James Binning, Ellie Howard and James Pockson

Unit 15: Building Society

Untitled (Atlanta, Georgia), from the series This is not a House, 2008 © Edgar Martins www.edgarmartins.com

Unit brief

Building Society

In the UK, self-build has become a synonym for low-rise, small-scale domestic construction, a quaint and pleasant enough conception but one that implicitly limits self-build to a world of charming yet piecemeal anomalies. Exemplars such as Walter’s Way in Lewisham, designed by the German-born modernist Walter Segal, are widely cited as a triumph of self-build and enjoyed hefty political support in the 1980s but it is ultimately just 13 dwellings. Constrained by a complex web of financial, cultural, political, and technological barriers, self-build accounts for less than a tenth of the UK’s annual housebuilding compared to other European countries where it is as much as 80 per cent.

This year, Unit 15 will redefine the terms of the self-build movement. We will transcend the trope of homes made by home makers, exploring instead self-build as a powerful economic and urban alternative to developer-driven housing. The 2015 Self-Build Act now requires local councils to make land available to would-be self-builders. The time for an ambitious all-out reimagining of the potential of self-build is upon us. Less Grand Designs®, more grand designs!

Our focus is London. Each project will begin with a critical and speculative scenario, interrogating the potential for alternative models of development. From there we will zoom in to site-specific proposals with the potential to become prototypical models of the future. We will combine rigorous architectural research with a multidisciplinary programme of journalism, critical thinking and communication, acquiring the tools to seduce and persuade broad audiences beyond the crit space.

We reject prescription and ask individuals to develop their own interests within and beyond the conventional frame of architectural education. We support the development of technique in computer drawing, photography, construction of large-scale models and the fabrication of 1:1 prototypes. We especially enjoy an exploratory process of sampling, editing and appropriating existing material from a rich range of sources to produce new outcomes.

Above all we will run a course that is exciting, critical and practical. We will expect you to explore broadly, read deeply and experiment radically, to be bold in your ideas and ambitious in your propositions.


Course Professional Diploma in Architecture - RIBA2
Tutors James Binning
Ellie Howard
James Pockson

Goulston Street
Room GS1-16a

When Monday and Thursday

Professional Diploma in Architecture (RIBA part II)

Unit 02: Classicism, modernism and architecture in the present time

Tony Fretton

Unit 02 will run this year as a project in three parts at Somerset House London.

Unit 04: Building Laboratory | Frozen Timber

Jonas Lundberg, Eva Diu and Andrew Grant

Unit 04 aims to participate in the debate on environmental adaptation, design and development of the new town of Kiruna, which is forced to move three kilometres to the east of its current location.

Unit 05: The Infrastructure of the Street

Alex Ely, Michael Dillon and Lydia Johnson

Unit 05 are interested in how changing the infrastructure of a singular street and the housing within it can alter the urban contribution.

Unit 06: Civic Fit

Professor Maurice Mitchell, Francesca Pont, Dr Bo Tang, Jane McAllister and Sandra Denicke-Polcher

Unit 06 offers students a choice of three settings: Athens, Greece; Belmonte, Calabria; or Kirtipur in the Kathmandu Valley.

Unit 07: A Lean Architecture

David Grandorge and Paloma Gormley

Unit 07 will begin the year with an ambitious project, Timber Translations, re-imagining the industrial structures depicted in the photographs of Bernd and Hilla Becher in timber allowing us to and explore languages of jointing, supporting and bridging in a single material at a large scale.

Unit 08: Midland Cities II – Nottingham Translations

Takero Shimazaki (t-sa) and Summer Islam

Unit 08 will continue to focus on the urban development of cities in the Midlands and propose architectural interventions as opportunities for civic renewal.

Unit 09: Making Urban

Stephen Taylor and Theodoros Thysiades

Unit 09 will continue its two Semester / project structure this year.

Unit 10: An Architecture of Relationships V

Signy Svalastoga, Jonathan Cook and Edward Simpson

Unit 10 will again start the year with two linked short projects aimed to develop and fine-tune spatial and social observations, explored through drawing, making, mending and repair.

Unit 12: Hotel Sphinx

Peter St John, James Hand and Ben Speltz

Unit 12 will continue to examine the different conditions of London and the potential of the city's current reinvention.

Unit 14: Dis-place

Pierre d’Avoine and Pereen d’Avoine

Unit 14 will work in the East End this year, specifically in Tower Hamlets and will be concerned with diaspora displacement and the indigenous.

Unit 15: Building Society

James Binning, Ellie Howard and James Pockson

Unit 15 will redefine the terms of the self-build movement and transcend the trope of homes made by home makers, exploring instead self-build as a powerful economic and urban alternative to developer-driven housing.