In the past two years we explored the ‘Hinterlands’ of the Bata Estate in East Tilbury. This year we explore Essex further – either as your site for each project or as inspiration for a broader investigation into how we inhabit spaces.

The way we are living and inhabiting spaces is not fixed; it is in a constant flux – changing not only with fashions but along subtle changes in culture, economics, the social fabric, and ever more importantly how sustainable the built structures are we are living in. Surprisingly the dream of the single family detached dwelling is still very much alive – set in a perfect arcadian rural or suburbian landscape.

Cities used to be heavily dependent on the surrounding land for the supply of food. Slowly our structures within our society are shifting, the work environment is changing, the way we supply ourselves with the necessary provisions can be challenged – ‘off grid’ is suddenly no longer something that is perceived at odds with our modern way of life.

Over the last hundred years, Essex has been a testing ground for a variety of new models of alternative inhabitations and communities. From the Plotlanders leaving the city behind occupying and dwelling in simple sheds, to the company towns of Bata shoes in East Tilbury, the Critall Window Factory town of Silver End, the Hadley Colony for the poor, the Osea Island community for living without alcohol or drugs, Purleigh Colony – a Tolstoy inspired living on anarchist principles, and of course the famous Permaculture Anarchist workshops at Dial House – a community set up by the anacho-punk band Crass; the list seems to be endless.

Nowadays Essex has a very different reputation – being known for its TOWIE television series fame, fake blondes with high white stilettos, boy racers, Joey Essex with his ultra Trumpian tan, and a youth wasted in the Lakeside Shopping Centre or the Festival Leisure Centre in Basildon affectionately been called ‘Bas Vegas’. Instead of repairing this broken suburbia, we are interested in ways this abandoned industrial landscapes can be used to create a different way of living. Each approach is different, all readings are personal, every solution is being driven by innovation. Unit13 is interested in how we inhabit spaces and cities, what forms new communities can take on, how technology and production can drive this progress and where a different way of procurement can lead us.

We would like to thank:

Rae Whittow-Williams DR Practice Tutor

Toby Ronalds DR Structural Tutor

and Samson Adjei, Barbara Campbell-Lange, Ed Denison, Ed Farndale, Andy Friend, Christine Hawley, Simon Herron, Inigo Minns, Matt Lucraft, Thomas Parker, Guan Yu Ren, Nikolas Travasaros, Paolo Zaide for their support.

September 19, 2018