Architects must engage with modular housing or end up like ‘sad old Jedi knights in the corner of the room’, according to Waugh Thistleton’s Andrew Waugh
Speaking at a negroni-fuelled New London Architecture (NLA) debate on factory-made housing in east London, the cross-laminated timber pioneer argued that the construction method was ‘the future’.
‘If architects refuse to take on the notion of factory-made housing they will get made anyway,’ he said. ‘Architects will become increasingly sidelined or redundant, like some sad old Jedi knights in the corner of the room.’
Also taking part in the debate were Zaha Hadid principal Patrik Schumacher, DSDHA’s Deborah Saunt and Adam Architecture’s George Saumarez Smith. The event, run by architectural studio fourth_space, was held at the canalside Ombra bar in Hackney.
Schumacher said he was excited about factory-made homes, but added he had some concerns about the current ‘architectural expression’ in modular housing.
‘I’m totally excited about the space but also worried it will lack urban and spatial quality if it’s just endless repetition of small cells together.’
But arguing against modular, Saunt said ‘stacking’ seemed to be the only way at the moment that modular housing is possible. ‘I’m firmly against the stacking camp as an urbanist and as a designer.’
’I’ve made factory-made buildings with CLT but they are highly bespoke and clad in bespoke cladding. I like the buildings I work on to be made rather than assembled’.
Also in the ‘against’ camp, Saumarez Smith argued that the high-quality modular schemes in London relied on inflated house prices – a model not replicable across the UK.
In response, Waugh said that the argument was not whether or not modular would happen, but whether or not the profession was involved.
‘For the architecture profession to see themselves as only involved in a building craft environment, then what will happen is that engineers and others will take these dire housing needs we see across the globe and produce mass housing.’