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Roots Architecture Workshop 2012 at WOMAD

Architecture meets world music as NGOs inspire humanitarian design

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Footprint recently joined Roots Architecture for some practical building experience at the World of Music, Arts and Dance Festival at Charlton Park in Wiltshire. A collaboration between Fourth Door Review and tangentfield, RAW, now in its third year, celebrates the work of architects, engineers, builders and craftspeople with a strong focus on humanitarian design.

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Music from the open mic stage draws visitors into a sheltered workshop area, where the sounds of sawing and lively conversation take over. This year’s brief of ‘The City’ quickly translated into a sprawling metropolis of canvas, sticks and bamboo, gearing up towards the Sunday night exhibition, when the structures morph into performance stages.

Super Bolt’s Centralian Citizens, a drama workshop on the theme of displacement, brought the making process to life, while pedal power, lighting and moving parts continued to draw in the crowd.

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RAW has become a platform for its participants - this year including architecture students, set designers, anthropologists and insectologists - to gain confidence through making, providing the opportunity to work with specialists in fields in which they are interested. This relationship is mutually beneficial, with team leaders gaining experience of working collaboratively for a client just meters away.

This year’s contributors represented a variety of NGOs working with communities in the UK and internationally in poverty and disaster-stricken areas, combined with local expertise in specific material construction; see full listing below.

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The concept of RAW evolved from the organisers’ frustration with the commodification of buildings and therefore disempowerment of their occupants. They argue even DIY has become tightly controlled, with the UK losing essential making skills and the joy of experimentation. RAW aims to encourage participants and spectators to step out of their comfort zone and enjoy creating.

Festival goers are provided with a window into a world they might have not known existed in the UK, perhaps their first experience of what architects do. An air of optimism pervaded the weekend, with many onlookers expressing a desire to get involved and voicing a real can-do attitude.

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A team briefing on Thursday before the workshop began organised participants into four groups, each assigned a different conceptual area of the City in which to work. The organisation of the project into one big structure rather than four individual polished objects as in previous years encouraged ad-hoc additions, dialogue and skill sharing between the participants, while giving more visibility to the project within WOMAD.

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This approach promoted improvisation and design from found materials, ideas which relate to the international relief work in which many team leaders have been involved. Looking, listening, prototyping and testing are all skills to be taken from the workshop. Materials and components were re-used from RAW 2011 or sourced from Charlton Park itself.

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Footprint joined the bamboo team and Workshop to create a series of screens, creating a route through part of the site. Bamboo sticks were rammed into the ground and bent, to be then fixed with bicycle inner tube at junctions. This passageway was lit at night, with revolving lights and candles casting shadows on the screens.

RAW engages by posing the question, what is the minimum needed to define place, while working within your means?

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Performance underpinned this year’s workshop. The idea of ‘play’ is to break down pre-constructed hierarchies and provide an opportunity for everyone to voice their opinion, a key tool among community relief groups.

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Exhibition boards, leaflets and conversation provided information to the public, making an explicit connection between humanitarian design and world music culture, while promoting architecture within the UK music festival context.

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In the future, Tangentfield aims to widen its audience and branch off into more semi-permenant and lasting structures, while retaining the same humanitarian approach and attitude to design.

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2012 team leaders:

- Architecture for Humanity (UK)
Katherine McNiel, Alasdair Dixon

- Architecture Sans Frontieres (UK)
Sophie Morley, Benjamin Powell

- Article 25
Zoe Watson, Ralph Buschow

- Workshop
Alex Furunes, Ivar Tutturen, Clem Blakemore

- WOOD
Charley Brentnall

- WOOD/BAMBOO/TAI CHI
Jack Everett

- INTEGRAL
Gavin Knowles, Ralph Pelly, Margret Cooke, Grant Stratton, Paul Jaquin

- SUPERBOLT
Maria Askew, Frode Gjerløw, Simon Maeder

- SET DESIGN
Sue Pearce

Materials provided by: Wiltshire Wood Recycling

Bristol Wood Recycling Project: http://www.bwrp.org.uk/

Photographs from the evening performances:

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