Studio 4 will consider notions of settlement and neighbourhood on the Becontree Estate, east London. Contemplating the idea of the Garden City as a juxtaposition of urbanism and wilderness, as opposed to a city of gardens (suburbia), we are interested in how to augment a sense of the civic in the context of the post-industrial hinterland.
The Becontree Estate, hailed in the tenant’s handbook of 1933 as the largest municipal housing estate in the world, was described by the London County Council as a "township more or less complete in itself". Realised without a defined civic centre, what today constitutes a neighbourhood and provides a sense of place is rooted in local narrative and oral history, a tacit identity informed by lost refreshment houses, absent department stores and long-forgotten country lanes.
We will begin with a study of the myriad of routes and thoroughfares on the estate and the vernacular of its housing types to catalogue the characteristics of buildings and urban situations. Concerning ourselves with the dialogue between building and street, we will observe and record how parades, corners and gables make gestures and form markers to break the monotony of the suburban sprawl. Considering the Garden City as a means of exploring the dualism between nature and artifice, we will investigate how ecology and constructed markers can enable neighbourhoods to stake a claim to vacant lots and edgelands on the Becontree.
Tracing patterns of ancient field boundaries we will examine how the marshland levels of the former estate of Barking Abbey were redefined by the establishment of Manor Houses and the designation of Common Land. Through understanding both the historical and contemporary context you will define and design a Common House – a building with a public presence to support an existing neighbourhood and strengthen its identity.
Engaging with Barking and Dagenham Council we will contribute to wider ethnographic research and community initiatives. In collaboration with Unit 14 and the ‘public room’ they have established in the borough, we will explore how conversation and agency can play a role in shaping cultural policy. The potential for debate, exhibition and construction will be on the agenda in the lead up to the centenary of the Becontree Estate in 2021.
Our field trip will be to the Ruhrgebiet in Germany where we will discover how the social manifesto of the Garden City became a dialogue between Britain and continental Europe. We will also study the relationship between Expressionism and the more familiar Arts and Crafts tradition as social architecture with a civic presence.
Image: Becontree Estate, Egbert Smart (1968)
Studio 01: Character
Alex Bank and Sam Casswell
Essential characteristics of architectural space will be explored throughout the year in design work, seminars and visits to buildings in London and Berlin. Students will learn to comprehend the poetics of architecture through understanding buildings as sequences of spatial figures and by searching for the less-tangible ‘immeasurable’ qualities of space.
Studio 02: City Rooms – Big and small, fast and slow
Charlotte Harris and Colin O’Sullivan
Following two years of exploring the potential of contemporary rural landscapes in Germany and Portugal, Studio 2 returns to London. Our projects for the year will be located in our borough of Tower Hamlets where Poplar HARCA, a major housing association, have invited us to work collaboratively with them to identify opportunities to add non-residential amenity to their estate. They will act as your client for the year and you will present your proposals to their regeneration teams.
Studio 03: Crossing Cultures – Skills Exchange
Sandra Denicke-Polcher, Jane McAllister, Rita Adamo (Academic facilitator in Calabria)
Our aim as a studio is to rethink architecture in order to address how the responsible use of resources shapes our environments as Skills Exchange. We will be provocative in live situations and share our knowledge with local stakeholders in the form of ideas, drawings, models and experiences, and through these, actively shape local discussions and reveal new opportunities to initiate and empower change.
Studio 04: Edgelands
Anna Ludwig and Rufus Willis
Studio 4 will consider notions of settlement and density on the Becontree Estate, East London. Engaging with Barking and Dagenham Council we will contribute to wider ethnographic research and community initiatives to celebrate the estate’s centenary.
Studio 07: Open City
Robert Barnes and Dr Bo Tang
Studio 07 is the degree studio within the Architecture of Rapid Change and Scarce Resources (ARCSR). Working collaboratively with MArch Unit 06 over the last 16 years in countries such as India, Nepal, West Africa and Eastern Europe, the studio allows for individual approaches to define self-motivated programmes supported by an extensive knowledge of techniques and investigative methodologies developed within ARCSR.
Studio 09: High Street: After the Shops
Jillian Jones, Ewan Stone and David Howarth
Studio 09 are interested in the potential for public and community buildings to fill the empty spaces left when the shops have closed. We will be developing new typologies of cultural and community buildings to redefine the High Street and enrich people’s lives.