2-storey house, costing under 50,000. The structure was constructed in 10 days by Architecture 00 and ARUP Engineers and was an example of the WikiHouse in its simplest form.

AMBER RICHARDSON | PORTFOLIO OF WORKS 


01./OPEN SOURCE ARCHITECTURE | WALTER vs. WIKIHOUSE

AMBER RICHARDSON | PORTFOLIO OF WORKS

Images courtesy of Wikihouse via Bridget Borgobello

If the kit is not available in the consumer's area, members must register their interest to the WikiHouse Foundation, where they receive a link to the files via the collaborative platform: Google Drive.

DESIGN FREEDOM AND USER PARTICIPATION

ACCESSIBILITY OF INFORMATION

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The WikiHouse is a series of predrawn details that can be used by anyone to build their home. Users must access and download the files from the catalogue on http://www.wikihouse.cc.

Once given the files, members can access the information by using free modeling software - Google SketchUp - to extract the printable .svg files to send to a CNC facility. The building system can be mass produced by altering the house by its length using the 'grouped' components and alter its elements independently to improve the interior space in SketchUp. To participate within the WikiHouse community, members can


EASE OF CONSTRUCTION To construct a typical WikiHouse, the only tool necessary is a wooden mallet, provided in the kit. Since the home is manufactured using CNC, screws and nails are not necessary in creating this building system. The company has ensured that with this method, self-builders are less likely to make mistakes, saving time and promoting safety on site. The overall time to construct a house is dependent on its size. Cutting time can range between 3 to 4 weeks while the assembly can range from 1 day to 2 weeks. The system is essentially quick and simple to build.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Approximately 170 plywood sheets are used to print using the CNC. The CNC can be supplied by a foundation named FabLab which offers a workshop containing digital fabrication software across the globe in order for self users to launch their ideas. Architecture 00 intend to offer more construction methods and systems for different users.

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use the Google Drive and WikiHouse Commons platforms to discuss with other teams about their process.

SITE SPECIFICATION The house is built on adjustable timber rails to make it suitable for any foundation or ground condition. As for finding land, WikiHouse has only provided solutions for the UK by suggesting websites to apply for land.

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AMBER RICHARDSON | PORTFOLIO OF WORKS

01./OPEN SOURCE ARCHITECTURE | WALTER vs. WIKIHOUSE

SUMMARY WALTER VS. WIKIHOUSE

Accessibility of Design & Construction

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Both examples of open-source (simple/historic and digital/ modern) have essentially the same goals: to create authorless architecture that allows the end-user to regain control of both the design and construction processes. From the case studies above, it is clear that the 21st century advances in technology and consequential redefinition of open source have not only made elements of the process of self-building more accessible, but equally created new issues and complications.

Firstly, it is worth noting that the Segal method allows for clear interaction and communication between the scheme designer and the end-user, whilst Parvin's downloadable design disconnects the process and calls for a new architect to adopt or instigate. In most instances, the WikiHouse has been designed with complete control by the instigating architect - as shown by Akiko Kobayashi's role in the construction of Fountainbridge's community center, and the 30 completed WikiHouse projects world-wide, whereby external architects have either initiated the scheme or taken a lead role in the design and deliverance. This in turn results in an expanded line of communication - as shown in the diagrams overleaf.


Drawing

Architect

Both examples of open-source (simple/historic and digital/ Architect modern) have essentially the same goals: to create authorless architecture that allows the end-user to regain control of both the design and construction processes. From the case studies above, it is clear that the 21st century advances in technology and consequential redefinition of open source have not only made elements of the process of self-building more accessible, but equally created new issues and complications. Drawing

APPEARANCE OF WIKIHOUSE PROCESS

REALITY OF WIKIHOUSE PROCESS

the WikiHouse process

Figure 21: Shows the reality of

Google Drive

Built by End User

Google SketchUp

FabLab

of the WikiHouse method

Figure 20: Shows the appearance

14 Self-Builds? y: Open Source Architecture - How Has it Affected Community

appearance use method

by ser

Up

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ummarise, downloadable architecture has a long way coming a truly accessible open source. By re-evaluating ibility of these online platforms we predict a stronger Built can by New Architect and leto open source architecture in relation to self-build housEnd User FabLab

Technology

AMBER RICHARDSON | PORTFOLIO OF WORKS

logy

o confident Google SketchUp users. By using online platfree software, it allows global access whilst alienating the Technology ional Educational -builder. Educating the self-builders on the fundamental ops Workshops d to understand, edit and create allows the process to ntirely accessible. This is shown in the evening classes proin Segal’s self-builds. The result - a house that is accessible Google Google Drive and construction. FabLab vable throughout design SketchUp Fiona Estwick & Amber Richardson (MArch1 2015) - Architectural Technology Research

