Since 2013, between one in 12 and one in five shops on the British high street have shut, leaving the centres of towns and cities across the country empty and abandoned. As austerity bites and online shopping becomes the norm, the future of these areas is uncertain and other uses will need to be found. The high street was once the centre of the community – the post office, the pub and the grocer provided places to meet and pass the time. We are interested in exploring the potential for public and community buildings to fill this void and for cultural buildings to enrich people’s lives.
Studio 09 will start the year with a study of the high street and an initial proposal for a community building – a place for gathering and the exchange of ideas. We will use this project to develop a strong design process, building key skills including drawing, model making and precedent to create a building proposition that responds to its context and forms part of a new urban fabric.
For the field trip we will travel to Paris by train and study a range of urban and building typologies. We will undertake a study of a range of different streets and try to understand how they have developed over time. We will also visit a number of individual buildings and explore how the study of a precedent can influence the design process.
On our return to London the main project will be to develop a new typology of a cultural and community building to redefine the high street. We will look to combine different functions within a single building to encourage overlap and cross programming. By combining a library with a cinema, a theatre with an educational building or a dance venue with a gallery for example, there is the opportunity to attract a wider range of people and create a new cultural focus for the high street of the future.
We use this project to refine the design process, focusing on a greater level of resolution and the integration of technology. We will work between the scales of the city and the room using model making, photography and drawing to develop our understanding of the role of building within the city.
Image: 'Shops on Essex Street – Balloons in things' – Elliot Brown
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.