For the second year running the Living Laboratory in RC11 has been exploring East Tilbury in Essex as the site for a series of urban experiments. In the past Essex has always been seen as ‘a place where utopias were imagined’ (www.radicalessex.co.uk). It has been the cradle for British Modernism with the company towns of Silber End and the Bata Estate in East Tilbury, the modernist town in Frinton-on-Sea, but as well iconic buildings like the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club in Burnham-on-Crouch. The whole region was at the forefront of modernist architecture and a testing ground for new experimental community models. But apart from these modernist gems the rest of the building stock has been of a very poor quality and the area has suffered from a lack of a coherent planning and a visionary urban design strategy.
Over the past year, we explored the areas around the old Bata Estate in East Tilbury. Our testbed has been the Negotiated City table – a collective design tool to explore different design approaches played out against each other on an imaginary site. After this, we travelled through India – starting with the step wells in Ahmedabad, the ship breakers yards in Alang, the floating palaces of Udaipur, the fabric villages outside Jaipur, and finally Chandigarh, Le Corbusier’s vision of a modern city and the embedded village of Burail.
We like to cultivate the interests of individual students working on shared collective approaches, developing engaging new urban scenarios and fictions. There has to be a spirit of experimentation to evolve new ideas and concepts. Students are allowed to explore and test their own alternative urban experiments working on a variety of scales. The majority of projects put the communities at the heart of their speculative designs.
In RC11 the solutions are varied – they range from small-scale interventions into the existing fabric of the old Bata Estate, various community housing experiments, a floating community in the Thames Estuary, to a 2.5km long and 500 meters high independent city in the sky harvesting the clouds and the wind.
We would like to thank:
Rae Whittow Williams (theory tutor)
and Samson Adjei, Julia Backhaus, Margaret Bursa, Marta Granda Nistal, Johan Hybschman, Safia Qureshi, Matt Springett, Paolo Zaide for their support throughout the year.