Firstly, it is worth noting that the Segal method allows for clear interaction ondly, it can be said that whilst the Segal method de- and communication between the original scheme designer and end-user, whilst Parvin’s downloadable design disconthe design stages of the self-builds - utilising nects squared the process and calls for a new architect to adopt or instigate. In most instances, the WikiHouse has been designed with complete d-drawn plans and model making - the construction control by the instigating architect - as shown by Akiko Kyobashi’s ain out of reach as the virgin self-builder is initially withNew Architect role in the construction of Fountainbridge’s End community center, and ser User Initiates project cessary carpentry/joinery skills. Parvin’s WikiHouse is op- WikiHouse projects that are world-wide, whereby the 30 completed external architects have either initiated the scheme or taken a lead is, with the construction of the house becoming more role in the design and deliverance. This in turn results in an expand-scale plywood puzzle and the design stages edbecoming line of communication - as shown in figure 20 and 21.

ing

ect

SUMMARY:

Built by End User

End User

the WikiHouse process

Built by New Architect and End User

Google SketchUp

FabLab

Figure 19: Diagram of the Segal process

Technology

Drawings

Educational Workshops New Architect Initiates project

Drawing

Architect Architect

Figure 21: Shows the reality of

Google Drive

THE SEGAL PROCESS

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Diagrams illustrating the role of the architect & User in each open source community self-build method

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AMBER RICHARDSON | PORTFOLIO OF WORKS

01./OPEN SOURCE ARCHITECTURE | WALTER vs. WIKIHOUSE


Accessibility of Design is strong in the Segal method, whilst accessibility of construction is favoured in the Wikihouse.

AMBER RICHARDSON | PORTFOLIO OF WORKS

Secondly, it can be said that whilst the Segal method democratises the design stages of the self-builds - utilising squared paper, hand-drawn plans and model making - the construction stages remain out of reach as the virgin self-builder is initially without the necessary carpentry/ joinery skills. Parvin's WikiHouse is opposite to this, with the construction of the house becoming more like a largescale plywood puzzle and the design stages becoming exclusive to confident Google SketchUp users. By using online platforms and free software, it allows global access whilst alienating the novice

self-builder. Educating the self-builders on the fundamental skills required to understand, edit and create allows the process to become entirely accessible. This is shown in the evening classes provided within Segal's self-builds. The result - a house that is accessible and achievable throughout design and construction. To summarise, downloadable architecture has a long way to go in becoming a truly accessible open source. By re-evaluating the accessibility of these online platforms we can predict a stronger alternative to open source architecture in relation to self-build housing. 


BIBLIOGRAPHY

(9th-11th October 2015) Fountainbridge Community WikiHouse - First hand documentation of Barnraising. BROOME , J.B. (1986). The Segal method: special issue. Architect's Journal, 183(45), 31-68 . BUILDINGCENTRECOUK. (2015). Buildingcentrecouk. Retrieved 23 October, 2015, from http:// www.buildingcentre.co.uk/exhibitions/wikihouse-4-0 Channel 4, Grand Designs: Hedgehog Cooperative, Brighton (1999). [Documentary]. Grahame, A. (2015, 5 21). The little house in the garden. Retrieved 10 15, 2015, from Celebrating Segal: http://www. waltersegal.org/blog/the-little-house-in-the-garden Hatherly, O. (2014, May 8). A spirit is haunting Lewisham. It is the spirit of self-build. Retrieved 2015, from Architects Journal.


Heslop, J., (1st June 2015) Self Build II - The Segal Method. Retrieved from Unofficial Culture: unofficialculture.wordpress.com Recount of resident Alice Graham INDIA-QUAYCOUK. (2015). India Quay. Retrieved 19 October, 2015, from http:// www.india-quay.co.uk/ uks-first-community-use-wikihouse-in-fountainbridge/ London Architecture Diary. (2015, April). An Evening With: Walter Segal Self-Build. Retrieved October 2015, from London Architecture Diary: http://architecturediary.org/ london/events/4740

ORME, J.O. (2015). Open Architecture. Creative Review: The Home Issue, 35(10). RATTI, C.R & CLAUDEL, M.C. (2015). Open Source Architecture. London: Thames and Hudson. Rudofsky, B. (1964). Architecture without Architects. New York, USA: Doubleday &Company, Inc. SPACECRAFTCONZ. (2015). Spacecraftconz. Retrieved 23 October, 2015, from http:// spacecraft.co.nz/what-is-wikihouse/

Medite MDF and SmartPly, WikiHouse Time-Lapse (September 2014) Retreived from:https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=fj60TkheH8M

Walter Segal Self-Build Trust. (n.d.). Walters Way, Honour Oak Park, South London. Retrieved October 15, 2015, from Walter Segal SelfBuild Trust: http://www.segalselfbuild.co.uk/

NESTAORGUK.(2014). Nestaorguk. Retrieved 23 October, 2015, from http://www. nesta.org.uk

WIKIHOUSECC. (2015). WikiHouse. Retrieved 12 October, 2015, from http://www. wikihouse.cc/about/

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Open Source Architecture and Community Self-Build  

Walter Segal v. Wikihouse

Open Source Architecture and Community Self-Build  

Walter Segal v. Wikihouse

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