Come Collaborate With Me!
Housing+ M.Arch. Studio 8, School of Architecture, The University of Sheffield, 2008-2009. Edited by Cristina Cerulli, Tatjana Schneider and Adam Towle.
Come Collaborate With Me!
Published by PAR ShefямБeld ISBN 978-0-9556669-2-6
Come Collaborate With Me! Housing+ M.Arch. Studio 8, School of Architecture, The University of ShefďŹ eld, 2008-2009.
With written contributions from: Ben Asbury Leanna Boxill Cristina Cerulli Adam Dainow Sarah Green Anna Holder Tomas Kangro James Kenyon Osamu Masaki David Rozwadowski Aditi Saxena Tatjana Schneider Peter Sofoluke Adam Towle
9 Introduction X
29 Calendar X
37 Conversations X
57 Essays X
99 Housing+ Timeline X
111 Images X
“Laid out in front of us is a landscape of contemporary housing. In the middle distance there is the memory of the Kelvin Flats, a huge 1960s housing development of deck-access housing based on the pattern of the seminal Park Hill housing. These projects were built in Shefﬁeld’s heyday when it had the conﬁdence to dream of new futures and when the Architectural Review devoted an entire issue to its pioneering architecture. Park Hill has just about clung on and is now Europe’s largest listed building, but the Kelvin Flats were demolished just thirty years after their completion. Opposite us, more 1960s housing has just been pulled down and is being replaced by eight storeys of student housing. These are designed down to very minimum and very speciﬁc standards; we watch as prefabricated bathroom units are hoisted up and clamped into place, closely spaced along the length, a long length, of corridors. [...] Rumour has it that elsewhere in the city student housing built two years ago is still half empty, and the owners in despair about what to do with it. In front of us more 1960s housing, this time in tower blocks that have recently been overclad at great expense, bringing the insulation standards up to contemporary expectations. Cowering under the tower blocks is a new development of semi-detached developer housing, ﬁddly little cavity-wall buildings with load-bearing internal partitions and pitched roofs stuffed full with timber trusses [...].” 1
EXPLORING COLLECTIVE PRODUCTION IN THE CONTEXT OF A DESIGN STUDIO LOOKING HOLISTICALLY AT HOUSING “What Now? The current economic crisis exposed the fragility of a social and affordable housing supply largely dependent, through Section 106, on private developers: lack of opportunities for high-margin proﬁtable developments has meant a decline in the affordable housing provision. Critiques of the growth-based capitalist economic system are not new. […] With regards to housing, there is a very interesting emerging landscape made of cooperatives, co-housing schemes, mutual ownership schemes, user developed housing. […] All these initiatives have the potential to deliver housing that is decoupled from the logic of capitalist growth, no longer a commodity, but simply a place to live, in a society that is more equal and just. These housing models, however, are not substitutes for public housing provision: they can only complement it. Public provision of housing should be saved and safeguarded... Even in a cost cutting, shrinking, pure accounting logic, the social return on investment of a well functioning social housing system should make a convincing case for investing in its upkeep (if short-termism is put aside, that is). All attempts to unravel public housing should be seen as politics”. 2
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By Cristina Cerulli and Tatjana Schneider —
Housing is everywhere, and yet, it is also nowhere. It is everywhere around us, it surrounds us, in a physical sense as built substance, and conceptually through its presence in the national broadsheets, in local papers, in the news. At the same time, it is a marginal topic in architectural education and remains an extremely loaded topic; one only needs to raise topics such as ‘Right to Buy’, ‘Defend Council Housing’, ‘Home’, ‘Land Banking’, ‘Space Standards’, and so forth. This book is an account of and reﬂection on a M.Arch. design studio about housing at the School of Architecture, at the University of Sheﬃeld in 2008/09. It came about because we felt that housing — needs, wants, desires as much as regulations, rules, laws — was rarely challenged in the context of architectural education, that there was a paucity in the engagement with not just the design, but the wider societal and economic context of housing. Whilst architecture students might design a house for a speciﬁc client or might design a town house or a series of houses in their ﬁrst few years of education, they hardly ever engage, are encouraged to engage or at least supported in a pursuit to understand the politics of the production of housing. Why does housing look like the way it looks? What are the diﬀerent ways of operation and organization? What is the role of public housing in an increasingly privatised world of development?
The studio Against all warnings, we wanted to take on housing as a topic for an in depth exploration, which lasted from early November 2008 to early June 2009. The somewhat ambitious aim was to explore the issues and notions of housing collectively and collaboratively, not only with the studio but also with numerous external ‘experts’, with the ultimate aspiration to articulate a new paradigm for describing, understanding, and eventually changing the production of our built environment. As Leslie Kanes Weisman makes clear
people, young parents, people who live alone and so forth. Mutuality, multiplicity and collaboration in modes of production within the studio resulted in design proposals that were mutual, inclusive, collaboratively procured and produced — and often included non-residential elements as condensers for further activities and provisions such as community self-build, cooperatives and co-housing, but also internet based fora and collective forms of production. X
“[…] you can’t transform the behaviour and identity of those who are being educated without the personal transformation that can only come from placing academic knowledge within the powerful framework of personally meaningful experience.” 3 The decision to operate in such a way had a number of reasons, but one derived from our understanding of housing as a collective as well as political act, one that can not be understood solely through the design of plans, but one that is inextricably linked with everything else that surrounds it: management, economics and planning as well as social use in its widest sense, both on a micro and a macro scale. The studio explored and researched the overall theme of social housing from a number of disciplinary perspectives as well as from the point of view of residents, designers, neighbours, young and old
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The pedagogical setting Collaboration between staﬀ and students as well as inter-disciplinary inquiries within and across academia is still not the norm in architectural education, a ﬁeld that has remained largely unbothered by radical educational reforms. We took the rather uncommon decision to develop the topic for the design studio together and go into this studio as equal partners, indicating that architecture as practice, discipline and profession is a shared enterprise. Moreover, we set up the studio as a loose partnership between ourselves, our students and a number of people in other academic departments and universities as well as outside the university, in an eﬀort to condensate, generate and propagate knowledge around the production of housing. In this spirit, we envisaged the setting of the studio as a research process that is open source as well as open ended and where every student would be an active member of the research group — where the methods, aims and objectives of this collective production would be identiﬁed by the group. In this teaching approach, students became active agents rather than re-active subjects. It communicates, in Paolo Freire’s sense, a “problem-posing” way of education, in which the students developed their own power to perceive critically. It is a process that highlights the world not as a static reality but as something in process and transformation.4 The framework for the studio was contrived to encourage a collaborative way
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of exploring, doing and proposing: besides our regular group meetings we organized an early ﬁeld trip (when all ﬁfteen of us shared a two bedroom ﬂat in a council estate in the East End of London) to look at more recent housing developments such as Peter Barber’s Donnybrook or the Coin Street community build programme, but also the now almost demolished Heygate estate or the Sanford housing cooperative and the Barbican; we had seminars and workshops on issues around the then very current burst of the housing bubble as well as on planning issues both in London and Sheﬃeld; we watched ﬁlms from Ken Loach’s Cathy Come Home to Mathieu Kassovitz’s La Haine and Bêka and Louise Lemoîne’s Koolhaas Houselife; we also regularly had collective meals, food fuddles5, and organised exchanges and collaborations with other design studios. From the beginning, this framework was explicitly open to negotiation and suggestion and after a while was taken on by the students who took charge of inviting people relevant to their own project, teamed up with their peers within the M.Arch. course, and organised workshops and seminars amongst themselves. The evolving collaboration amongst academics, students, researchers, residents, policy makers and others developed into a rich and varied setting for the students’ project proposals which were equally collective and collaborative in spirit. The physical collaboration was helped by a few virtual tools, most importantly a Ning site6, which became the hub for discussions and conversations between members of the studio and anyone outside they
Come Collaborate With Me!
engaged with, two of which are featured in this book (page 37). The Ning site was supported and complemented by a wiki site7, which held more ﬁnished versions of the initial research on case studies and also broader theoretical concepts. This digital collaboration tried and tested within the group, later became the driver and method for one of the design proposals. Snapshots of the collaborative processes and initiatives originated in the studio are captured in the weekly newsletter that the studio published throughout the year, to keep everyone in the loop on both their own projects as well as other issues raised in the group or external discussions. X
The book This book is to some extent a fairly accidental collection, but positively and deliberately, of the materials and people we worked with over this year and the issues raised, both internally and externally. The book is not a ‘show and tell’: it is not about the individual design projects that resulted from these collaborative investigations but is an account of some of the ways in which we worked collectively. It can be read as a map of engagement that is interwoven with reﬂections on process or as a roadmap towards a diﬀerent idea of what architectural education could entail. 1.
Come Collaborate With Me! is a collective production, a reﬂection developed and matured from a position outside the space and time of the design studio, and for most, outside the University altogether.
Tatjana Schneider and Jeremy Till,
Flexible Housing (London: Architectural Press, 2007), 3-4. 2. Cristina Cerulli, “Public Housing, Replay and Fast Forward via Play,” in Estate, ed. Andrea Luka Zimmerman and Johansson (London: Myrtle Press, 2010), 129-132.
Supported by the Centre for Inquirybased Learning in the Arts and Social Sciences (CILASS) at the University of Sheﬃeld, this book is an attempt to reﬂect on an experience that scaﬀolded students towards interdependent self-directed inquiry and research, but also facilitated an interdisciplinary and multi-perspective inquiry into the production of housing.
3. Leslie Kanes Weisman, Cristina Cerulli, and Florian Kossak, “Educator, Activist, Politician,” ed. Cristina Cerulli and Florian Kossak, Field: Agency and the Praxis of Activism 3 (2009), 10. See: Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, trans. Myra Bergman Ramos (New
York: Continuum Books, 2000), 83. The book was initially published by Herder and Herder in1970. 5. In local Shefﬁeld dialect: a party where all participants bring food and drink — these have become increasingly popular at the school in recent years.
6. Ning is a social networking and communication platform; it was freely available throughout the duration of the Studio but since then it turned into a subscription service and the content of our site is no longer available. 7. com.
Available at http://housingplus.wikidot.
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Craig â€” Age 0, 11 years
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Adam Dainow â€” Age 3, 5 years
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Ben â€” Age 0, 8 years
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Aditi â€” Age 2, 4 years
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Peter â€” Age 0, 8 years
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Tatjana â€” Age 0, 18 years
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Kieran â€” Age 3, 24 years
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Sarah â€” Age 0, 23 years
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Cristina â€” Age 0, 8 years
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Tomas â€” Age 2, 7 years
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Leanna â€” Age unknown, 1 year
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Adam Towle â€” Age 4, 20 years
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James â€” Age 3, 2 years
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David â€” Age 0, 5 years
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November 13, 2008 Studio Begins - research themes introduced
November 19, 2008 London: Donnybrook Estate, Broadwater Farm Estate, Childhood Homes November 20, 2008 London: Coin Street, Dominic Church at CABE, Heygate Estate with Mel Davis, Proctor and Matthews, Sanford Coop
November 17, 2008, 8pm Film screening: â€˜Cathy Come Homeâ€™ by Ken Loach
November 21, 2008 London: Sheppard Robson, Barbican with David Rosenberg, Walter Segal Self Build, Alexandra Road
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05 12 December 5, 2008 ‘Manifesto’ meeting Individual Housing+ manifestos published
November 24, 2008 Newsletter 01 published
09 12 December 9, 2009, 6pm Seminar with Andrew Clark on Intergeneration Interactions in Social Spaces
December 8, 2008, 8pm Film screening: ‘Koolhaas Houselife’ by Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoîne
December 01, 2008 Newsletter 02 published
December 11, 2008, mid-day Sheﬃeld housing walking tour with Nishat Awan
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January 12, 2009, 8pm Film screening: ‘La Haine’ by Mathieu Kassovitz
December 19, 2008, 12pm End of term presentation and discussion with peers
January 14, 2009, 7:15am Visit to Eldonian Community Based Housing Association
December 24, 2008 Newsletter 03 published
January 8, 2009, 12:15pm Impromptu ﬁlm screening: ‘Voices of Cohousing - Building Small Villages in the City’ by Matthieu Lietaert
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January 29, 2009, 10am Seminar with Paul Hodgson on The Economics of Social Housing.
February 12, 2009, 11:30am Duncan Bowie - all day workshop / seminar on housing policy, inclusion, regeneration, investment, and social housing February 5, 2009, 9:30am Model-making workshop
January 30, 2009 Newsletter 04 published
February 13 (Friday), 2009 Newsletter 05 published February 10, 2009, 11:15am Presentation by David Rodgers Executive Director of theCooperative Development Society
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March 13, 2009 M.Arch. peer reviews
February 19, 2009, 9:30am Workshop/Swapshop
March 9, 2009, 10am Seminar with Amanda Baxter from the AďŹ€ordable Housing Strategy Team from SheďŹƒeld City Council
February 24, 2009, 10:30am A talk followed by tutorials/workshop with Stephen Hill and Indy Johar
18 03 March 18, 2009, 2pm Seminar with Supitcha Tovivich on Experiences from Thailand- Housing for the Urban Poor
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March 31, 2009 Presentation by John Gillespie - National Development Director, Community Self Build Organisation
06 05 May 06, 2009, 2:00pm BuildoďŹ€site Workshop - Have we reached the tipping point for the main-streaming of oďŹ€siteconstruction solutions?
14 05 May 14, 2009 Project discussion with Judy Torrington and Dan Usiskin
April 15, 2009 Musical Newsletter published
May 06, 2009, 9:30am Permaculture presentation with Andy Golding - chief executive of the National Permaculture Society
June 19, 2009 Summer Degree and M.Arch. Exhibition Opening, Crookesmoor Building
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A CONVERSATION A between Peter Sofoluke, Anna Holder, Adam Towle, Kieran Walker, and Sarah Green on the Ning
COME COLLABORATE WITH ME! Posted by Peter on January 7, 2009 at 11:40am
I’ve been reading a bit of the book Wikinomics1 over Christmas which is very insightful into principles of Web 2.0 and how the web has developed beyond a publishing medium to a collaborative medium. The users become producers of information or consumers of information become the producers — a term author Don Tapscott calls ‘Prosumers’. Wikinomics (wiki + economics) equates to the economics of collaboration. In the book Don Tapscott uses the example of Goldcorp a gold mining company in hardship as the inhouse geologists could not locate gold. After hearing about Linux the CEO of Goldcorp decided to launch a competition online with a price of $500000 to whoever could tell him where he could
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ﬁnd gold. He received 77 replies from all over the world from a variety of ﬁelds using techniques his company was not familiar with. As a result the company increased their gold output exponentially and his $90m company is now worth over $9bn.
What about getting councils to indicate all the land or disused housing stock they own, perhaps using Googlemaps, and then inviting diﬀerent architects, companies, tenants, owners, residents to collaborate on proposals via a portal site and potential meet-up design sessions? Would it work like the Goldcorp competition, with prize money? Could it be a more collaborative version of Europan? Or allow more variety of scales; i.e. a residents group with a sound proposal to squat in, and do up, an existing disused block in a short timescale could win the money to do it?
