A Dynamic Masterplan for Enabling the Tilbury Commons
Utilising Kate Macintosh’s Dawson’s Heights in East Dulwich as a catalyst for studying housing and the notion of Utopia, the theoretical mindscape of the thesis project is established through initial readings into Theodor Adorno, who suggests that “Even if one cannot draw a blueprint for utopia, aware-ness of the inadequacy or incompleteness of existing reality depends utterly on belief in the possibility of an alternative” (Adorno, 33).
Through an investigation into the multiplicity of “Utopias” that could arise on site, a participatory device that engages with local residents and actors on designing and co-producing these incomplete, and envisioned futures was developed. Taking the form of a collapsible toolkit, it was first tested at Dawson’s Heights to (co)produce responses to speculative reimagining of the estate. Having developed a working methodology in engagement practice, we move to the Bata Estate in East Tilbury, a radical company town which was once at the forefront of live-work relations and modernist construction which has fallen into a state of precariousness and deprivation since the shuttering of Bata Shoes. Through the toolkit, a catalogue of resident’s memories and ambitions for East Tilbury were developed, where the written Thesis develops this into a pluralistic mode of participation that enables multiplicity in urban ambitions and “utopias” to be made visible. As part of a symbiotic discussion, this in-situ research that underpins the development of the New Doggerland was shared with the community to allocate Heritage Funding for their Bata Memories Centre.
Acknowledging the socio-ecological crises that are resultant of our extreme consumption and resource extraction, a dynamic, reactionary and arguably incomplete “master” plan is proposed… Instead of working against the forces of nature, the comm(o)nity of East Tilbury has long sought to return to a nomadic way of life, forgoing the rampant pressures and excess of the neoliberal city for something more attuned; living with (and not against) the land. Re-turning to principles of the historic commons, their settlement has been designed with the foresight of adapting to change in both land and waterscapes, where the dynamic (master)plan is built across time, seasons and tides to speculate with new forms of living. The riverbank has receded, but unlike predictions in the early 21st Century, the Thames has been deliberately widened as a catalyst. Developing from an initial afforestation of the marshland ecology, a soft system for the production of the commons began, fifty years ago, as a series of ponds, forests, polders and waterways to seed the New Doggerland of today. Driven by the historical principles in Commoning – Of Piscary, Of Estovers and In The Soil, living with the community involves a new relationship to the water/land through seasonal consumption of agriculture and stewardship of the river and forestery – as examples. Learning from Bata’s preconstructed components, the New Doggerland is expanded through a “Common Language”, where moulds and materials are re-used to expand, or decrease spaces according to the population, needs, tidal ecology and environment. Simultaneously safeguarding the historic Bata Estate further inland, the common contemplates on an approach to architecture that is post-compositional, reactionary and embedded within our larger ecological systems, contributing beyond the wellbeing of its inhabitants, but the habitat(s) of the Estuary. Instead of building from (and against) the water, flooding becomes an opportunity – to re-arrange and expand commons living across the Thames to Coastal England.
Toolkits for Participation – London, Seoul, Chile
Community Cathalyst Architecture
Negotiating the Future of Architectural Practice FOCUS e15 VICTORY VILLAGE
Community Catalyst is a project which negotiates the future of architec-tural practice through re-working the process into an opportunity for community driven development, catalysing and nurturing inclusive use and rights to the city. By developing a new participatory method as a manual of engagement, through direct involvement and collective action with local communities, the potential for such collaboration to transform and re-appropriate contemporary living opportunities is translated by developing an architectural campaign.
Through activating and enabling communities the ability to construct their own collective architecture, the process of empowering a com-munity through engagement is explored through the development of an architectural catalyst. Through such inquiry it is suggested that by constructing the catalyst with the community, the architect may enable the community’s construction of further architectures, thus suggesting the potential for catalysing collective urban villages.
The inquiry realises the importance of creating sustained relationships with communities as key to catalysing such architecture. Through building trust and common goals with campaign community Focus e15, through expanded practice, a commonality for enabling co-authorships of architecture, particularly housing, is developed, and, with this, Focus e15 Victory Village becomes anticipated.
Through promoting, provoking and participating in grassroots activism, the project aims to catalyse and enable Focus e15 campaign to collectively construct their own urban village in Stratford. Through engaging new methods of participatory practice, such as through architect as activist, listener, engager and enabler, such roles for expanding architectural practice are deemed essential for constructing catalyst architecture.
Through such practice, users and people directly affected by designs are included as stakeholders and provided the knowledge and ability to understand and have impact on their projects. Such process suggests the importance of passive and active involvement by the architect to gather a true understanding of needs and interests of a community.
With this, the project promotes a series of stages designed as architec-tural fragments which eventually collectively combine and culminate in creating Focus e15 Victory Village. A village of fragments constructed from self-build systems for single mothers. Designed easy to assemble and arrange, the architecture enables the mothers to create their own collective homes specific to the needs of their families, empowering and liberating the community through architecture.
Public consultaiton of the student projects at the St Pancras Estate in Camden in 2015. Our students presented their ideas for the estate to the residents.