Launch of WAS alumni lecture series

DSCF2244What a wonderful start to the lecture series! Angela Brady was a perfect first speaker. Her enthusiasm and energy were greatly appreciated by the full(!) lecture room. As soon as she walked into the department, she started talking to students, to staff, being engaging and you could see the impact just by judging by everyone’s smiles.

You can watch it here if you missed it:

Her talk focused on how to build “sociable” buildings, as in making sure that today’s high density housing and office buildings offer suitable opportunity for users to meet and socialise. BradyMallalieu designed buildings seem to do just that, with social spaces usually being decided on by consultations with community groups. Their buildings have an elegant appearance, despite using robust materials and detailing.

This is a private home in Richmond upon Thames that uses a winding staircase to connect together all the spaces. Apart from the obvious skill of composing the spaces, the house is apparently as robust as it can get – hard surfaces that you can skateboard on, doors and windows that you can slam without breaking, etc.

Some of the things that dwelt in my mind were related to their approach to practice. In Mastmaker Rd project, the practice offered the client an alternative brief that included tenure homes, having an obvious impact on the community that can now afford to buy and live in the new development. At Ivy Hall the architects brought the community together to consider the feasibility of a community centre integrated in the already planned rented social housing development.  For the St. Catherine’s Foyer, they put forward the idea to Dublin City Council  although it hasn’t been done yet in Ireland (see to read more about the concept). In all these projects, the architects took initiative to improve on the brief as much as they could. It’s a skill to know how to approach the client and the community and understand the specific politics/circumstances of the situation and – most importantly – navigate around it so as to negotiate in your favor.

In the latter part of her lecture, Angela touched on co-housing, its relevance and applicability in the UK as part of cities. It draws from her experience working in Denmark, known for its successful co-housing schemes.  After considerations of infrastructure and location, co-housing schemes are an alternative model of living that avoids the “us and them” layering of society and can offer people the right to live in the communities they choose.  The spaces between the houses are the ones that define the character of the community. The quality of building can be superior and “sustainable” does not have to be synonymous with “expensive” or “exclusive”. There are quite a few examples of co-housing that have been successful and hopefully we’ll see more (maybe Hortus Conclusus Liverpudlium  will go ahead?). If you would like to read more on co-housing, I recommend this book: Cohousing in Britain: A Diggers and Dreamers Review).

Thank you once again Angela for your this inspiring talk and we hope you will visit again soon!

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