Rather than operating under the closed corporate system the CEO opened the company’s ‘IP’ for the world to scrutinize as a result the world was able to help his company progress. How can this apply to housing? Rather than attempting to deploy an ‘architect knows best’ response to housing issues or ‘think globally, act locally’, why not open the studio to the world? For example I’m pretty interested in tackling issues relating to housing stock and the ﬂexibility of this stock in a multitude of levels. Could it be successful practice to deﬁne a site or area and then built a website that encourages existing tenants and others to collaboratively innovate proposals/solutions? Basically, is collaborative economics (wikinomics) the way forward in tackling housing issues? I thought I’d begin by testing it out on our Ning (which is a somewhat closed group) to see how this develops — your responses are encouraged.
Reply by Anna on January 7, 2009 at 1:08pm
Maybe look at (and critique?) some of the recent attempts to use Web 2.0 for social issues — http://www.ﬁxmystreet.com/, http://www.mysociety.org/, http://www. sicamp.org/?page_id=155
I got that book for Christmas too. “Could it be successful practice to deﬁne a site or area and then built a website that encourages existing tenants and others to collaboratively innovate proposals/ solutions.”
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participation, encouraging people from a variety of ﬁelds to participate — so probably setting up a website or portal may not achieve my desired results without some sort of incentive for potential participants. For example no-one else could participate in this forum despite there being shared interest. If I was to oﬀer some money it would inevitably generate more responses so maybe sourcing and tapping into some sort of ‘web currency’ could be a possible way forward for organisations that don’t have the ﬁnancial capabilities to draw in the ‘crème de la crème’. Hmmmmmm. I’m still not entirely sure myself so I’m open to more ‘collaborative’ input.
Reply by Peter on January 7, 2009 at 2:56pm
Hi Anna I really like the idea of creating an online directory of disused housing stock... a sort of a catalogue of all housing related problems in Sheﬃeld, similar to the Fix My Street example.
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In terms of what happens with such a directory: I’m very wary of issues surrounding ‘design by committee’ so maybe collaborative design proposals may be a step too far — appearing lacklustre in an attempt to incorporate the desires of all. However, the collaborative side may be best exploited as a means of information/ skills/ideas gathering which designers can then process and carry forward and the best proposal is implemented. These proposals could come from anywhere — for example as you suggested, residents with a strategy for a disused apartment block. Also you raised an interesting point regarding prize money which I did start to think about. In the case of Goldcorp the money was essentially an incentive for
Come Collaborate With Me!
Reply by Adam on January 7, 2009 at 3:42pm
Reply by Kieran on January 7, 2009 at 5:20pm
Interestingly, following Anna’s Googlemaps suggestion, one of the biggest setbacks in the UK housing market could be argued to be the ‘artiﬁcial’ constraints placed on land (Greenbelt, Brownﬁeld etc.). A radical experiment might be to test some of the most preserved and protected laws of the UK planning system: the Government relinquishes large area of unused land for housing, inﬂation in the housing market is reduced, developers compete on ‘quality’ and customisability, rather than simply £ per square metre. For a very cogent review of housing economics, if you havn’t already, I’d recommend you read Alastair’s dissertation: The Proﬁt Function2. It might be good for you to read up on ‘gift culture’ and ‘exchange culture’, one of the ideas closely linked to encouraging collaboration within the open source software movement. Try reading: “Homesteading the Noosphere” by Eric Raymond (http://www.catb.org/~esr/ writings/homesteading/homesteading/). An essay from the book The Cathedral and Bazaar3. This has been one of my ‘bibles’ since third year.
The idea of identifying used/misused/ disused land within our cities (and beyond) is really interesting, and is a concept I’m hoping to explore throughout the rest of the year. It is often via planning restrictions, and the protection of existing conditions, that the decision whether land can be used for one thing or another is determined. So while the identiﬁcation of land would be a major step, the removing of restrictions on it (as Adam highlights — which may up to this point have prevented the utilisation of that land) would be necessary for fostering exciting, innovative ideas. Combining, rather than separating functions should be better encouraged, and the issue of temporality should be better explored to better utilise space or buildings earmarked for redevelopment/demolition.
In this country, the ‘architect knows best approach’, (or rather, the ‘developer knows best approach’) seems to be the only one known in housebuilding. Culturally, I would suggest that we lack the knowledge to build for ourselves — houses are ﬁxed products of our consumer society — those that want/can do for themselves are often restricted by regulations and bureaucracy. So, the problem of aﬀordable housing is not only related to economic factors but to the fact that we have to have our houses built for us, in designated pockets of pre-approved land. And even if land was suddenly made available this would not instantly erase the issue of aﬀordability, as it would take years to utilise it all, inevitably dictating that quantity rather than quality would still take precedent. Facilitating opportunity for people to ‘do for themselves’ could force mega house-builders to readdress quality and innovation... I’ve rambled a bit here and moved away from your initial thoughts Peter, but I do tend to agree that design by committee has its limits. Furthermore, I think opening up the design of a speciﬁc piece of land globally could be problematic, though I agree that calling for specialist advice on that scale could be successful; mainly because it would facilitate fact-based answers to designated problems that would already have arisen at the local scale.
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Reply by Sarah on January 7, 2009 at 9:50pm
Peter, this is fascinating... I’ve just reserved the book (it’s in the library), hats oﬀ to whoever got there before me though! So what we’re promoting here is a ‘Wikitecture’ of sorts... the very essence of collaboration means that this idea will continue to grow and become multifaceted. Here is another facet to add: the concept of stockpiling skills, knowledge, land, tools (in every sense of the word) and so on got me thinking about StudentGems. com. In case people aren’t familiar with it, it’s a site where students are presented with the opportunity to create a proﬁle of themselves and their skills, a little bit like a CV but with digital ﬂexibility. The skills a student might list would not need to be limited to what they learnt at Uni;
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instead members are encouraged to list as many qualities as possible. For example, an architecture student who has a ﬂair for photography would note this on their proﬁle. Employers or clients also register with the site and then search for a student who possesses the capacity to fulﬁl a task or job that they are advertising. For example, a jewellery designer might wish to ‘hire’ the architecture student with photography skills to take images of her work; the student is then paid by the client and gains ‘points’ which are displayed on their proﬁle, denoting their reliability/quality of job completion etc. Perhaps this kind of ‘skills shop’ could be employed in the creation of the design proposal where the ‘applicants’ for the job could be moderated and then selected accordingly by their skills/proﬁle/portfolio/ experience. In this way, many individuals — students and otherwise — could be brought in to collaborate on the scheme. Of course we would need to consider currency and commodities, and not just of the monetary kind. Time, in this instance, may be one of the most costly commodities for those involved. This kind of project may require voluntary or inkind contributions to begin with, or some kind of sponsorship... but again, perhaps ‘payment’ would not always be in money — perhaps skills and knowledge become the currency, transferred as the project gains momentum?
Come Collaborate With Me!
Reply by Peter on January 7, 2009 at 11:46pm
Regarding the artiﬁcial constraints topic: before removal of such statutes it should be considered why they were initially implemented. In the case of Greenbelts, it was to contain urban sprawl. Although sprawl is contained, an ever growing number of people still desire to live in urban environments. The Green Belt Act does nothing to limit migration to cities, so by addressing geographical expansion without demographic growth we have seen a reduction in average unit sizes. Yet demand is still high therefore prices rise regardless of space standards reductions.
I feel releasing the green belt would achieve space standards growth but so will the footprint of cities… exponentially, and London may become like LA. Let’s face it, doesn’t everyone wants to live in streetaccessed, low rise housing? In many European countries, quality is a major factor in the production of housing — even with social housing. This may be in part because renting from the state is not stigmatized as it is here (we can thank Thatcher for selling oﬀ the best social housing stock through Right-to-Buy for that). Yes, in Alastair’s dissertation he talks about the shift in architectural production from public to private, this is because the government is, and has been, relinquishing ﬁscal responsibility of formally nationalized institutions: the building blocks of the welfare state, Housing, Healthcare etc. In a ﬂat little country between Belgium and Germany they have implemented a strategy that is essentially the reversal of our Greenbelt method, placing major cities in a ring known as the ‘Randstad’ (ring city) around a protected natural reserve known as the ‘Groene Hart’ (green heart). The ring makes it easy to travel between cities as you simply travel in a loop (like the M25), but also the ring is barely developed thus allowing for future growth… this picks up speciﬁcally on the Greenbelt but would probably be diﬀerent for Brownﬁeld sites and other restricted developments. What about Listed Building Consent, what if this was abolished? Anyway,
thanks for those links Adam, are there any particular subchapters in “Homesteading the Noosphere” that you would isolate or is it all pretty useful? Kieran I’ve picked out a couple of bits of interest from your section: “[...] the problem of aﬀordable housing is not only related to economic factors but to the fact that we have to have our houses built for us, in designated pockets of preapproved land.” Very interesting. Through a collaborative model one could begin to share skills which sort of links to what Sarah’s highlighting. “[...] I think opening up the design of a speciﬁc piece of land globally could be problematic, though I agree that calling for specialist advice on that scale could be successful; mainly because it would facilitate fact-based answers to designated problems that would already have arisen at the local scale.” I don’t think this is necessarily the case. Although sites are unique, social issues are global so for example the solution to Sheﬃeld’s growing number of ‘concealed’ households may come from Hong Kong where they have tackled the same issue. Sarah, regarding your comment: “[...] perhaps skills and knowledge become the currency, transferred as the project gains momentum?” There’s a strategy already in operation called a Timebank were people give an hour of their time helping in their
community this could range from helping an elderly person with their shopping to removing graﬃti. For every hour you give you’re entitled to take an hour from someone else who participates in the scheme. However, this operates on similar principles to a charity and I’m attempting to conceive a business strategy, in the business world money still talks (despite the poorly performing sterling). That’s how I feel we would get people to participate who have innovative ideas but no incentive to invest their time. At the end of the day, the reason the Goldcorp example was so successful was because a cash incentive was oﬀered. Having said that, I like the sound of this: “Perhaps this kind of ‘skills shop’ could be employed in the creation of the design proposal where the ‘applicants’ for the job could be moderated and then selected accordingly by their skills/proﬁle/ portfolio/experience. In this way, many individuals — students and otherwise — could be brought in to collaborate on the scheme.” So basically my interpretation of this (correct me if I’m wrong) is that skills are archived on a website, sort of like an ever-present CV and from that one can select and create a design team to conceive a proposal suited to a particular problem? Therefore this collaborative model could work on two levels, ﬁrstly by identifying problematic regions, then gathering ideas for possible solutions before selecting the most suited team to implement a proposal or let proposals come in.
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of the property market and its relationships with the wider economy and the state regulatory system” — would be interesting to talk to... I’ve only heard him lecture on the standard UK system, but maybe if you explained the potential scenario you are developing he might have some useful insights...? Another person to talk to in Planning might be Dr Jamie Gough — he researches in the area of the political economy of cities; also knows a lot about squatting, alternative approaches to property labour market etc... Could be interesting! In terms of removing all legislation on land — I personally am very ‘anti’ this! In the UK the immediate precedents are Thatcher’s Enterprise Zones of the 1980s. Based on the idea that if you remove/reduce planning restrictions, ‘the market will provide’, and you can get urban development, job creation etc. in previously economically depressed areas. In reality you end up with wealthy ghettos like Canary Wharf, totally monocultural/ monofunctional and completely socially disconnected to the surrounding urban fabric.
Reply by Anna on January 8, 2009 at 10:24am
This is a topic that is interesting/relevant to quite a few people it seems. Perhaps we should try to set up a seminar where we can discuss it and get some input from other experts?
I think what is called for is something more subtle, a more ‘creative’ use of legislation; seeing planning and zoning not at ‘restrictions’ but as ‘rules’ of the game, that can be pushed, played with, etc..
Potentially someone like John Henneberry in the Planning department, who specialises in “the structure and behaviour
Anyway, I think its a really interesting area to be looking at...
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This could be quite useful, we had a studio discussion today about all the upcoming talks scheduled so could be good to integrate this into one of those. Revisiting a point made earlier about using a web-based housing directory, I was pointed in the direction of this website by Tom Rooksby who wrote his dissertation on open source theory in architectural practice. http://www.precare.org/Website/Precare/ Main.php?lang=En&Menu=1&...
Reply by Peter on January 8, 2009 at 7:33pm
Precare is a mediator between property owners of temporary vacant property and artists or social initiatives in need of workspace. According to the website Precare has been operating in fourteen buildings for six years providing over 100 initiatives and artists with workspace. It’s success has led to the creation of branches in London, Barcelona and Milan.
Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams,
Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything (New York: Portfolio, 2006). 2. Alastair D. Parvin, The Proﬁt Function: Navigating Architecture’s Bottom Line (M.Arch. Dissertation, University of Shefﬁeld, 2008). 3. Eric S. Raymond, The Cathedral and The Bazaar (Sebastopol: O’Reilly, 1999).
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A CONVERSATION A between Ben Asbury, James Kenyon, Kieran Walker, Peter Sofoluke, Aditi Saxena, Leanna Boxhill, Sarah Green, Craig Western, David Rozwadowski, James Kenyon, and Tom Kirby on the Ning
THE SOCIAL CONDENSER IS A VALUABLE CONCEPT.
Reply by Ben on December 4, 2008 at 5:36pm
Posted by Tatjana on December 4, 2008 at 4:50pm
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I think the idea that places we design can be inclusive or exclusive is an important one to consider. In my opinion, for a well functioning society ideally all members should be able to participate. Spaces that are accessible to all and enable interaction for a cross-section of society (through shared use/occupation/activity/negotiation of space), social condensers reduce the likelihood of exclusivity and people being left at the edge of society. In the context of housing, addressing these issues could lead to places where people have stronger ties to each other, feel safer and enjoy living.
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Reply by James on December 6, 2008 at 4:32pm
The Social Condenser According to Wikipedia the intention of the ‘social condenser’ is to create socially equitable spaces. Intentional overlap and intersection of programmes creates zones of collision, zones that “create the environment where there is potential to allow for otherwise disperse social communities to interact”1.
everyone’s needs, in reality no-one’s needs are accommodated. Even ignoring the diﬃculty in designing a space that everyone would use (and want to use), the idea that a space can magically generate crossdemographic communication is ideological, if not naive. There is no reason why two people from diﬀerent backgrounds having found themselves in the same space should decide to communicate with one another. I am not suggesting that a space designed for use by multiple user ‘types’ is not a good idea (I think it is) but real consideration still needs to be given towards exactly who will use a space, how they will use it and what their needs are. Speciﬁcity in this sense should not be replaced by a desire for ‘inclusiveness’. As designers we should not be scared of exclusion. Exclusion of certain people from certain spaces is necessary in society, so long as not all spaces exclude certain people. Exclusion does not push people to the edge of society, so long as other options exist. We should acknowledge the fact that each and every one of us is diﬀerent and that this diﬀerence breeds diﬀerent needs.
