Founder of ft'work, a not-for-profit company with a strong ambition – to create thriving communities and to ensure that clear social principles underpin all new development. www.ftwork.co.uk
The AJ asks in its survey, ‘will Goldsmith Street’s Stirling Prize win bring about a new wave of well-designed, eco-friendly council housing?’
Of course it would be brilliant if this becomes the “pioneering exemplar for other local authorities to follow”, that the judges suggest. But an exemplar of what exactly? It’s ‘environmental’ credentials are clear but what are it’s ‘social’ credentials?
Sustainable development (which underpins our planning system) has 3 ‘dimensions’: economic, social and environmental, with the ‘social dimension’ defined as “supporting strong, vibrant and healthy communities”. Yet none of the descriptions or press comment have picked up on this aspect.
We’re told the design fosters “strong community engagement and social cohesion”. But did the existing community have any involvement? Does it address identified social needs? What is its impact on the surrounding area? Does it contribute to a sense of local identity? In short, will it help bring about a new wave of thriving communities?
If Goldsmith Street is also exemplary in this social sense we must yell about it from the rooftops. Let’s play Goldsmith Street’s moment of glory for all it’s worth!
Comment on: Why aren’t there more architects on TV?
It’s revealing that Richard asks ‘why aren’t there more architects on TV?’, because it implies that the messenger is more important than the message. That says one thing about current TV (that content is driven by personalities not issues) and another about architects (that we’re insular and egocentric). The opinions quoted seem to confirm this.
I’m an architect and former documentary filmmaker. I spend most of my time in addressing the purpose rather than the process of architecture. That’s what we need to put across because that’s what’s relevant to people. Is TV the means to do it? No. The shows that get bums on seats are entertainment formats and the content of news self-destructs in hours. You can reach the same numbers with a good TED talk or podcast series. But first you need something to say! So what have we got to say of value to people?
Absolutely right of the Mayor and GLA planners to take issue with the Alton Estate proposals. Putting aside the damage to a pioneering council housing exemplar and the flouting of planning rules, this shows a worrying disregard for important social design principles. The first is integration. Well-integrated communities are more successful for all sorts of reasons. It took resident mums at the Lilian Baylis development in Lambeth to call out the socially divisive (and clearly ridiculous) segregation of playgrounds. Scale that up to housing blocks and you have the Alton Estate situation and all the makings of a segregated community. Regeneration of London’s estates is already dividing communities and displacing long-term residents. Scale that up again to the challenge of building tens of thousands of homes and the implications become enormous.
Then there’s the principle of self-determination. The more say and control people feel they have over their future, the better the outcome. It’s not good enough to be ‘consulted’ on a set of predetermined proposals — not just because it’s now bad practice, but because it adds no value whatsoever. To work collaboratively with communities and residents, from the earliest suggestion of regeneration, ensures buy-in and a better result. The social value it generates, in every sense, makes this a much more sustainable development model for all parties.
(Listen to what local kids have to say about the regeneration at Manor House, in a short film ft’work made for the London Festival of Architecture. It’s very relevant: https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=_NHyHz2JOyo).
Instead of shipping containers councils should be more inventive, like Lewisham, making temporary use of a vacant site with The Place (rsh-p.com/projects/place…) - modular, fully demountable, reusable, energy efficient emergency housing with above average space standards. The Place also includes low cost workspace and a community-run cafe. ft’work was a participant in the discussion about meanwhile use of vacant sites for housing at the Draft London Plan Examination in Public. There was general support, but we argued that innovative ideas and new technologies (as exemplified by The Place) must be pursued, to provide social housing solutions with no loss of quality. How about running a competition AJ? We’ll back it.
I absolutely agree with Piers Gough. The arrogance and double-standards of this decision are staggering! Where are the voices of MPs who should be opposing it?
Quite apart from the reasons stated in the article, there is the sustainability argument. Any assessment of the embodied energy and environmental impact of a) demolishing, b) rebuilding c) remodelling once the temporary use of the new building is over, would surely demonstrate that the use of Richmond House by a Government serious about climate change is unethical and unacceptable.