Unit 15: Building Society

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.

Unfinished house with builder's rubble outside


Course Professional Diploma in Architecture - RIBA2 (now Architecture RIBA 2 MArch)
Tutors James Binning
Ellie Howard
James Pockson

Goulston StreetRoom GS1-16a

When Monday and Thursday

Professional Diploma in Architecture (RIBA part II)