But how can a space be designed for “otherwise disperse social communities to interact”? The concept of a social condenser is dangerous, not least in the context of a School of Architecture. Designing a space that is ﬁt for all, ‘inclusive’, is great in theory, but there is a risk that in trying to accommodate
Reply by Kieran on December 6, 2008 at 5:12pm
I think a lot of that is very true James. As post-war high rise housing developments have exempliﬁed, providing space for ‘all’ without any real understanding of how it can be used led only to vandalisation and misuse of often neglected space. As our discussions during the tutorial exempliﬁed it is the programmatic planning of space that often make these condensers successful. These programs or stimulus can be pre planned or arranged, like events in a park. In this case attendees would have a shared interest in the event and would therefore be more likely to interact with each other. I suppose our role as architects therefore is to keep the planning of space as programmatically ﬂexible as possible, creating opportunites or nodes for interaction. We can only provide the physical framework, facilitate and encourage relationships, but at the end of the day it is our own personalities, and our individual perception of these places that dictate the level of interaction.
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programme. To give an example high society social clubs intentionally exclude people that are not of such a background even if they have a strong interest in the high society lifestyle. Whereas golf clubs (one aspect of high society living) are welcoming of all so long as one shares an interest in the sport (and can pay the fee, but that’s a business formality), although it excludes all non-golfers one has the choice to join which is not the case with high society social clubs. Yes, as people we do have our diﬀerences and we should accept that people of similar interests/lifestyles do want to congregate but in doing should we advocate the emergence of a closed social groups, some may refer to them as ‘Gated Communities’ that are intolerant of new inﬂuences?
Reply by Peter on December 6, 2008 at 7:06pm
Pretty much the majority of my thoughts on social condensers are in line with the latter two responses. I feel social condensers are not the product of physical design considerations as Kieran highlighted, rather it is the interchangeable programme of a speciﬁed area that initiates social collisions as opposed to the ‘architecture’ per se. Touching on a comment by James, I quote: “Exclusion of certain people from certain spaces is necessary in society...” Exclusive spaces are diﬀerent from speciﬁed spaces. Exclusive spaces are designed with the intention to exclude/reject whereas ‘speciﬁed’ spaces have the intention to deﬁne programme, anyone is welcome so long as they show an interest in the set
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Reply by Aditi on December 7, 2008 at 11:40am
I think the concept of a social condenser is valuable, however, to make it fully successful is quite a challenge. From my understanding of a social condenser, you might see the street as one, where anyone and everyone has the right to be there. However, simply being a social condenser does not mean that “condensing” will occur. Following on from Kieran’s point, I think a condenser has to work hard to ensure that it deﬁnes the way in which it may be used. A space requires stimuli in order for it to be used eﬀectively. In the context of housing, using the examples of open spaces in mass housing estates, they were often unused and abused simply because there was no clear role for them. If we take the example of a playground within a housing estate, it can be seen as a kind of social condenser where parents of all status and standing bring their children to play with other children whose parents may be of a diﬀerent standing. Through the stimulus of a playground these people can come together and, perhaps with the common interest of their children, start a conversation and thus social condensing to an extent has occured. If a social condenser is able to break down the social barriers in this way in society, then it is a key concept in the success of neighbourhoods.
Reply by Leanna on December 7, 2008 at 3:33pm
I understand a ‘social condenser’ to be a space which can allow social interaction to occur. I also tend to think of it as a positive term. Not all interactions are civil, but at least there is a dialogue. To enable this dialogue to happen, there needs to be some shared interest whether it be politics or the weather, or a band, or work. Some reason for social ‘condensing’ to happen.
be positive or negative, or whether nothing will happen at all. I do believe that for a ‘social condenser’ to be successful, a degree of direct contact with other people is necessary. This idea of ‘exclusivity’ as Ben and James have mentioned is rather problematic, but I generally agree with James when he mentions that we should acknowledge that everyone is an individual with diﬀerent needs. Not all spaces will be appropriate for everyone in the community at one time, and that’s OK.
I think that spaces can be designed to facilitate this, though it cannot be accurately predicted what interactions will happen, whether these interactions would
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Reply by Sarah on December 8, 2008 at 12:25am
The social condenser is indeed a valuable concept. Its value can be determined in a number of ways — perhaps most markedly as a contribution to and inﬂuential element
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of architectural history. In its most widely acknowledged historical guise: the Narkomﬁn Communal House in Moscow2, — built 1928-30 — the social condenser was an experiment. Through programmatic and volumetric manipulation, inhabitants of the House were ushered towards an almost completely communal way of living which left only sleeping and washing areas as private spaces. As the Narkomﬁn development was essentially an isolated architectural endeavour, and this way of living was not ideal for many people, the concept gradually fell out of favour. The building fell into disrepair after being passed from one landlord to the next, and eventually became regarded as the remnants of a social
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experiment, although still inhabited in part. Despite this, the building is revered as an important landmark for its contribution towards Russian social history. The value of the social condenser in its historical context is evident here in the lessons that it taught society about the nature of the traditional family unit. The building proﬀered a utopian and feminist way of living which acted to push families out of their traditional day-to-day living patterns. This could be said to challenge the nature of a family dynamic which had been established over centuries. The political upheaval that occurred when Stalin came to power also meant that the scheme was looked upon unfavorably and
a part conversion of additional ﬂats was ordered to aid the housing shortage in the 1930s, altering the building’s programmatic qualities. Whilst the Narkomﬁn social condenser may have worked well in bringing inhabitants together (in addition to communal cooking/eating facilities, a gym and library were also incorporated), it would seem that in order for character and solidarity to be established, a family needs space to be a family as well as space for interaction with others.
who attended, sorry ﬁfth years) their ‘multipurpose facility’ tried to cater for all, and claimed excellent credentials for sports facilities, conference facilities and so on. But the space was so lost and confused it was barely suitable as a storage room. So to lead on from this, ﬂexibility is key, but it must satisfy at least one element of a brief. Could a gathering of interconnected social condensers with fewer individual uses respectably prove more sustainable or could this lead to conﬂict?
In modern applications, the successful attributes of the social condenser are often identiﬁable. These could be consolidated as a space which encourages social interaction whilst at the same time providing a beneﬁcial amenity for a community. In this form, the social condenser presents a valuable and current incarnation.
Unfortunately with our class-driven society there will always be segregation where there is a price to be paid or an element of consumerism. Due to the fact that people buy what they can aﬀord and tend to follow the trends of their peers. So it could be a fair argument to say that a social condenser should be a ‘not-for-proﬁt’ venture or space.
In our present society, the social condenser provides a space that oﬀers occupants the opportunity of social interaction to varying degrees. The value of such a space is represented by the extent to which the occupants take advantage of potential interactions and congregations, and what the occupants experience as a result of these social collisions. In short, the social condenser is a valuable concept because it provides a community, architecturally, with a controlled unpredictability - a space within which a propensity for ‘unprecedented events’ dwells. This propensity equates to dynamism, and dynamism is what maintains a lively and exciting community.
Reply by Craig on December 8, 2008 at 9:40am
During my 5th year, the ﬁnal project was driven by the idea of a social condenser, and from my understanding the whole idea was to draw people from all demographics, all age groups and backgrounds etc. The obvious problem arising from this is that to design for all on an inclusive basis means you have to cater for a broad variety of scenarios both present and future. A design could become so vague in trying to cater for all that in reality it actually ends up serving no purpose at all. If we take the Panda people example (for those
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Reply by David on December 8, 2008 at 10:19am
Yes! The exclusive/speciﬁc dilemma is a can of worms - if something is speciﬁc, it has an element of exclusiveness, whether you have to pay to use it or not. Two examples, are they speciﬁc and exclusive? Discuss.
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Devonshire Green skatepark is free to use for all, but it is speciﬁc in its use skating/bmxing/blading - and therefore excludes people who don’t participate in those activities from the main arena whilst those activities are taking place but you can just sit and watch. So is that non-exclusive? It is not exactly inclusive as you are not necessarily welcomed with open arms as it is used by a subculture you might not belong to; but plenty of skaters are exhibitionists and would welcome spectators. You can also run around and climb the whole thing when no one is there, or just sit down. So is this speciﬁc space exclusive? Is the huge area of football pitches in Hackney Marshes exclusive as well as
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speciﬁc? I don’t know it that well, but I imagine it similar to the skatepark in that it can be used by others when the main activity is not occurring. Does anyone know (Mr. Sofoluke?) if I could walk a dog, ﬂy a kite, play frisbee or have a barbeque on all that nice ﬂat grass, or is it protected by rules or the territorial surveillance of its users whilst not in use? The point is, vaguely, that places intended for speciﬁc uses are not necessarily exclusive, as long as you respect the intended use/users. Ramble over...
Reply by James on December 8, 2008 at 11:10am
Ben and I had a discussion about whether the problems experienced in certain housing estates (such as ﬂytipping) would still occur if the estates were inhabited by diﬀerent people. We concluded they would not. Why is this? Culture is one obvious reason, but could another be people’s perceived position in society?
Ben suggested the concept of people (quote) “being left at the edge of society” and this started me to think about society as a zone which has a centre, a periphery and an edge. Do diﬀerent people really inhabit diﬀerent areas of this zone? I think they do and so here’s a quick sketch that explores what people’s perceived position in society might be. [Note: I appreciate this is generalisation in the extreme, subjective and ignores other roles people may have, but it is nevertheless still useful for the point I want to make].
diﬀerent subgroups, but it seems the most important role of a social condenser would be to instigate interaction between those inside and outside of society. In this sense, perhaps the sole role of a social condenser should be to ‘bridge’ the gap between those included and excluded in society. By feeling part of society, people will develop a sense of ‘belonging’ (or whatever you whatever you want to call it) and responsibility for their actions, for example disposing of their rubbish correctly instead of ﬂytipping.
Interaction within subgroups, such as between teachers, occur anyway and in this sense a social condenser has little value. A social condenser may have more value if it can facilitate interaction between
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Reply by Tom on December 8, 2008 at 11:36am
“Programmatic layering upon vacant terrain to encourage dynamic coexistence of activities and to generate through their interference, unprecedented events.” 3 During our tutorials we have failed to agree on examples of social condensers (the Deep, bus stops, Alton Towers, Narkomﬁn Communal House) and yet in the discussions above the concept of a social condenser has been accepted and it has been agreed that ‘social condensation’ is beneﬁcial. But how can we consent to this whilst we cannot ﬁnd an actual social condenser?
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The concept of a social condenser can only exist as an idea, never in physical reality. Consider the triangle; a triangle has never been drawn; no pen has zero thickness, no line is ever straight, and no point is ever exact. If, as OMA deﬁne, a social condenser is a place where “unprecedented events” occur we must consider the possibility of an unprecedented event. In a planned or designed environment, how can any event be unprecedented? And how can any terrain be vacant? A bus stop can facilitate social interaction, yet no one could argue that an encounter here is chance, every aspect of the event deﬁnes a subset: the time people are travelling (e.g. commuters); the place people live (e.g. Mancunians); the existence of a public transport system (e.g. a developed country); and the location of this system within a country that does not allow free movement of immigrants (e.g. United Kingdom). These subsets infer that this bus stop interaction, or indeed any event, cannot be unprecedented or free to occur. Plato theorised that perfect forms, such as a triangle, tree or man, exist as an extramental blueprint or Form; what we can observe or perceive is just a representation of fundamental Triangle-ness, Tree-ness or Man-ness, for example. This can be applied to social condensers; no example presented can actually be a social condenser (where “unprecedented events” occur) but with varying ﬁdelity a manifestation of Socialcondenser-ness.
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As social condensers cannot be ‘aspatial’ or ‘atemporal’, they cannot exist in reality, yet by representing this quality or theory we can encourage social condensation. If we agree ‘social condensation’ is a beneﬁcial activity, we must also agree that the social condenser is a valuable concept.
Reply by Kieran on December 9, 2008 at 11:45am
Being on the edge of society, or excluded as your diagram shows James, is as you say, a completely subjective view, because the three groups you have identiﬁed as being outside of society are in fact as involved as anyone else. In fact, we probably have more immigrant doctors and refuse collectors than you can shake a stick at, plus most students do practical training as doctors and teachers before being oﬃcially labelled as such (I realise you were generalising). I suppose you would ﬁrst have to deﬁne what we understand as ‘society’ in order to decide whether a group can be excluded from it. On a very basic, pragmatic sort of level, I would suggest that any party or person aﬀected by the politics which governs them is part of larger society. In
look at Marx suggests, the individual is not an isolated being but should be conceived as a social multiplicity, not one, but one as part of a whole, and it is necessary to consider the individual given their social relations - the human essence. Do we lose our human essence therefore if we have no social networks, no society? Well if it is our choice, that is surely an exercising of human instinct. We are all part of one society or another unless we choose not to be, but this very move is not likely to be unique or at all easy... and unless we are a unique example, we will always be part of a category of people, and therefore, by deﬁnition, a society itself.
which case there are always going to be groups or people who feel marginalised by certain policies, or by the majority to whom policy is often directed. Of course this is looking at it from a large scale political (democratic) point of view. 99% of communist China, the majority, probably also feels hugely marginalised! A society ungoverned/ruled by politics can of course still be a society - in which case we can identify any social network of people as being a society, whether governed or not, 50 people strong or 5,000,000 people strong. So perhaps if we are isolated as an individual without a network, or group to interact with or belong to, we ﬁnd ourselves outside of that social circle you drew. Indeed as Roz’s
[Cambridge Dictionaries online deﬁnes society as: “a large group of people who live together in an organized way, making decisions about how to do things and sharing the work that needs to be done. All the people in a country, or in several similar countries, can be referred to as a society”] Apologies in advance if that sounds like a load of codswallop!
1. Wikipedia. “Social Condenser.” http:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_condenser. 2. The Narkomﬁn House 1928-1930, Moisei Ginzburg. http://narkomﬁn.ru. 3. Rem Koolhaas and Elia Zenghelis, “Social Condenser (1982),” Content, Ed. Rem Koolhaas and Brendan McGetrick (Taschen, 2004), 73.
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THE ROLE OF PUBLIC SPACE, WORKING WITH FUTURE GENERATIONS At the start of the studio James and I explored the topic of ‘overlapping and intersecting space’. This got us thinking about ownership of space, how it is used by people, and the factors that affect this use.
