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Green Sky Thinking: Ash Sakula's 'Adaptable Neighbourhoods' workshop

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Serious engagement with social sustainability means architects need to change the way they work

A series of talks and a workshop session at Ash Sakula’s Clerkenwell office kicked off Green Sky Thinking on Monday evening. The aim of the session was to generate discussion around history, community and location.

Cany Ash introduced Adaptable Neighbourhoods, the practice’s social sustainability think tank, which investigates how incremental alterations can result in large-scale shifts in the nature and perception of place, using a case study of Leicester Waterside. Ash Sakula are currently involved in Canning Town Caravanseri, which is now gaining momentum - more on Footprint soon.


Ash Sakula - Leicester Waterside

Kathrin Bohm, architect, artist and founding member of Public Works, followed with a presentation on formal/informal spaces and invisibility in architecture. One of her key points of reflection was whether construction is always the right solution to a client’s problem - or whether other types of subtle interventions could be more successful.

Next, Katy Marks of Citizens Design Bureau spoke on strategic thinking as an initiator of the design process, and as a tool for thinking about sustainable design and healthy community. ‘Architecture can be intimidating and expensive; as architects we need to find a way to make it accessible’, she said.

The first section of the workshop was rounded off by a presentation from Richard Brown’s ‘Made in Hackney Wick’, a project on renovation and mixed-use affordable (classed as <£13/sq.ft) residential space in the east London borough of Hackney. The project provides a series of architectural snaphshots to give a cross section through the area, its life, and the industrial typologies that catalysed the shift from manufacturing hub.


Ash Sakula / Richard Brown, ‘Made in Hackney Wick’


Ash Sakula / Richard Brown, ‘Made in Hackney Wick’


Ash Sakula / Richard Brown, ‘Made in Hackney Wick’


Ash Sakula / Richard Brown, ‘Made in Hackney Wick’

The second half of the workshop involved two interactive activities, the first adding to a ‘seed’ diagram, inviting participants to envision an idealised living situation, and what ‘roots’ would have to be put in place to make this a reality. Topics included the ‘environment’ - where issues over peak oil and waning fossil fuel reserves were highlighted and the ‘media’, where discussion revolved around open information sharing and internet access for all.


The final task honed in on audience thoughts of particular housing models with five questions inviting individual contributions.




Topics discussed throughout the evening generated a heated debate towards the end on what is an ideal community housing situation, fueled by differing political stances of participants. Other fundemetal questions posed were ‘what is community?’, ‘is community always posiitive?’ and ‘can housing models foster community?’.

An engaging and thought-provoking evening which set the scene for further creative discussions to flow as Green Sky Thinking week progresses.


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