The State of Alextendra
What is the role of the architect in “homemaking”?
The State of Alextendra discovers ways to extend Neave Brown’s iconic Alexandra Estate into the 21st Century by redefining “homemaking” and proposes a form of affordable housing that re-acts to changing tenant needs and identities; creating a utopic vision of a form of housing that allows tenants to continually readapt their environments using local, recycled materials.
The State of Alextendra firstly challenges the form of housing and discovers ways to allow tenants within Alexandra Estate to grow and modify their flats using temporary structures to re-arrange the listed components of the iconic estate. It provides new opportunities for flat extensions (called “Alextensions”) whilst retaining its historic value.
It then contextualises it on a site adjacent to Alexandra Estate and discovers how tenants can sustainably have a leading role in the process of their own homemaking. This challenges the traditional process of delivering housing schemes by introducing a “market-esque” typology that believes people should live in homes not in housing units.
Commoning for Housing
In studying two social housing projects this year I have begun to develop an interest in the potential for commoning spaces with an aim to enhance the resident experience as well as better connect them to the surrounding city. At Odhams Walk I observed an active public life maintained by the village-like atmosphere of the architecture. In speculating about the possibility of allowing residents to appropriate spaces within the housing project for temporary functions, I developed a kit of parts that can be inserted onsite to allow for a secondary function.
At this point I changed site to Ampthill Square Estate as it allowed me to hone the kit of parts more. Whereas Odhams consisted of 5 different unit types, Ampthill Square Estate contains three towers with 240 identical units. This provided a key opportunity to test the efficacy of communal components. This project seeks to understand how residents can use communal living to modify their homes to meet their needs at the scale of their flats as well as the tower as a whole.
NUEVA COSTA DEL ALEXANDRA 2050
An Active Ageing Utopia Amidst Continued Carbon Offsets
Neave Brown’s Alexandra Estate (Kilburn, Camden; 1978) vision, initially dubbed “Costa del Alexandra” after the sunny retirement utopia of Costa del Sol, has gradually weathered away. As it aged, so did its residents and the UK (1/3 are 65+). With retirees projected to grow 20-25% by 2050, these issues, coupled with likely-reduced pensions/care, social isolation and material deprivation, present unappealing retirement on the estate and its ward. Future climate change further threatens retiree livelihoods.
Costa del Alexandra 2050 builds upon the original council-led model to create intergenerational retirement co-housing directly across the railway (West Coast Main Line), north of Alexandra Estate. The scheme redevelops the undesirable site into a carbon-offset building for High Speed Two (HS2) powered by waste railway heat.
Camden Council has requested a Section 106 planning obligation for the construction of HS2 Phase 1, with HS2 Ltd. and Network Rail agreeing to contribute funds and grant land towards a Community Land Trust (CLT), formed by charity Ageing Better in Camden. Long promoting outreach to socially isolated elderly, the NGO has gathered like-minded older Kilburn residents and existing site residents to design and build “Costa del Alexandra 2050,”an active ageing co-housing community. Network Rail will provide most construction materials, from disused railway sleepers, rail-side coppice wood and cleared woodland timber from HS2’s construction, whilst the structural strategy will enhance the circular economy of materials, all to continue the carbon offsetting intent.
Here, older residents pursue an active lifestyle within a controlled microclimate, involved in daily agricultural leisure for consumption and further carbon offsetting. This will mostly occur in “communal courtyards” between residential units that host social activities including spillover gatherings, after-school programs and resident skill-sharing. Active ageing extends from basement coppice-wood workshops to rooftop greenhouses, contributing to the prolonging of lives of mutual support/care and continued carbon offsetting.
Minimum Meanwhile Maximum – Movable Modules Housings
This project speculates an active and flexible way of living with the movable spaces as an utopian urban planning vision.
This project started to investigate the Odham’s walk-in Covent Garden which has got an Italian villa to feel complex consisted of only 4 different flat shapes. It has a potential relationship with the residential, communal and public shop with a courtyard typology. So this project started de-constructing the solid spatial composition, applying the movable spaces into intersections of the 2-3 spaces (Public, communal and residential).
Experimented several spatial compositions using the fragmented movable sectional drawings and combined the drawings together to make a vision of Utopian flexible housing learning from Odham’s walk.
The building is located in a small bare land next to the Hackney wick station.
The design challenges to make a modular housing kit for the temporary living where all the components of the building being able to move away as meanwhile use and rebuild in a different land.
The building consists of 4 parts.
1: Module panels with different functions.
2: Self build movable bed unit: MoC(Mobile Cell)
3: Infrastructural movable Container-core
4: Stacking tower module-core to hang movable parts.
The building keeps moving and reconfiguring in the meanwhile spaces.
The building has a courtyard tower typology where the MoC Lift slots in to create activities to be happened around the courtyard. At the end this project suggested the catalogue of inhabitation and the comic strips to show the specific moments for different users (Young dreamer, artist/gallerist, urban farmer) with the different types of panels and combinations of the MoC and Container.
Carpeting Robin Hood Garden
The initial investigation uses Robin Hood Garden as a test bed, with the once fantasised “eye on the street” that is currently left unoccupied. The carpet at each door front sparks interest as it constructs a private boundary that exists in the public skywalk. The spatial investigation resembles the laying of carpet- it looks to inject shared spaces that accommodates domestic activities outside private boundary. The sequence of intervention is the infrastructure for these activities and is catered to different times of the day.
Therapeutic Landscape, Forest Gate
The ideas are then brought to the site in Forest Gate, which is considered to be the most deprived area in Britain. The project revives its legacy as a therapeutic location- From its origin in the 18th century as the gate of “the People’s Forest”, a retreat where thousands of commoners shared rights to graze cattle during the weekends.
The design questions the front-and-back relationship of the Victorian house and its back-garden. The therapeutic landscape creates a new village typology that blends into its surrounding Victorian House. The New Commoner’s Dwelling is sandwiched between the ground floor market and shared kitchen, and the roof communal garden. These become a matrix of spaces, where shared space interweaves with private space at different levels. The blurring of domesticity with communal programs creates a living and social arena that enhances neighborhood relationship.
Field trip to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam in February 2020. Visiting the brick making kilns in the Mekong Delta, the floating flower markets, Vo Trong Nghia’s office, Shunri Nishizawa’s office and house, etc.
Some images from our teaching and crits over the course of the year. After Match 2020 we moved to online teaching with Microsoft Teams, Invision Drawing App, Whatsapp Video calls etc.
It has been an amazing experience to see our students adapt to the ‘new normal’ and embrazing the remote teaching with us.