By Ben Asbury
Choosing a few housing estates in Sheﬃeld we spoke to a number of people living on each to gain very personal insights about the same environments. We spent time looking at and mapping the diﬀerent perceptions. This revealed contrasting opinions of the housing and diﬀerent uses of the communal spaces. For me this process highlighted how underused our communal spaces often are, and that they are in many cases not the inclusive, unifying places they are intended to be. By listening to these residents during my research I was faced with the importance of these issues. These people sharing
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their feelings about their homes and the estates upon which they lived, made clear the importance of housing and the responsibility of getting it right. Public spaces were often the point of much discussion; for example, as a place for fathers and sons to play football, but also a place where gangs would cause trouble. When these spaces work well they have a big impact on people’s lives just as they do when they aren’t working well, causing tensions between neighbours or concern and worry. As a studio we researched many areas of housing and had many visiting speakers,
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but we also watched relevant ﬁlms as a group. Cathy Come Home1 and La Haine2 were two that emphasised the importance of housing, particularly for those who have little choice about where they live or no supportive network of people around them. I became interested in housing for those in greatest need; particularly those most dependent on state-assisted housing or provided dwellings. For many of the residents I spoke to, the public space on the estates where they lived was not working. That is, they were not happy with it or how it was being used. As a consequence residents withdrew from
these spaces to their homes, and became spectators through netted windows. They no longer met or gathered in these spaces and came to know fewer of the residents. Our public spaces are most often where we meet new people or our less immediate neighbours for the ﬁrst time and as such public spaces play an important role in the creation of community3. Social connectedness can have a great impact on our feelings of well-being and our satisfaction with the environment in which we live4. For the sake of everyone, but especially for those who have less choice about where they live, our public spaces need to be considered communal spaces, spaces for gathering and interacting, they need to function and serve the needs of the people who live around them. For this reason our living environment needs to be conducive and encouraging of communal participation and interaction. It should be made easy to form networks with individuals and organisations in the places we live. In the design of our housing a signiﬁcant emphasis should be put on the design of the external spaces and in provision of amenities and support organisations, and setting up of community facilities, not purely on the individual dwellings.
design, higher levels of satisfaction can be achieved and so more chance of longer occupancies. A consequence of this is more stable populations and a greater chance of a community developing. Thousands of new homes need to be built in the United Kingdom every year to meet demand, this is a perfect opportunity to involve the people who are to be housed in their design. Collaborating with people from the start is a way of providing homes that people are more likely to be happy with, furthermore engaging future residents as a group helps to form networks before they even move in. XXX
1. See Cathy Come Home, The Wednesday Play, Director: Ken Loach Writers: Jeremy Sandford (story), Ken Loach (screenplay) (Television Series, 1966). 2. See La Haine, Director: Mathieu Kassovitz (Film, 1995).
This returns me to the original exploration into perceptions of the ownership of space. By creating communal space through collaboration with residents, a sense of ownership is fostered meaning they are more likely to use and be happy with it5. This is also true for individual’s homes; if they can be involved in their
Roger S. Ahlbrandt Jr.,
Neighborhoods, People, and Community (Plenum Press, 1984), 192. 4. Robert D. Putnam, Bowling Alone (Simon & Schuster, 2000), 326. 5. Herbert Girardet, The Gaia Atlas of Cities New Directions For Sustainable living (Gaia Books Ltd, 1996), 118.
The Role of Public Space
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STITCHING A COMMUNITY TOGETHER Collaboration was a central theme of the studio from the beginning. Inevitably, this methodology permeated into the project. This essay reﬂects on the process of collaboration within the studio and within housing.
By Leanna Boxill
Collaborating Studio The initial activities of the studio involved a group investigation of housing developments in London, continuing with an analysis of legislation and housing history. Contrary to traditional structures in education, where research is usually an individual pursuit, there was an expectation that a joint exploration of such a large ﬁeld as housing could yield a greater range of ﬁndings and could also help foster both group themes and individual interests to form the foundation for the studio. Schools of architecture have a tendency to become distanced from other ﬁelds due
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to the development of a certain type of studio culture, an exclusive culture in which popular designs and ideals are recycled without being thoroughly questioned. The architecture designed by the students is rarely examined by those outside the architectural circle. Historically, it is the individual designer who is prioritised within schools. Group working, which is necessary in practice, is undervalued as Sara explained:
“the traditional studio is a hothouse environment, isolated from outside inﬂuence and collaboration, and
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concerned with developing individual star architects. This model is proved to be contradictory to successful professional practice in which teamwork and collaboration are fundamental.” 1 To combat this tradition, guest speakers were invited with variety of expertise. They provided alternative views on housing and were encouraged to comment on studio members projects. It was the input from one of these speakers which led me to look at cooperatives as a means of procuring land and creating homes which could be aﬀordable.
Collaborative Management The design project brief therefore was to create aﬀordable housing with a mixed tenure to allow economic and cultural diversity. The design had to address the issues regarding the isolation of the site from its surroundings by creating connections with the residential community. The housing would be cooperatively managed with 40% of housing being aﬀordable and 60% being cooperative. The aim was to provide aﬀordable housing available to those on the council waiting list by adding to the depleting council housing stock. The cooperative housing would be managed by the residents themselves rather than an external body, and the level of rent would be dependent on the amount of income of each household so that the deﬁnition of aﬀordability is relative. The reasoning behind the creation of a cooperative was to generate communal responsibility for the running and maintenance of the buildings and the communal areas. Cooperative projects could allow the opportunity to create aﬀordable sustainable communities because the residents have an investment in preserving the places they inhabit. It would consist of a collection of people who have agreed to a set of joint goals, which would help to create a strong, supportive network with a community hub providing the centre for activity. Cooperative housing in Britain is usually viewed as idealistic and as something only certain groups of people participate in, despite many examples on
the continent. There are diﬀerent types of cooperatives which require diﬀerent levels of participation. What was proposed was a kind of ‘cooperative light’ where the residents would be expected to take care of maintenance and attend meetings to discuss the day-to-day running of the housing and facilities on the site, but would not required to participate in daily group meals and activities as is the case with some cooperative schemes. X
Collaborative Housing Design There is a need to reconsider the nature of the ‘home’ and the process of house design through the use of collaboration. Le Corbusier believed there should be a “revision of values, a revision of the constituent elements of the house” because the traditional house has not been altered to incorporate the changing times. As he writes in Towards a New Architecture,
“men live in old houses and they have not yet thought of building houses adapted to themselves...Religions have established themselves on dogmas, the dogmas do not change; but civilisations change and religions tumble into dust”. 2 He suggested that mass production may be a solution but this could lead to overly repetitious and homogenised built environment. An alternative suggestion could involve collaboration with potential users using true participation, rather than other tokenistic methods, to discover a new ‘architecture of housing’.
A diﬀerent building style could develop through collaborative design. As in Lucian Kroll’s Social Centre in Meme, my project would allow residents to have a choice of many diﬀerent facades with visual cohesiveness made possible by a united material palette. User choice invokes a sense of ownership of the space which is continued inside the dwelling, where rooms can be used for a variety of diﬀerent choices allowing autonomy when arranging their home and a display of their individuality. But this could be taken much further. The diversity in Britain suggests that standard anonymous housing is not meeting the demands of the residents and it is architecture which is restricting their home-making abilities. Home is a “notion, and it reﬂects our attitudes, values, and beliefs about ourselves”3 and therefore can reﬂect our cultural identities when given the opportunity. Through collaboration with the user, a new varied aesthetic could be achieved which could change the general perception of the architect as detached from the user, intent on their own goals and could allow the architecture of dwelling to evolve unique aesthetics. XXX
1. Rachael Sara, “The Pink Book,” in Writings in Architectural Education: EAAE
Transaction on architectural education No 15, ed. E. Harper (Copenhagen: EAAE, 2002), 121. Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture (London: Architectural Press, 1946),
12-18. 3. Irene Cieraad, ed., At Home: An Anthropology of Domestic Space. (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1999), 144.
Stitching a Community Together
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DESIGNING IN COLLABORATION When a commercial giant and a housing register can ﬁnd a compromise that is mutually beneﬁcial.
By Adam Dainow
It’s easy to look back on a Masters project with feelings of nostalgia, tender memories of self-assured ideas. Nevertheless the complex ideas we delicately create for years at university are destined to end their premature lives with a few nods and pokes from swarms of confused parents at degree shows across the country. The ﬁnale of two years of Masters exploration is put to rest in a dark portfolio, then into retirement — usually a parents garage, behind a set of golf clubs, never to be seen again. Its easy to think ‘well that was then, now we are in the real world, lets do real architecture’; the architecture
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of brick details, DPMs and window compositions, spending every hour doing anything legally possible to keep the client happy. This is supposedly the architecture of the real word. But this is not what we thought it would be. We thought seven years ago that it was our turn to make a diﬀerence, to make things better. Why does this all change so quickly? Housing+ was an experiment; a collaboration of ideas and people. Ideas were often fantastical, utopian solutions but the studio worked hard to make sure
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they were all based around real issues: facts, markets, people, costs, time and needs, real housing issues faced by thousands across the UK. We worked hard for these ideas to be based around possibilities of them actually being able to be realised. So why are they not? When you graduate, your conﬁdence in your ideas can be ripped out of you. Your dreams now seem impossible, you are dwarfed by the prospect of how to make your past ideas into reality. At university you are in a bubble, the world is full of problems to be solved, your ideas are valid and everything is feasible. Once ﬁnished
reality kicks in, the rent and bills have to be paid, you forget the last seven years of training, your collaborative open-minded guise fades away. Your life is divided into two halves. Things you did at university and your ‘career’ after. My project was based around the fact that last year there was a shortage of 160,000 homes in England. If the government and developers aren’t building them then who will? It is no good to design 160,000 houses; this does not solve the problem, nobody has the consequence to build them. I wanted to take a step back to see if you could set up collaboration between certain parties to make these much-needed homes. I wanted to see if big business such as Tesco could help solve the problem. Tesco is the country’s most powerful retailer and is also among Britain’s most powerful real estate companies, its portfolio is conservatively valued at £14.2bn. Tesco has also assembled a land bank of more than 185 supermarket development sites across the country, which could create more than 4.5million square foot of new supermarket space. It is more proﬁtable to buy large swathes of land and do nothing with it than to allow a rival supermarket to build on it. There is no point complaining about this — this is how multinationals behave — proﬁt will always come ﬁrst. So I decided to embrace this and create a realistic scenario to beneﬁt from this. I invented a viable scenario: with developers not building due to the downturn in the economy, Sheﬃeld Council looked at a strategy for big
business to help them provide the homes the city needed. Sheﬃeld council set up new legalisation on large sites that had been land-banked in the region. This involved telling Tesco they needed to provide 150 aﬀordable family houses on the ﬁve hectare site if they were to gain planning permission, or they must sell the land.
to be more sustainable to reduce costs. The store acted as a distribution centre for Sheﬃeld for online orders people had ordered in their homes. Rising fuel costs and the increase in internet shopping would make this type of building more and more likely. Would Tesco phase out all human contact with customers if it were possible? I believe they would.
The project was based around collaboration: could the architect act as the match-maker, someone to see the bigger picture, develop new beneﬁcially mutual relationships? If Tesco were not to secure planning permission under the new council legislation they would have to sell the land. This would most likely be to a rival supermarket. This could damage their leading market share, losing market share could hit proﬁts drastically and in turn their shareholders. Can you design collaboration to force new relationships? Collaboration often happens by accident, from one party approaching another for self beneﬁt. Who sees the bigger picture? An architect’s whole education is essentially looking at problems and piecing diﬀerent parts together to try and solve them. Sometimes a building is created, sometimes not.
I designed what is technically a large brick shed on a ﬁfteen meter grid. At ﬁrst Tesco would not take on the whole building as it is too big, the idea being that some smaller units would be rented out for local food producers for Tesco to deliver online. This collaboration essentially makes more proﬁt for Tesco, as they do not have to pay for transport costs to the store of these food items; it is also helps to create a more sustainable local food network for local producers and jobs.
I designed a sustainable solution to provide aﬀordable family housing on the landbanked site and a commercially viable sustainable food operation for Tesco. By analyzing the Tesco Strategy published in their annual report, the project predicted a new type of store Tesco would design, based solely on eﬃciency and improving proﬁts. To do this the store would have
Designing in Collaboration
The Tesco was designed with housing on its roof to produce 150 aﬀordable family housing units. This is very rare for such a scheme to be able to happen. Usually market value housing needs to be sold to enable aﬀordable housing to be achieved. However, due to the Tesco being built ﬁrst they take on costs of land remuneration, foundations, site preparation and infrastructure. By setting up collaboration between a housing association and Tesco, Tesco would give the roof of the structure to the housing association for free. This vastly reduces the cost to the housing association. Rather than just tick boxes of SDS, Secure by Design and Lifetime Homes, my design looks beyond the prescribed notions of accessibility
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and examines how ﬂexible space can be designed in homes to make them more socially sustainable and ﬂexible. But why should Tesco give their roof away? With increasing pressure on big businesses to be more sustainable and increases in prices of landﬁll, they could work in tandem to solve one another’s problems. Packaging could be burned in a combined heat and power generator to provide free power for the Tesco and housing. All wastage food could be oﬀered to the housing above. The end result is collaboration between business, local council, a housing association and local people. A mutually beneﬁcial relationship for all. Perhaps even solving the housing crisis in Britain. But that seems such a bold statement to say at the present, now that I work in the ‘real’ world of architecture, architecture of designing homes to make people wealthy.
the security of our studios, it is not likely that somebody is going to present us a job to manifest our ideas into an illustrious building. There are opportunities out there, but we may just have to ‘take a punt’ and try a little harder to get them. Cut out the middle man, the architectural practice and go straight to the problem. Maybe I will take out my portfolio from behind my dad’s old golf clubs and send it to Tesco. XXX
I recently read an article in the news on the subject of Tesco developing a very large supermarket and housing scheme. The project was declined planning permission due to the very poor quality of design and lack of sustainability. This is very close to the issues I tried to tackle. The ‘university ideas’ may have crossed into the real world. Tesco have invested millions already into the land, consultation and lobbying to try and gain planning for this project. Maybe this is an opportunity to put forward my ideas to Tesco of how they could collaborate and do it diﬀerently? Perhaps this is where we are all going wrong. When we leave university and
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INTERVIEWS AND OUTCOMES The Joint Construction of Memories.
