Archive for August, 2009

And Now What?

August 31, 2009

And Now What @ Hub Kings Cross

00:/ in partnership with The Architecture Foundation organised the And Now What? series of debates as part of an ongoing debate that seeks to share and evaluate propositions to rethink spatial practice in a radically changing context. Over three invited sessions, key figures debated future scenarios for a changing landscape and explore plausible solutions in housing, urban regeneration and economic development.

“Prediction 1
: The CBI expects that before the next election, 3.25 million people might be out of a job.

Prediction 2: The architect and Harvard academic Paul Nakazawa, predicts that one third of all architects might be amongst those unemployed.

Figures like this show how, as our cities, towns and neighbourhoods are affected by the current crisis, all of us practicing in the built environment professions face a fundamental challenge. But this is a challenge to more than our jobs – all the parameters of built environment projects as we knew them are affected.

No longer can we rely on predictable patterns of behaviour in daily practice and on the professional certainties of the past decades. Instead we need to recognise how the very settings of practice may change, from entrepreneurial models and funding mechanisms to client relations and questions of professional ethics. Now that the speculative housing boom is over, where should architects focus their skills? What new questions are our clients asking, and do we have the right expertise to respond? Was our role in the boom entirely innocent, and what do we want to do differently next time around?

There is an urgent need for public discussion to reflect on what this means: for the way we work, for the future of spatial practice and for how cities can develop in the post-boom era. Most of all, we need to identify and how this can be an opportunity for positive change: what viable models for urban regeneration in a beyond the consumption economy? How can this generate a more inclusive urban economy? What perspectives do we see for low-carbon growth, and how can architecture and planning contribute more forcefully to this? Without the cross-subsidy from housing and retail, how do we strengthen the urban commons of public realm and social infrastructure?”

(Source:Architecture Foundation website)

An edited video is available on the AF website. And now what do you think?



00:/ @ the Royal Academy, Paper City : Urban Utopias

August 4, 2009

Last night saw the launch for the Paper City at the Royal Academy an exhibition featuring a retrospective of Blueprint magazine’s back page commissions from the last 3 years in addition to 10 further commissions on the theme of urban utopias. 00:/ was invited to make a contribution  on our vision of the city.Entries ranged across artists such as Gaia Persico and Takaya Akiyama, to architects Ian Ritchie, Neil Spiller and Duggan Morris and recent RA graduates.

00:/’s entry was a vision of the city based on a series of catalytic social technologies that enable an ever-denser web of economic and community exchange in digital but also in real space – the city as place of continuous, distributed innovation, instead of as mere backdrop to developer-led financial instruments and the whimsical icons of architectural grandeur. From classified ads to the online School of Everything, the city is both its physical infrastructure and the more intangible conditions that underpin its age-old offering of positive freedom and opportunity to develop endlessly unpredictable human capabilities.  We see innovative spatial practice for the 21st Century as moving right across this spectrum from the down-to-earth physical to the social and organisational design for new places of exchange.

The commissions are displayed as printed pads of the works with visitors invited to rip pages off to take home. So if you want your very own vision of urban utopia, go down to the RA and help yourself…

The exhibition runs from until the 27th October 2009 at the Royal Academy, Burlington House, Piccadilly.


Micro Massive Movement

August 4, 2009

“Let’s take on Tesco’s with a People’s Supermarket”. This is the new project by ArthurPotts Dawson – the chef, who in partnership with the Shoredtich Trust, launched Acorn House, “London’s first eco-friendly training restaurant”.

His next venture – the People’s Supermarket is a not-for-profit co-operative supermarket that will open for trading in a high-street location in October 2009. The concept of the People’s Supermarket is based on the Rochdale Principles that has been around for 150 years – a food co-operative. Members will be expected to pay a £25.00 joining fee and commit to working in the shop for four hours per month. There will be a request to invest a further, refundable £25.00 over the course of the first year of membership to generate working capital. In return for their commitment, members will own a share in the business and be promised a discount on the cost of their shopping of at least 20%. The more members that the supermarket attracts and the more each member spends in the shop, the higher the profits and the greater their ability to reduce prices.

So is this just a cheap locally run supermarket? No. It is a much more powerful sign of an emerging trend that might transform our local high streets and communities. It is one example of an emerging economy that harnesses the resources available at the micro level of each individual citizen, but at the massive scale of the community to enable time, finance or skills to be invested together to enable the provision of a service in combination as a means of investment. This trend has the potential to construct a whole new architecture for investment by taking advantage of the dispersed capacities that are available to deliver public services at a massive scale whilst building trust bridges across our communities.

Potts isn’t alone – other such stories span from the local filling station in the remote Scottish village of Applpecross, where the small community of less than 200 residents formed a Community Company to run the petrol station that was vital to the community’s survival, because the manager couldn’t individually afford to maintain the pumps; to the post office in the Hertfordshire village of Tewin that was revived by the local residents who formed an Industrial & Provident Society to apply for loans with residents matching this with fundraising, time and skills, and is now collectively managed by 60 volunteers. Each demonstrate the power of aggregation across a community of small amounts of time, money, skills – something we are understanding as the “micro massive” – in order to deliver a local service, and at the same time building the relationships that help create, and more importantly maintain, community.

In a post consumer capital post welfare state landscape, in which large sums of funding will be scarce, are these the new architectures of investment and community building?