By Sarah Green
From the very beginning of the project, there were clear intentions that the outcome would not be a singular gesture, but in fact a collective one — with the term ‘collective’ being interpreted both physically and metaphorically. The very subject of the project — a housing scheme — provided indications to this eﬀect. The proposals to be formulated would be ‘housing’ as a collective group of dwellings, not one house alone or a number of unrelated living units. The inception of these design constructs in the formative stages of the scheme served to determine the manner in which design work would be eﬀected, along with a focus
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towards a proposal which was to have collaboration at its core. The impact of collaboration could be felt even in the initial research stages of the design, even before any sketch proposals had been drafted. It was an intention to chart all contact made with the individuals who collaborated in some way with the scheme, to whatever great or small extent. These collaborators ranged from peers to visiting lecturers, to experts of particular ﬁelds, to interviewees. Each was responsible for conveying a particular piece of information that turned out to have an impact on the design, or cause
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the research to take a new turn or take on greater precedent than another line of enquiry. Cumulatively, the input of the collaborators as a whole had a considerable impact on the design, causing key decisions to be made, such as those regarding tenure, structural systems and community cohesion. However, when taking stock of the design process as a whole, it becomes apparent that the greatest impact made by these collaborative processes could be felt at the time the brief for each dwelling was established and placed into the ‘masterplan’. The brief for each house within the terraces
was driven by initial consultation and then an interview with its future resident. Each brief was drawn up to represent each prospective resident’s requirements and aspirations for patterns and modes of living. Model clients or ‘future residents’ were asked to elaborate on their current housing situation and how this met and failed to meet their requirements, whilst considering future circumstances and any changes pertaining to such conditions. By involving factual ‘snapshots’ of current living patterns from a range of individuals with diﬀering domestic set-ups, the eventual scheme served to oﬀer a very real and viable proposal for housing that addresses the needs of the demographic for whom it was designed. Due to the spatial ﬂexibility of the design of the scheme, the needs of an even wider audience could be accommodated who may adapt the dwellings to their own requirements. In this context, design collaboration with a group of very diﬀerent users produced an outcome that may not have been quite so viable if formulated from a subjective point of view.
collaborative eﬀorts of the interviewees and other participants. The outcome would not have been diﬀerent without the interviews and the way in which they coloured it.
Initial concept work suggested a preference for terraced housing; with the brief for each house being the outcome of the interview conducted with each future resident. Each contribution, assembled alongside the next, standing collectively as a whole in the form of a row of terraces gives rise to a beautifully poetic and poignant metaphor for a ‘joint construction of memories’. The interviewees knew of each other in most cases, but did not collaborate amongst themselves. The design of the housing scheme was the culmination of the
The housing scheme was designed to have community at its heart; the residents collaborate as neighbours in their occupation of the houses and in their use of the surrounding amenities. It is appropriate, then, that each new occupant draws on the collaborations of the recent past (the ‘memory game’ brieﬁng tool and the responses from the interviewees that informed the design of the current units) and the distant past (the design of the terraced house), in order to take up residency in the scheme and make their
In addition to asking each resident for a reﬂective critique of their current housing requirements, each was also asked for a spatial memory involving a dwelling occupied in the past. These memories turned into pictorial ‘playing cards’ depicting each resident’s contributions. These collectively formed a brieﬁng tool which would be used to re-design each unit in the event of re-occupation (new residents would use the tool to select design features that most appealed to them). In contrast to each individual brief for the terraces, enforced immediately to produce a visible outcome, the memory game brieﬁng tool is a projected construct, intended to encourage adaptations at a future date. In eﬀect, the brieﬁng tool is also a ‘joint construction of memories’, and when used as part of the design process, actually reinforces the collaborative component of the design.
Interviews and Outcomes
own impact on the spaces within. The richness of potential design outcomes throughout the life of the scheme becomes apparent here, and it is certain that without the inclusion of opportunities for collaboration, such design outcomes would be nowhere near as dynamic. Such is the multifaceted, unpredictable, excitable promise of collaboration. XXX
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DRAWING LESSONS FROM HOUSING+ Considering the architect’s role and ways of working.
By Anna Holder
A different view We stand very close. Uncomfortably close. Many of us in a room that was designed to accommodate few. We listen to the end of a story, a story of ‘decanting’, of boardingup, of keeping-the-squatters-out, shuttingdown, demolishing, starting afresh. A story of eﬃciency, timing, phasing; the following-through of plans to demolish a 1970s neo-brutalist social housing complex is recounted as a seemingly emotionless closing act. In the next room, audible through the insubstantial internal walls, a woman is
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bundling the last of her family’s possessions into black plastic bags and clearing away the traces of their inhabitation. As we tour the ﬂat, I feel increasingly out of place. Cartoon-character stickers cling stubbornly to the door of a tiny bedroom. This is not a view of housing architects usually see.1
it would be about more than form or building technology, and that we would also have to address our role as designers as entangled with a whole range of other factors inﬂuencing the production of the built environment. X
Coming face-to-face with a ‘failed’ housing estate — where the physical structure of blocks of ﬂats was being erased to address problems at least equally economic, social and political — was an important foundation point for the Housing+ studio. We began our investigation of housing architecture with an understanding that
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Hindsight Mid twentieth century high-rise housing was constructed to address pressing housing shortages following the destruction of many urban residential areas in the Second World War. Tower blocks
were espoused for their supposed ability to provide more dwellings than low-rise housing. Following the breakdown, both social and material, of many estates of this type the period of development has come to be seen as a ‘social experiment’ that failed. The initiation and delivery of highrise housing was a grand project of central and local government, involving diﬀerent professions, from environmental health, planning and architecture, working with humane intent. That so many qualiﬁed and well-meaning actors could collude to produce social housing later widely judged as short-sighted, inappropriate and false economy has been explained by commentators as a product of alignment of many ‘vested interests’ in seeing new housing forms realised:
“The many different agents including both central and local government (each for its own reasons desperate to clear the slums) […] environmental health professionals zealous in their public health mission, town planners anxious to renew obsolete urban areas […] and architects impatient to create ‘Modern’ architecture.” 2 Reﬂecting on the mistakes of mass housing provision in the past, emphasises the importance of questioning not just the design of housing, but how it is provided, who is involved and what their intentions are. There is a value in looking outside of our own profession, interrogating our own intentions and motivations and those of others, and not accepting as given the views and knowledge of those other professionals we work alongside.
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Looking beyond An important element of the Housing+ studio was its engagement with how housing projects are delivered with the diﬀerent forms of governance and procurement, and also how this might relate to or build on other infrastructures and sectors in the built environment. Students looked critically at housing policies and regulations, not just using them as a framework to design within, but questioning and proposing alternatives, and drawing inspiration from other ways of working. Mass collaboration, of the type employed by some web developers and espoused by proponents of ‘wiki’ knowledge-sharing provided the studio with an alternative vision of working together. The strengths of this mode of practice are the ability to tackle large and seemingly intractable problems, providing they are well-framed and suit an iterative or testing and reﬁning mode of development, and also the ease with which web based tools allow knowledge to be communicated. Without directly employing mass collaboration techniques, drawing lessons from projects such as Wikipedia can prove important to architects thinking critically about their approach to knowledge creation and dissemination of outputs. It demonstrates the wealth of knowledge held by a wide range of people and the valuable outputs which come from freely sharing it, an important lesson to the construction industry and building professions, with
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their knowledge silos and careful guarding of boundaries of expertise. Several of the projects in Housing+ built on knowledge gained from consulting potential housing users, through interviews and co-design activities or through tapping into existing online community networks. The projects produced by the participants in the Housing+ studio were important as much for their experimentation with ways of working which prompted students to ask questions about those they might communicate and work with in producing the built environment, about how they produce knowledge and for whom. XXX
1. Notes from the Housing+ ﬁeldtrip, on visiting the to the soon-to-be demolished Heygate estate, South East London. 2. Alison Ravetz, Council Housing and Culture: The History of a Social Experiment (London: Routledge, 2001), 105.
BUILDING TOGETHER A collection of interesting — and perhaps worrying — observations.
By Tomas Kangro
I have chosen to use this essay to reﬂect on some of the lessons I learnt through our studio research and compare these with some of the lessons I am currently learning through my professional experience. Having now spent a year in practice since completing RIBA Part II, working exclusively on urban housing projects, I feel I am now in a better position to discuss the topic of ‘building together’ than I was a year ago. This essay has also been punctuated with extracts of notes I have kept over the last year in work. X
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Good Relationships = Good Housing I believe the design of successful housing to be one of the most important roles that an architect can have, yet the architect cannot achieve this goal in isolation. The process of procuring housing is, and should be, a collaborative eﬀort; and that necessitates a positive working relationship with every member of the project team. University is where I have most commonly experienced the rewards of working as a team and the Housing+ studio was an example of this.
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While it may seem obvious to comment that a good working relationship constitutes good work, in my four years working within the construction profession such relationships have been surprisingly rare. I have often experienced a mounting tension within teams as a project progresses. Similarly, a signiﬁcant proportion of my RIBA Part 3 material addresses these very problems.
“The contractor sent an e-mail saying our outstanding fees were being withheld as they had found out that the constructed disabled inhabitant units would not meet
local authority requirements. It took the project architect the best part of a day to compile all the evidence we had (e-mails, meeting minutes and drawings) that on numerous occasions we had warned the contractor not to build the units before signing the designs off with the local authority and they had chosen to ignore our advice. The contractor ended up paying our fees.”
be excellent communicators, able to clearly express themselves and interpret from others in order to understand and work towards the common goals of a project team.
“It is important to be as helpful as possible when dealing with contractors and consultants we do not want to be known for messing people around, prioritise situations as they occur and deal with them efﬁciently”
Accordia, Cambridge is a recent example of successful housing, grown from good working relationships. Three architecture ﬁrms: Feilden Clegg Bradley, Maccreanor Lavington and Alison Brooks Architects successfully collaborated in 2008 with landscape architects, planners and developers to produce the ﬁrst ever high-density housing scheme to win the Stirling Prize, described by the judges as “an exhilarating project which marked a paradigm shift in British housing, sending a message to an industry that has for too long been anti-design and to politicians who have regarded houses as targets to be achieved.”1 X
Understanding Common Goals So, if good relationships are vital to producing good buildings, the responsibility falls on the architect, as ‘lead’ consultant, to possess the qualities that will maintain and facilitate these relationships. In order to ‘build together’ architects must
Advice from a company director, November 2009
I have found that, to successfully work together, a team must have a shared set of goals. Although ultimately our aims were to pursue individual paths, our studio had a shared interest to increase our collective understanding of the subject of UK housing. This common goal enabled us, through the duration of our studio research, to complement and support each others work, rather than conﬂict or repeat. The process of researching intertwining topics as a group resulted in a strong collaborative work ethic that continued beyond the group work and inﬂuenced our independent projects. By contradiction I have found a surprising lack of ‘common’ goals within the professional housing industry. While, of course, there is a shared goal to produce good housing, it seems ‘good housing’ means something diﬀerent to each individual involved. For a developer ‘good housing’ might mean units that are cheap, quick to build and maximise proﬁt,
for a resident it might mean aﬀordable, comfortable and cosy, and for an architect it could mean technologically progressive, formally beautiful, contextually appropriate or eﬃciently planned. How can a team work successfully together when the various needs and motives of the individual players conﬂict?
“The planners sent back comments on our drawings asking for higher quality materials like stone for the cladding on the main facade, the client said we should update our drawings to show this, after the meeting my boss said we will show it but it will end up being removed by the client in the end...a week later following a meeting with the client we were asked if it could now be brick?” October 2010
Perhaps this issue is the reason that so much legislation exists in the residential sector, and why it is becoming more onerous. Strict building regulations force people to work together towards the legal meaning of ‘good housing’, while protecting the needs of the weaker members of the process, namely, the future residents. An example of these increasing demands on housing is the challenge of developing zero-carbon homes by 2016. Government legislation to reduce carbon emissions in the building industry will force the industry to work together more. Stephen Stone, chief executive of Crest Nicholson Plc. states “housebuilding is very competitive and we are all protective of our land buying and sales machines and
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build systems. Suddenly we’ve realised that to deliver zero carbon homes we need to work together, not only sharing information but actively engaging with our supply chain too[...] unless we do it collectively, there are going to be gaps.”2 X
Communication The above quote also highlights that in order to achieve a shared goal it really helps to communicate and share information. As a group, the studio communicated through a varied of means that each had their own merit. Group discussion was how we properly debated ideas and discussed topics. This was aided by the fact we were mostly working in the same space. The same can be said for my professional work in an oﬃce where we discuss matters openly and collectively in meetings or via the phone. Meeting with the entire design team is a great way of rapidly progressing a project, but distance and time are often an issue. Whether we are speaking to a contractor on site or recording meeting minutes it all has to be done clearly, accurately and eﬃciently.
“The client has postponed our ﬁrst design team meeting for the third week in a row, it would be really useful to get everyone around the table to discuss the key issues so we can start to progress our designs, we don’t even know who the structural engineer is yet.” February 2010
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An area that continues to change the way we communicate is technology and I strongly believe technology will continue to impact on the way architecture is practised. An interesting example of this is Building Information Modelling or BIM; where all designers and consultants can work collaboratively on a single, real time dynamic three dimensionsal model. Whilst it has been around for a while, its use within the construction industry is steadily increasing and people are starting to acknowledge the beneﬁts of using it with large projects involving many consultants and design teams.
“For the fourth time in the last two weeks we have exchanged drawings with the structural engineers where the columns do not coordinate, if we were all working from the same plans this would not have happened” September, 2010
Awareness Our studio research was shaped around a framework of trying to fathom the forces that shape the supply of UK housing. To get to grips with the subject, a host of speakers, often coming from outside of the school and outside of architecture, held lectures and workshops on subjects such as economics, planning and psychology. It was an insightful and inﬂuential part of the studio research that placed our own projects within a more realistic context. A key piece of work to come about through this process was a graphical time-line
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(ﬁgure 1) that visually represented the relationships between historical, political, economic and social inﬂuences on the housing situation in the UK. It was a useful tool as it allowed us to visually represent our understanding of our research but also very quickly allowed others external to the group to understand what we had done. The studio also coincided with a time when the front pages of our newspapers were overwhelmed with the news of a severe house market crash and predictions of the numerous problems we will face as a society. The wider inﬂuences surrounding the design of housing have also been apparent in practice where the current economic situation is aﬀecting everything: salaries, payment of fees, the size and amount of enquiries. Everyone in the oﬃce is aware how low fees are and how tight programmes have become and this in turn has aﬀected our work.
“How many of you read the architecture journals and BD? Now how many of you read the FT? Then be fucking damned.” 3 X
Conclusion Put simply, my experience of the Housing+ Studio made me realise the impact and responsibility architecture has on the design of our built environment, and that a good designer should be aware of, and positively engage with, the wider forces that govern their work.
“Environment is more than physical environment, it is a combination of physical, social and personal factors. To these factors should be added political, psychological and economic considerations, the processes of attainment as well as the goals... Housing policy could not be governed by any one of these forces[...] but must value all factors.” 4 XXX
Figure 1. The Housing+ timeline. Reproduced on page 99.
1. Wikipedia. “Accordia.” http:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accordia. 2. Stephen Stone, an afterword in “Towards Zero,” published by the Zero Carbon Hub, as a supplement in Building Design Magazine, June 2010. 3. Spoken by one of the studio collaborators at a lecture he gave in 2009. Martin Pawley, Architecture Versus Housing: A Modern Dilemma (New Concepts of Architecture) (London: Studio Vista Limited, 1971),
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A PROJECT WITHIN A PROJECT Collaboration was a core idea within the project, beginning along distinct paths, which inadvertently intertwined over time. This short essay critically reﬂects on the types of collaboration which occurred and how the project itself became an opportunity for collaboration.
By James Kenyon
As a way to get things built An important objective of the project was to design a method by which local people could fund and build their own amenities within the local context. Collaboration became a tool by which this could be achieved, involving the formation of a development cooperative — a joint venture between various local parties. This method not only provided people with the ﬁnancial strength required, but challenged the “intrinsic aggressiveness of architecture and the forced passivity of the user”1. It facilitated the empowerment of individuals and them taking ownership to ensure the
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long term success and sustainability of the scheme. X
As a response to a social issue The brief for the design project combined the development of accommodation for older people with a vocational training college. The building was designed on the notion of allowing the various user groups (notably old people and students) to be aware of one another’s existence. In this way it was anticipated that collaborations might occur through various acts of
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observation, communication, conversation and knowledge transfer, which could provide reciprocal beneﬁts to both giver and receiver. X
As a way to gain information A third way of collaborating originated outside the theoretical constructions of the project and represented a method by which information could be gathered. Throughout history architects have distanced themselves from the ‘everyday’. The role of the architect has always been
closely aligned to that of the ruling power — the only force capable of furnishing him with the “money, land and authority to act”2. However, a distinguishing feature of this project, as with many projects undertaken at Sheﬃeld is its preoccupation with tackling social issues. The project originated from a desire to tackle the problem of isolation within the elderly care system. Having empathy, but no deep understanding meant there was a need to contact people outside the school and collaborate with them to gain a valuable insight into complex workings (and failures) of the care system. This represented a necessary step in constructing the user as someone with particular physical and emotional needs as opposed to the ‘universal’ user. Collaboration can be seen to have penetrated this project at both a theoretical and applied level. Collaboration outside the conﬁnes of the school meant the project itself was having a positive impact. I visited Megan in an old people’s home and other than her daughter, was her only visitor that week. Afterwards staﬀ remarked how happy she had been to talk to me and how my visit had “made her day”. The project therefore not only helped link the school with the surroundings in which it works, but more importantly, it linked young and old people and actively addressed the issues of isolation and loneliness.
“The community stagnates without the impulse of the individual. The impulse dies away without the sympathy of the community.” 3
Perhaps the most important drawing in the project involved the inclusion of me, the architectural student, in the development scenario of the project. It was understood that local people had the desire to improve their local area, but not the skills or foresight to enact this improvement themselves. In considering how this improvement could be instigated, it was realised that ‘I’ the architectural student could be ‘provoker’ and the project itself the catalyst by presenting an alternative future. The realisation that the act of carrying out this project could itself have an impact on the project, represented a fusion of theory and practice, of academia and the ‘real world’. The project no longer became solely about fulﬁlling criteria for academic
A Project Within a Project
qualiﬁcation, but instead developed the potential to impact beyond the conﬁnes of academia. XXX
1. Giancarlo. De Carlo, “Architecture’s public”, in P. Blundell Jones, D. Petrescu and J. Till, Architecture and Participation (Abingdon: Spon Press, 2005), 13. 2.
3. William James, Great Men, Great Thoughts, and the Environment, Atlantic Monthly, October (1880).
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PERMACULTURE, HOUSING, COLLABORATION The term ‘permaculture’ was coined from ‘permanent’, ‘culture’, and ‘agriculture’ in the 1970s, by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren.1 Their approach can simply be described as a philosophy for living permanently in one place.2
By David Rozwadowski
To practice permaculture is to use, manage and maintain available resources and the environment optimally and regeneratively, producing multiple yields from natural systems. The philosophy promotes common land ownership and stewardship; community self-governance; renewable tools and technology; cohousing and self-organised housing; self-building and resource eﬃciency in the built environment; holistic health and wellbeing; ethical ﬁnance and cooperative economics; and a culture of participative arts and learning3. It is easy to categorise many environmental and communal activities under the umbrella of permaculture,
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whether or not the practitioners are aware of it. X
Housing Within it’s broad umbrella, Permaculture encourages self-help and communal housing solutions — self-building, cooperatives and cohousing schemes. Cooperatives and cohousing oﬀer a communal way of funding, building, inhabiting and managing a residential community. A cooperative is an autonomous association of people, who
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have agreed to meet their common needs through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise. In a housing cooperative, members own equity or rights to occupy, and they underwrite the costs of their housing by paying a subscription or rent. Income is used to fund, maintain, upgrade and expand the properties and facilities. Cohousing is an intentional community of people wishing to live in a more sociable setting, comprising individual homes, supplemented by extensive common facilities, usually a large kitchen and dining room where members come together
to cook, eat, socialise and manage their community, and ancillary functions such as laundries, heating systems, guest rooms, car pools and workshops. Usually set up and run by their members for mutual beneﬁt, cohousing group members are consciously committed to living as a community and such developments are designed to encourage social contact and a sense of neighbourliness among members. Cohousing oﬀers beneﬁts for families with children and the elderly, including mutual support from other members. Whether cooperative housing encourages environmental awareness; or people of that disposition are attracted to housing coops; or whether the truth is somewhere in between, we can see examples of housing coops pushing for shared facilities which reduce the inhabitants’ environmental impacts. The Sanford Housing Coop in London has installed eﬃcient on-site energy generation using wood-chip CHP boilers, the BedZed housing scheme was designed to minimise its inhabitants environmental impact by making eﬃcient use of shared spaces and facilities. My view of Permaculture is as a social and environmental system which can support a community, and my ﬁnal project was designed within the overall philosophy of generating multiple yields from regenerative systems4. The useful excesses of a housing scheme developed around these ideas could include tangible outputs such as a shared laundry and small-scale power generation, and less deﬁnable excesses as having neighbours to feed your cat and water your plants when you are away.
Community Power Generator
Common Lounge Laundry
Common Gardening and Growing Space
Waste and Recycling
Permaculture: Ethical and Design Principles © David Holmgren 2002 Redrawn to identify key parts of the philosophy relevant to housing/cohousing
Permaculture, Housing, Collaboration
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Collaboration Whilst possible to practice Permaculture’s principles of environmental maintenance alone, it would be a rather hermitic lifestyle when taken to extremes. The communality promoted by Permaculture is intrinsically collaborative, as the actions of a network of people can have greater eﬀect than the individual. Illustrating the power of collaborative networks, in Sheﬃeld, over the course of twelve months, the Meersbrook Heeley Transition Initiative has grown from a handful of organised people to an established network of active participants hosting events promoting low-carbon living, skills exchanges and ideas swaps, and setting up a community supported agriculture scheme. The communal housing it encourages is often viewed with suspicion. It sometimes seems ridiculous to propose something so silly as talking to your neighbours, but in many eyes, co-housing is something of a revolution, and as well as encouraging sociability, can lower housing costs and energy bills, and reduce environmental impact by more eﬃcient use of resources. If a co-housing scheme appeared in an area, it could perhaps set the standard for future housing, and encourage existing neighbourhoods to become more collaborative.
1. Permaculture One and Two introduced Mollison and Holmgren’s concepts to the world. Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, Permaculture One: A Perennial Agriculture for Human Settlements (Australia: Transworld Publishers, 1978). Bill Mollison, Permaculture Two: Practical Design for Town and Country in Permanent Agriculture
(Australia: Tagari Press, 1979). 2. Andy Goldring, UK Permaculture Association, lecture at ‘Grow Shefﬁeld’ AGM (10.02.09). Audio recording available online at www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2009/02/421873.html.
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ORGANIC+ BIODYNAMIC GROWING
EARTH+ STRAW BUILDING OWNER/ SELFBUILD
WILD FOOD +FORAGING
APPROP -RIATE TECH
LAND TENURE+ COMMUNITY GOVERNANCE
TOOLS+ TECHNOLOGY BICYLE TRANSPORT
HEALTH+ WELLBEING HOME+ STEINER SCHOOL
SUBSCRIP -TION FARMING
READING LANDSCAPE +PLACE WWOOF LETS
CHILDREN +ELDERLY CARE
YOGA+ BODY/MIND DISCIP -LINE
The “Permaculture Flower” describes the approaches core principles.
THE STREET AS A SOCIAL SPACE, AS A SPACE OF INTERACTION This essay is based around the concepts developed during my thought process in the studio and the eventual culmination of these ideas into a project focussing on the creation of lively public spaces within housing; ‘living streets’1.
By Aditi Saxena
The street: a route through, a parking place, the space outside your house, a place that is not your own. The street may be all of the above but it has the potential to be much more. It is a public space but not necessarily a negative one. Its public nature should be used to enrich the lives of those who live adjacent, around or near it. It should be seen as an extension of the living space and it should be appropriated to allow for interactions to occur. Historically streets were used as spaces of interaction (ﬁgure 1). But over time this
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has changed and housing developments which took place in the 1950s and 60s led to a ‘high-rise culture’ meaning that residents became increasingly detached from the public realm. This detachment led to a decrease in social interactions and deterioration of outdoor public space. My project aimed to bring back the idea of the street as a social space and as an extension of the dwelling. But how can streets become more ‘sociable’? The way to encourage people to use the public spaces around their homes is to design these spaces to allow them to be appropriated. Architects need to create innovative
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solutions to the public-private transition zone2 which is commonly known as the ‘front garden’. Streets must be designed to allow the “personalisation of space”3 so that it can be used more successfully by its users. Herman Hertzberger’s housing developments are heavily based on the creation of spaces which can be appropriated and personalised. Schemes such as the Haarlemmer Houttuinen Housing (ﬁgure 2) in Amsterdam, focus on reintroducing the ‘living street concept’ or rather the idea that the street is more than just a route through and that it becomes a space of interaction, a space to meet, a space to play.
Figure 1. Amsterdam workers district: street life, 19th Century (source: Herman Hertzberger, Lessons for Students in Architecture, trans. Ina Rike (Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 1991).).
Haarlemmer Houttinen housing, Amsterdam (source: Ibid.).
The Street as a Social Space
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Collaborating to create more social streets Collaboration played a major part in the thought process which went into the creation of my project. The initial research topic of ‘zone of collisions’4 eventually evolved into looking at how collisions can be positive and how the arena for these collisions, the street, might become a place for public interaction to occur. This process came about through collaboration, within small and large groups in the studio where discussions explored what these ‘collisions’ might be and how they might be used in a positive way to create more desirable housing. Although this initial generation of ideas came about through joint discussions, future collaborations were more indirect in process meaning that they were not pure collaborations in the sense of ‘working together’ but rather as inﬂuences of those involved in the process to guide the design. In order to understand the concept of the ‘street as more than a route through’ the role of the street in housing developments had to be studied. Key to the development of my project was looking at precedents (past and present) of housing developments and to assess the role of the public realm within them. Alexandra Road (ﬁgure 3) and housing developments by Herman Hertzberger were some of the housing schemes studied in depth. But alongside this research, visits to architectural practices (during the ﬁeld trip to London) helped to put the idea of the ‘living street’ into the current context of housing. Talks at
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Proctor Matthews and Shepherd Robson generated ideas of where housing should be going in the future and what current practices are designing in the residential sector. Other talks within the school by external speakers, were not necessarily related to the idea of the street as a social space but, encouraged us to participate in discourse on what housing should be. This process of discussions led to a constant selfassessment of the proposals we were hoping to put forward for the studio. These discussions, alongside small workshops carried out within the studio group, allowed for an idea generation process to take place where questions such as “how do you create a space that will be appropriated?”, “what is a living street? And what makes it lively?” and “what are the non-architectural factors which allow the street to become a social space?” were asked. ‘Project swaps’5 carried out within the studio allowed for an understanding (as well as an analysis) of other people’s projects, to take from them ideas which could be applied to the concept of the living street. Ideas of personalisation, appropriation and bottomup approaches were inherent in other projects within the studio and could be evaluated in terms of whether they could be applied to create an enriched external environment within housing. The collaborative process in relation to my project was indirect. However, it can still be called collaboration. All those with whom the project was discussed, actively oﬀered their ideas on the subject of the street as a space of interaction,
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they provided ideas to aid the design process which in turn would (hopefully) result in a successful end product. The studio culture of external talks, visits and group discussions created an enriched design process which can be referred to as collaborative since it was the minds of many that made the project what it was. XXX
Figure 3 (adjacent).
Alexandra Road, London.
1. A ‘living street’ is a street which becomes more than a route through, more than a left-over space. It becomes a space to be used, a space to be appropriated and a space to be lived in. The ‘living street’ idea sees the street as a place where children can play, people can meet, and interactions can take place. It is an extension of the living space, not outside of it. 2. Stephen Proctor, Proctor and Matthews ofﬁces, (20.11.08). 3.
4. This research topic looked at what causes ‘collisions’ within housing. These collisions could be seen as positive or negative but what was important was to study their effects on the deﬁnition of space and architecture. 5. Project swap days were set up by the studio to aid the design process where the studio was divided into pairs who would work together to try and resolve issues at the design stage.
BAZAAR COLLABORATIVE TECHNIQUES An essay on harnessing and implementing the voices of many through a public forum. “Given enough eyeballs all bugs are shallow” — Eric S. Raymond
By Peter Sofoluke
The following essay is a summary of the investigation and design process I undertook into collaborative techniques through readings and various modes of public consultation. Collaboration was the premise behind my design project ‘The WikiHousing System’, through this project I addressed a selection of Sheﬃeld’s housing issues whilst attempting to rebuild the essence of community. This provided a platform for me to test the validity of collaborative design techniques. It is well observed that the more people committed to solving a problem the more intricate/resolved any presented solution
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is likely to be, this is generally because each participant approaches said problem from a unique perspective, as a result many more ‘bugs’ are addressed and potentially solved. This idea is discussed in the book The cathedral and the Bazaar from which the opening quote to this essay is derived. Author Eric Raymond addresses mass collaboration through his experiences with regards to the development of internet protocol and computer operating systems, mainly the IBM Unix system from which the Windows and Linux operating systems are based. He likens this newly developed, virtual,
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information sharing forum of mass collaboration to that of a Mediterranean style Bazaar where exchange of goods occur informally through the hustling and bustling of an open air market setting. On the Internet, exchange is in the form of knowledge and information but operating in a public/‘open to all’ manner. He continues by contrasting such open exchanges with the closed, exclusive nature of cathedral building said to be “[...] carefully crafted by individual wizards or small bands of mages working in splendid isolation” 1. It is true that the growing presence of collaborative projects on a global scale can be attributed to advances
in the Internet; this has essentially enabled collaboration to operate without the need for collaborators to meet face to face. Ideas of mass collaboration as a working technique are taken further in the book Wikinomics. Author Don Tapscott explains how problem-solving can become a lot more eclectic by drawing upon a broad range of knowledge readily available at the click of a button, thus encouraging the ability to collaboratively exchange at distance. Using Goldcorp as an example, a gold mining company in hardship because the in-house geologists struggle to locate gold. Tapscott explains how, after hearing about Linux’s ‘Bazaar-style’ successes2 the CEO of Goldcorp decided to launch a competition online with a prize of $500,000 to whoever could tell him where he could ﬁnd gold. He received 77 replies from all over the world from a variety of collaborators specialising in a variety ﬁelds. Fundamentally, many of the solutions used techniques Goldcorp weren’t familiar with. As a result the company managed to increase their gold output exponentially and his $90m company is now worth over $9bn. Rather than operating under the traditional closed corporate system whereby Intellectual Property (IP) is protected, he opened the company’s IP3 for the world to scrutinize, as a result he was able to progress his company with the aid of global collective genius.
Closed System Traditional method of virtual collaboration oprates under a closed group system. Participation is subject to invitation. Also the transfer of documents involves duplicating information which will be customised by the individual.
Open System With wikis, information is stored on a central server reaching a wider participant group. All participants are enabled to freely edit and add information. Wikis have the ability to limit members depending on the administrator’s preference.
Cases of mass collaboration as success stories such as the above attracted me to the prospect of using collaborative means
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to acquire unconventional, yet relevant knowledge to progress with my project. I wondered if an architectural background restricted my scope of thought? It also occurred to me that design is often a top down process and end users are only marginally consulted in the design process. As well the need to meet local authority targets, developers seek to make a healthy return on their initial invest thus the actual impact of development strategies on a human scale may not be their primary focus. So what are the housingrelated problems in Sheﬃeld that mass collaboration could address? X
The Housing problem Exponential economic growth over the last decade subsequently resulted in the boom being transferred to the housing market through the production of large volume house building. Around the beginning of the Thatcherite era, housing deliverance began to change, homeownership desires increased amongst the population to the point housing has become a commodity. As a result the government’s presence with regard to housing provision has became marginalised as market forces, in the form of developers and house builders, assumed centre stage — this is driven by the increasing numbers of the population living in urban environments. Such growing demands for dwellings in urban environments has resulted in shrinking average dwelling sizes with the UK having the smallest average house sizes in Europe (even smaller than the Netherlands). As
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the government continued to adopt a laissez-faire approach through the selling of formerly nationalised assets, social based housing divisions began to emerge. Social hierarchy is now vividly evident in Britain today signiﬁed by housing tenure. An elitist and segregated approach to community building displaces if not accentuates social problems in Britain. So how can we address this? With the recent economic crisis it is becoming diﬃcult for tenure-based divisions to continue as a whole economic cohort (mainly the ﬁrst-time buyers) are ﬁnding home-owner status diﬃcult to achieve. This project ‘The WikiHousing System: anti-unilateral provisions’ sought to address the above by instigating the coming together of people at an early stage to become proactive in community building. The project situates itself in the current economic climate with the chosen site being the Green Lane Steel Works in Kelham Island, Sheﬃeld. Kelham Island has a distinct industrial heritage that is currently under threat with clearance of industrial buildings to make way for higher density developments. My argument for preservation is not conservative in the way that the area should remain industrial despite the decline of industry but rather challenges the developments that attract a transient population who do not remain in the area long enough to fully integrate into the community. X
Bazaar Collaboration Having highlighted that British
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homeownership aspirations are beginning to create social divisions, yet it is diﬃcult for would-be homeowners (young professionals) to acquire housing, I chose to investigate using collaborative techniques to repair the emerging divide. I decided initially to use the collaborative knowledge of my peers for advice on how to progress with design through collaboration. This was in the form of a forum I posted on the studio Ning4 entitled ‘Come Collaborate With Me’. The resulting discussion pointed me to existing examples such as ‘Fix My Street’, a website where members of the public would post problems online such as a burst water main and anyone with the capability of ﬁxing it would do so. It is often argued that sites such as these would be short lived as there is little or no personal gloriﬁcation or incentive for doing so, this takes me to a conversation I had with Indy Johar5, he said to me
“[…]control and ownership gives people a greater sense of community, but also, the ability of people to care for their environments is often underestimated”. I would later go on to test this idea in a public forum. There is deﬁnitely truth in what he said — ‘Fix My Street’ proved to be a successful project, and disproves the idea that people need an incentive to perform good deeds. The idea is also addressed in The Cathedral and The Bazaar through the idea of ‘gift cultures’.
“Gift cultures are adaptations not to scarcity but to abundance. They arise in populations that do not
have signiﬁcant material-scarcity problems with survival goods. We can observe gift culture in action among aboriginal cultures living in ecozones with mild climates and abundant food. We can also observe them in certain strata of our own society, especially in show business and among the very wealthy. Abundance makes command relationships difﬁcult to sustain and exchange relationships an almost pointless game. In gift cultures. Social status is determined not by what you control but by what you give away” 6 Not only was a form of gift culture in operation through ‘Fix My Street’ but it was also in play through the discussion on the studio Ning that had pointed me in the direction of ‘Fix My Street’ and the idea of gift cultures in the ﬁrst instance. These results, together with Indy Johar’s comments, encouraged me to take my collaborative eﬀorts a step further by involving the general public. X
Methods of Aggregation Before approaching the public I needed to consider a way to pitch my ideas in a manner that would allow for responses to progress the design, but also I needed to devise a method of processing the results. The book The Wisdom of Crowds7 highlights the need to develop a method of aggregating collective knowledge. Using the ITV series ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’ as an example, author
James Surowiecki explains that, the larger a group the more accurate results become. Take for example lifelines used on the show: ‘Ask the audience’, ‘50:50’, and ‘phone a friend’. Although we cannot accurately compare the success of these lifelines through crude results as questions vary in diﬃculty and it is up to the participants discretion when to use each lifeline, the studio audience picked the correct answer 91% of the time, a far greater average than any of the other lifelines. In this case the means of aggregation is by majority. Group aggregation will not always outperform an individual’s guess but it has been shown to consistently come close to the actual or most appropriate answer. Applying this thinking to architecture, the role of the architect or designer becomes that of an aggregator. He sets the questions and parameters of aggregation and allows collective wisdom to run its course. In deciding the parameters of aggregation for my project it became my role to decide whether majority opinion would be a suitable method of aggregation to adopt. I decided against using majority opinion as means of aggregation for several reasons, mainly because I was aware online forums would not return a holistic representative outlook; such forums tend to involve a certain demographic as well as social cohort, also people tend to comment to protect their own interest such as existing residents opposing any form of development as it will alter their existing environment. I decided to adopt an objective aggregation method whereby I would ﬁlter responses by attempting to decipher what was intended by stated
Bazaar Collaborative Techniques
comments. For example: opposition to modern development may be because residents are against the introduction of a transient population into a family area therefore the introduction of housing that grows to suit owner’s desires could address this. There is no scientiﬁc formula to this method of aggregation but as a professional it is the role of the architect to act in public interest and in this case it will be to make ﬁnal decisions based upon public opinion. X
Collaboratives Through earlier investigations I had come to the conclusion that the project would focus on the deliverance of housing in a way that did not alter the existing urban character but rather worked with what was in place by utilising empty/ vacant properties. Kelham Island is an industrial area of Sheﬃeld with many empty properties due to the decline in manufacturing industries. Currently a lot of these structures are being cleared to make way for multi-storey residential blocks that are changing the character of the area signiﬁcantly. These changes could well be welcomed by the public so I asked a question on the ‘Sheﬃeld Forum’ website: “What is Kelham Island Missing?”. To my surprise I received a sizable number of responses from new and established residents of the area as well as non-residents. This initial discussion was followed up by two further discussions on the ‘Sheﬃeld Forum’ website before I was alerted that a residents group for the area was in operation that met monthly. A criticism of my methods thus far was that
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only using online methods excluded a lot people, the Kelham Island Community Alliance (KICA) presented an opportunity to extend my methods beyond an online experiment. I met with residents (some of whom had commented on my forums) to present my ideas of collaborative design but also encouraging them to think beyond what they could immediately beneﬁt from new development. Interestingly the majority of people agreed that more housing was needed in the area but informed me that developers were already struggling to ﬁll existing developments. X
Collaboration Outcomes The numerous consultations armed me with a set of opinions or guidelines to progress with aggregation and subsequently design. There were a number of recurring ideas from my consultations. Following a process of aggregation I deﬁned them as the following: More housing typologies; the ability for existing residents to upgrade housing within the area; green space for community activity; maintain the existing industrial character of the area; eateries and other public amenities; overwhelming opposition to four-storey-or-greater developments.
The design was conceived almost entirely away from the public collaborative scene, instead collaborative input became a lot more in-house or through guests at in-house events. Public consultation is a very slow process and without vested interest or a strong commitment to the cause initial collaborators tended to lose interest along the way. Earlier I touched on the idea of gift culture as a reason why people decide to collaborate, this seemed to work so long as contributing a ‘gift’ (time and information in this instance) wasn’t an ongoing commitment. So, do I consider the collaborative side of the project a success? In the earlier briefforming stages of the project it was very inﬂuential, it exposed me to the thoughts of local people regarding issues I had read in books and local authority documents. However, it was diﬃcult to keep this momentum running through the actual architectural design. Moreover, it was an important journey to take. Although the conclusion was perhaps predictable from the outset, the reasons why were not so explicit. XXX
2. Linux is an open source operating system developed by Linus Torvalds out of the Unix system from which also BIOS systems (including Microsoft’s Windows) are based. By opening the source to the system on a public forum he received responses from a number of collaborators with suggestions on how to ﬁx bugs and stabilise the system. This has allowed the system to improve at a faster rate than most closed source operating systems. 3. Intellectual Property is traditionally considered the crown jewels of any organisation and as a result is safeguarded. However, Wikinomics argues that in today’s web-based environment hiding intellectual property could actually hinder development. A case of where sharing intellectual property has been successful is with regards the Internet browser industry. Microsoft had the intension to monopolise the web browser industry as they have done with the operating system industry. Their closest rivals were Netscape who decided to open source their Mozilla browser. As a result Mozilla’s Firebox web browser has developed to take a healthy share of the web browser industry thus maintaining competition. 4. The studio Ning was a collaborative discussion website created for studio members to share knowledge. 5. Indy Johar is a director at research and strategy led architecture practice Architectre 00:/ and was invited in as a studio collaborator. He happened to also be reading literature on mass collaboration.
The ﬁnal design proposal had a number of constraints to overcome, some selfimposed following my early investigative work — such as the decision to maintain the existing character by reusing as much of the existing structures as possible. This was made more diﬃcult by trying to deliver a scheme of adequate density.
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1. Eric S. Raymond, The Cathedral and The Bazaar (Sebastopol: O’Reilly, 1999), 21.
Raymond, The Cathedral and The
Bazaar, 81. 7. James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations (United States: Anchor, 2004).
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Responses and suggestions left on postcards from residents following my presentation to the Kelham Island Community Alliance.
NOTES ON A COLLABORATIVE FUTURE The role of technology in shaping collaboration (and vice-versa).
By Adam Towle
“The central act of the modern era is to connect everything to everything.” Kevin Kelly
It is you the individual that has given birth to the scenius. It is you the digital citizen that has given birth to this, our Collaborative Future. Humanity stands excitedly on the verge of a more collaborative future because technology has revolutionised the way humans relate with one another. Continually, promising new technology threatens to negate the barriers of space
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and time — making communication easier, making collaboration ubiquitous. Humanity is on the verge of understanding the new ways the world can work and play together. We are giddy with possibility.
“Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications.” Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, John Perry Barlow
The Internet allows us to communicate faster and more cheaply than ever before
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in history. It has made distance and time independent community a reality. More people can collaborate, share knowledge, share problems, and strive for solutions than ever before. Provided we continue to have a communications medium at least as good as the Internet many heads are inevitably better than one1. Increasingly it is passé to speak of “the Internet revolution”. In some academic circles, it is positively naïve. But it should not be. The revolution brought about by the Internet is profound. It goes to the very foundations of how liberal markets and communities have evolved.
Diﬀuse communities can now be founded purely on common interest rather than spatial and temporal proximity. Local communities can be brought closer together if common interest is allowed to intersect with location in a more eﬃcient way. Why should people in a town not be able to establish more accurately where the people are who share their interests? Why should people burdened with the same problem not be able to help each other ﬁnd a solution despite having never met? As yet there is not really a social framework that is as interesting as technology and ideas now allow. There are still only the beginnings of new ways to organise, make sense of, and leverage technology, knowledge, spaces and communities. But, technology is already creating an opportunity for communications to become less mediated rather than more mediated, to get people outside and increase rather than decrease real face to face communication — spatialising despatialised communities. A civic economy is emerging, one which is fundamentally both open and social and inherently collaborative. Yochai Benkler dubs it “the wealth of networks”. Howard Rheingold’s term is “smart mobs”. It’s the idea of technologyenabled collaboration... and it’s making us all smarter.
Yochai Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom highlights an important set of recent developments — how new technologies make it easier for individuals to collaborate in producing cultural content, knowledge, and other information goods. It theorises — drawing links across apparently disparate subject areas — how these technologies are reshaping opportunities for social action and collaboration. We are introduced to a highly attractive vision of what society might be like if we allow these technologies to ﬂourish (as well as the obstacles which may prevent these technologies from reaching their full potential).
authenticity and originality of the genius.
And it’s a ‘Wiki’d World’.
The scenius must have4: X purpose, the scenius exists because the members share a common purpose that can best be accomplished jointly; X identity, members can identify each other and build relationships; X reputation, members build a reputation based on the expressed opinions of others; X governance, the facilitators and members of the community assign management duties to each other, allowing the community to grow; X communication, the scenius must be able to interact with each other; X groups, the scenius group themselves according to speciﬁc interests or tasks;
One in which we appreciate that a lack of accountability breeds a lack of legitimacy and trust — that society is now so complex that no decision will stick unless it has involved everybody with a stake in it. As a consequence, new forms of engagement — liberated by technology — are occurring. People are starting to become more directly involved in their communities; in their planning, their management and their impact on the environment. Such activity is crucial in creating social capital, the network of social relationships that ties us into our communities, creating social norms and a sense of mutual obligation. It is the realm of the ‘scenius’ 2. The scenius combines the dynamics of the notion of a scene with the denial of the autonomy and
Notes on a Collaborative Future
Innovation is always taking place in the arena of the scenius. Hardt and Negri agree:
“We have to rid ourselves of the notion that innovation relies on the genius of an individual. We produce and innovate together only in networks. If there is an act of genius, it is the genius of the multitude.” 3 The interactive collaboration of a group of individuals outweighs the remarkable talent of the individual. Information, communication and collaboration are the norms of the scenius.
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environment, a synergistic environment enables the scenius to achieve their purpose; boundaries, the scenius knows why it exists and what or who is outside and inside; trust, building trust between members and with community facilitators increases eﬃciency and enables conﬂict resolution; exchange, the scenius recognizes forms of exchange values, such as knowledge, experience, support, barter or money; expression, the scenius itself has a ‘soul’ or ‘personality’ — members are aware of what other community members are doing; history, the scenius must keep track of past events and must react and change in response to it.
Our Collaborative Future is still in its infancy. Collaboration is diﬃcult. Even when everybody agrees on an end goal, and even when everybody agrees on what is needed to achieve that end goal (that is assuming one can even comprehend what the end goal might be), it does not mean that everyone (or even anyone) will be able to take the ﬁrst step... which is the most important step. There is a lack of eﬀective interfaces to the spaces around us and a lack understanding of tools speciﬁcally designed to facilitate useful mass collaboration.
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How do we introduce the potential of the scenius? Tools can make participation easier; things that help make other things happen. Tools can be ideas, instruments, concepts, ways of doing things, and ways of being or acting together that are conducive to creative, collaborative work. In the context of an online environment, a community or an assembly of people is as much an instrument as a software application. A tool can also emerge when a group of people discover a method that helps them act together to create something. A work that acts as a navigation aid, a browser or interface in a web of memes, is also a tool with which to open and search for other tools. Collaborative tools are evolving. Essential interfaces — interfaces to local communities and local spaces — are becoming more common-place. Interfaces attached to buildings and empty spaces (allowing conversations with buildings and other friendly devices). Interfaces based on new opportunities for sharing and exchange (digital, spatialised mediation of simultaneous need). Wearable computing, radio frequency identiﬁcation, distributed wireless mesh networks and semantic web standards are the foundation of our Collaborative Future. The space, the social network, thinking tools and the network interface in the same ﬁeld of view. Mobile phones (which at least allow you to go outside) already know where they
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are. Given that mobile phones have already become virtually indistinguishable from computers, and that they are now connected to the Internet, the fact that they will know where they are holds signiﬁcant potential. Portable devices that know where they are can coordinate. They might ensure two people who are spatially close to one another and ought to meet, do meet, they can tell a person what they need to know about the space around them or allow them to leave information for another, they can link up people with something to exchange (according to unconventional or conventional ideas of what is sharable or exchangeable). The potential for unnecessary barriers between people (walls, streets, unfamiliarity) to be lowered is increasing. This will lead to a recolonisation of the real world where computers becoming invisible, mobile, networked, and location aware; the real world augmented rather than simulated. We will see the emergence of new forms of spontaneous collaborative communities where people can start developing more sophisticated information based relationships to spaces and each other because technology facilitates it.
Collaboration Technology such as Wi-Fi, SMS, and PDAs, to GPS, GIS, GSM, and 3G, and as far as NEMS, EmNets, RFID, FM, and GEO allow increased connectivity to foster the creation of communities that emphasise diverse social relationships and greater empowerment.
This is the Internet of Things. The exponential growth in the amount of uploaded data, and the ability of intelligent systems to learn is especially important within the context of the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things refers to the networking of everyday objects and things.
Location aware device and improved Collaboration Technology begin to make possible: X Virtually leaving notes, demarcating spaces, and marking places, but leaving no external visible sign of having done so — anything left can be made visible to collaborators. X Information (textual, audible or visual) that can be bound to speciﬁc places — places that have histories ‘attached’ to them. X New forms of community based on augmented awareness of their proximity to places of interest and each other — spontaneous extended community deﬁned by both common interest and proximity. X Tracking the migration and movement patterns of people, animals and things.
Collaboration Technology is radical technology. While we’re waiting for the coming reveloutions in biotechnolgy and nanotechnology, location aware devices and wireless networking, Collaboration Technology, which looks like the banal and tedious relation of over hyped Internet technologies, is actually going to change the shape of the world more completely than the Internet and mobile phones have. People will soon ﬁnd working together much easier — problems solved quicker. People will soon ﬁnd their worlds radically reinterpreted, brought closer, and augmented by a new generation of wireless networked location aware devices. Collaborate!5 XXX
This is ambient intelligence. The magical promise of ambient intelligence is that it is designed to provide service and support. It will heighten our sense of comfort and security. We like that. Collaboration technology covers the way in which our social reality is experienced. It not only leads to a diﬀerent partitioning of the space in the city, but also contributes to a speciﬁc understanding of ourselves.
Notes on a Collaborative Future
1. Eric S. Raymond, The Cathedral and The Bazaar (Sebastopol: O’Reilly, 1999). 2. I ﬁrst read the word scenius used by the musician/producer/theorist Brian Eno in a letter to the David A. Stewart of the Eurythmics. Eno explained important changes occur only when big groups of people collaborate. The scenius stands for the intelligence and the intuition of a whole cultural scene. It is the communal form of the concept of the genius. 3.
Michael Hardt and Negri, Antonio,
Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire (New York: Penguin, 2004), 338. Based on The 12 Principles of Civilization: Guidelines for Designing Interactive Internet Services. Available at http://lsdis.cs.uga.
edu/SemWebCourse_ﬁles/WP/Mongoosesharedknowledge-low-res.pdf 5. I suspect the most challenging problems we face today cannot be solved in isolation from, or even in cooperation, with others. The most sophisticated and effective solutions likely beneﬁt from, and probably require, an amalgam of many thoughts and perspectives. Understanding the distinction between cooperation and collaboration is critical for those involved in working together with others. I would argue that collaboration, unlike cooperation, requires the parties involved in a project to jointly solve problems. Truly collaborative processes enable differing, and probably conﬂicting, views to merge and create something new and previously unimagined. Many online projects — offered up as collaborative — are often not. For example, some online projects, particularly open source software projects sub-divide a problem and encourage a network of volunteers to opt-in and provide solutions. Those involved in the project may never need to talk, exchange ideas or even interact — they just merrily work away on their speciﬁc part. While this can be construed as part of a cooperative effort it is not collaborative. Equally, many wikis simply replace old information with new information, or rely on an arbiter to settle differences. This is at best cooperative, at worst competitive, but again not collaborative.
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HOUSING+ TIMELINE X
A timeline of trends, case studies, acts and facts by Studio 8
ENILEMIT +GNISUOH X
,seiduts esac ,sdnert fo enilemit A 8 oidutS yb stcaf dna stca
Green Parks For Living Ben Ashbury This housing scheme suggests a new way of living in the city. Creating a car free zone and a place where people can really live together. Streets planted to create a natural appearance, and communal garden courtyards create distinctive characters between private and semi private spaces, while elements of ďŹ‚exibility in the design of each unit allows for more stable communities. XXX
Anticipating Connections Leanna Boxill This project aims to create connections between the residents and the wider community on the opposite side of the rail line. The site acts as a transition zone between the city and the residential community of Burngreave. Grass bridges seek to create a seamless link with the park on the opposite by continuing the greenery above the train line. Units are designed to be ďŹ‚exible to accommodate for changing demographics. User involvement would allow changes to both the internal and external fabric of the building to encourage complexity rather than conformity. XXX
How can we build houses when no one is building? Adam Dainow “The country’s most powerful retailer, Tesco, is also among Britain’s most powerful real estate companies; its portfolio is conservatively valued at £14.2bn...”. We are currently facing a deﬁcit of 160,000 houses this year. The project explores how aﬀordable housing can be delivered in ‘Credit Crunch’ times by looking at opportunities in land rather than housing. Sheﬃeld Council is looking at a strategy for big business to help them provide the homes the city needs and has informed Tesco they need to provide 50+ family houses on their land banked site in Sheﬃeld if they are to gain planning permission. Can a sustainable solution provide aﬀordable family housing and a commercially viable food operation? XXX
New Houses From Old memories Sarah Green 21 houses that begin as empty shells and, through their occupation, grow to exhibit the patterns of modern living, imprinted like negative casts on the volumes within. Memories of dwellings from past occupation inform the design of dwellings of the present. XXX
Continuous Monument Tom Kangro This thesis project presents itself as a polemic against the current provision of urban housing in the UK and investigates the role of character in the design of council housing and development of our cities. The project marks the initial building phase of a continuous brick wall; stacked, repeating arches articulate across sites and barriers connecting routes and deﬁning boundaries. Imagined as an eternal monument, the wall enables the processes of construction, inhabitation and change to be expressed along it and provides a permeable yet robust supporting framework for development; encouraging inhabitation, adaptation, growth and decay. At a distance, through it’s form, it is an identiﬁable and unifying icon; Up close, through it’s materiality, it is symbolic of production and craft. XXX
+ 10 YEARS
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Additional floors are required and site reaches high density. The initial wave of inhabitants begin to create additions. Maintainence and filling in of arches become apparent along the wall. Other walls commence on other sites.
The Darnall In[ter]dependence Centre James Kenyon The Darnall In[ter]dependence Centre is ďŹ rst and foremost a location for people to attain, retain or regain their independence. Its principal function is to support the integration of elderly people in society â€” a society that has become increasingly stratiďŹ ed along lines of age. Education and training helps to stimulate interaction, reduce local unemployment and equip local people with the skills and knowledge to sustainably regenerate the area. The architecture is based on the notion of an open community, in which the boundaries between institution and everyday life are dismantled. XXX
Detaching the right to a home // PROCESS from the concept of owning a house // PRODUCT Tom Kirby In this project owning a house, an appreciable asset [a product], is not really a necessity whilst having a home [a process] is a fundamental right. For design to form part of the process cycle means it must be designed to be disassembled and the components reused or recycled. This idea of assembly/disassembly for housing has driven the project. This project investigates the possibility of buildings expanding and contracting with allowing for longer inhabitation. This design for Trafalgar Dock in Liverpool, aims to increase the dockâ€™s value as a public amenity by improving access to the water front. XXX
Living With Natural Systems David Rozwadowski The project tackles the reuse of a redundant industrial site to create a verdant settlement integrated with nature. The strategy for addressing contaminated land involves elevating the housing over the existing concrete slab resulting in a multi-layered scheme with services and waste processing on the base level; dwellings, terraces, and walkways raised above; and hydroponic green wall panels hung from the south facades and roofs. The overall scheme acts as a total system with integrated water and sewage treatment, recapturing nutrients to feed the garden-walls which grow fresh produce. XXX
The Living Street Aditi Saxena This project is based on the ideas of place making and the work of Herman Hertzberger. It focuses on the idea that open spaces between and outside houses should be used as more than just an access route. Recently family housing has been pushed out of the city centre to be replaced by high rise which is undesirable by most. This project attempts to bring back families into urban living by providing the spaces needed by families. There is a focus on the external by creating â€˜living streetsâ€™ which encourage residents to come out of their homes and interact in the public realm. Spaces are designed to be appropriated and to be seen as an extension of the living space. XXX
The WikiHousing System Peter Sofoluke The WikiHousing System is a bottom up strategy that seeks to harness the positive attributes of collaborative design to address SheďŹƒeldâ€™s housing shortages. Looking primarily at vacant/derelict housing and as inactive households, the project looks to empower people to actively address housing shortages whilst repairing the existing urban fabric through the reuse of what is currently in place. A collaborative approach is sought to harness local knowledge of the area and is implemented in the strategic brieďŹ ng of a proposal. XXX
Open House Alliance Adam Towle The Open House Alliance proposes to intervene in the monotony of speculative, non-architect designed houses and embraces technology to transform the marketing and production of the single family home by redeďŹ ning both the product and importantly the process of housing design. The Open House Alliance provides people with the tools and knowledge / ability to tailor their living environments to meet their individual needs. Build systems that can adapt to change as requirements change. Allow systems to change in a series of small, controlled steps. The key goal being to concentrate on widening the home-buyers sphere of responsibility, and hence motivation, commitment and agency with regard to the design and inhabitation of the urban environment. XXX
Housing as Infrastructure Kieran Walker This approach to the studio 8 remit for aďŹ€ordable housing is a scheme that addresses both the housing and energy challenges facing the UK. New homes, which are designed from a phenomenological point of view, are combined with a 2mW biomass CHP within a man-made landscape as a way of re-linking a fragmented part of SheďŹƒeld. Thus the project questions where we build our homes, how we design them and essentially, what it means to dwell. XXX
Self Build Initiative Craig Western A phased self build programme for housing provision. Self builders provide their own homes and a further 20% for the Local authority housing stock. The programme includes participation in design and construction, with an end goal to generate a diverse community enriched by individuals connected within the social ensemble. XXX
Benkler, Yochai. The Wealth of
Parvin, Alastair D. The Proﬁt Function: Navigating Architecture’s Bottom Line.
Ben Asbury Leanna Boxill Cristina Cerulli Adam Dainow Sarah Green Anna Holder Tomas Kangro James Kenyon Tom Kirby Osamu Masaki David Rozwadowski Aditi Saxena Tatjana Schneider Peter Sofoluke Adam Towle Kieran Walker Craig Western
M.Arch. Dissertation, University of Shefﬁeld, 2008.
Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. Yale University Press, 2006. Blundell Jones, Peter, Petrescu, Doina, and Till, Jeremy. Architecture and Participation. Abingdon: Spon Press, 2005. Mollison, Bill, and David Holmgren.
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Pawley, Martin. Architecture Versus Housing: A Modern Dilemma (New Concepts of Architecture). London: Studio Vista Limited, 1971. Ravetz, Alison. Council Housing and Culture: The History of a Social Experiment. London: Routledge, 2001. Raymond, Eric S. The Cathedral & The Bazaar. Sebastopol: O’Reilly, 1999. Schneider, Tatjana, and Jeremy Till.
Flexible Housing. London: Architectural Press, 2007. Tapscott, Don, and Anthony D. Williams. Wikinomics: How Mass
Nishat Awan Amanda Baxter Duncan Bowie Dominic Church and CABE Mel Davis and the Heygate Tenants and Residents Association Margaret Dragonette, George Evans, Bill Halsall, Jack McBane, Tony McGann The Eldonian Community Based Housing Association John Gillespie Stephen Hill Paul Hodgson (and Grievous Angel) Indy Johar Stephen Proctor Jim Reed David Rodgers David Rosenberg Judy Torrington Dan Usiskin Sheppard Robson
Collaboration Changes Everything. New York: Portfolio, 2006.
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Many thanks to all involved.
Colophon We have been careful to respect all copyrights and contact owners of any images used that are not our own. However if you claim ownership of any of the words or images presented here and have not been properly identiﬁed, please contact us and we will be happy to correct our mistake. © 2011 The University of Shefﬁeld. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means without permission in writing from the authors. This publication was funded by a CILASS (Centre for Inquiry-based Learning in the Arts and Social Sciences) IBL Grant. Contact: School of Architecture The Arts Tower University of Shefﬁeld Western Bank Shefﬁeld S10 2TN Edited by: Cristina Cerulli c.cerulli@shefﬁeld.ac.uk Tatjana Schneider t.schneider@shefﬁeld.ac.uk Adam Towle email@example.com Designed by: Adam Towle firstname.lastname@example.org Printed by: Evolutionprint email@example.com Published by: PAR, Shefﬁeld ISBN 978-0-9556669-2-6
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Come Collaborate With Me!
Come Collaborate With Me!
EXPLORING COLLECTIVE PRODUCTION IN THE CONTEXT OF A DESIGN STUDIO LOOKING HOLISTICALLY AT HOUSING