“West London is full of love, South London has the buzz, Which creates abundant vibes, With sights and sounds to open the mind. All human kind gel and flow, Always on the constant go…Brixton sets the catwalks ablaze, Brixton sets the dreams alight, Encourages colours into unity, The colours of London – to just be. The hub of south London’s hopes rest, The places of colours and life, The brick of life that builds foundation, On which the rest of London seeks inspiration…” Michael Groce
The inter-change, exchange and migration of ideas and people, welcome and otherwise, have shaped every aspect of our world, our language, music, literature, food, traditions, and history; and the built environment embodies and communicates this constant movement and transformation through its organisation, fabric and atmosphere. Each new arrival imports a new memory of home and exports a received image of the “New World” in goods, produce, buildings, ideas and constantly changing outpost communities; and in return the city transforms as each culture is assimilated through the exchange.
The territory for the “Inter-Change” project is the complex tapestry of Brixton’s ever-moving communities: a place defined by the migrant people brought together over time by skills, religion, poverty, fashion, language, opportunity, transportation and necessity, shaping and reshaping the urban fabric in response to each successive migrant culture.
Stitched into the fabric of Brixton the “Inter-Change” will address place and community, exchange, transformation and migration, the catastrophic and erratic, the extraordinary and mundane; revealing hidden cultural treasures to define the spatial and conceptual relationships between place, people, purpose and permanence, while celebrating the diversity of origin, identity, export, exchange, migration and transformation between remote “colony” and London outpost.
The “Inter-Change” is an intensely occupied cultural intersection of:
- Specific community “outpost”
- Integrated cultural “hub” for the exchange of skills, knowledge, information, entertainment, arts, sport or commerce
- Active transport interchange
Your proposals will encourage participation and engagement, critique and delight; provide a place for common purpose; signalling arrival, departure, movement and pause; and provide leverage to the possibility of change without ruin.
At the same time the “Inter-change” is a “thought experiment” in response to the question of “What’s Next?” for Brixton, where the “Origin”, “Migration Market”, “Treasure” and “Electric Section” projects will have identified some points of departure. In the “Origin” project you started to consider the migration, transformation and assimilation of ideas, things and people through the journey of a single “Cultural Artefact”, and in the “Inter-Change” this will find useful physical form while participating in the continuing transformation of Brixton.
So your proposals will identify, address, and reflect a community and provide a venue for the community and the facilities to engage and welcome a wider public, drawing on cultural traditions, innovations, resources and opportunities, and tapping into the diversity of Brixton: both ephemeral physical reality, and the concrete idea of place, to offer a “Contribution” to both people, culture and the city.
The nature of the activities and exchange, your reading of Brixton, and the participants will define the program of spaces, activities, processes and appropriate scale of intervention, and in turn how these are expressed architecturally will give voice to the idea of “Outpost”, actively reflecting a specific migrant community, their diverse cultural and physical origins, local and distant activities and traditions.
Good real world “Inter-Change” projects include: Peckham Library by Alsop and Stormer ( library, community centre and public space), JW3 Jewish Cultural Centre, Hampstead, by Lifschutz Davidson, (gallery, theatre/cinema, restaurant, community and cultural venue), Metropol Parasol, Seville, by Jurgan Mayer H (archeological site, public space, viewing gallery) Leca tidal pools, Porto, by Alvaro Siza (changing rooms, swimming pools and cafe), Madinat Al Zahra Museum, Cordoba by Nieto Sobejano (museum, cafe, bus stop, archaeological research centre and workshops).
So your Inter-Change proposals might address the Caribbean community providing a music school and musical instrument library, or the West African community with a textile gallery and public craft workshops, or a local history museum and market traders social club, or a youth club and martial arts gym, or an Indonesian language school and theatre, or a transport workers club and aural history centre, or whatever feels most appropriate and most useful to enrich your chosen community AND engage with the wider public.
South of the river, farmland identified by a series of “bright stones” used as meeting places, became known as Brixton. In the 19th century public transport (railways, trams and buses) encouraged the genteel middle classes to build generous houses in the fields. The Depression saw their grand villa’s sub-divided into flats and boarding houses, and the arrival of the Jewish community, Artists and West-End theatre workers. In the 20’s, Brixton became South London’s busiest shopping area with numerous markets, arcades, department stores, libraries, theatres, cinema’s and pubs.
Heavy WW2 bombing demanded vast new social housing, as the Caribbean community began settling-in alongside squatters and idealists. Poverty, mass unemployment, housing shortage, and political dissatisfaction led to riots in the 80’s and 90’s, but in turn inspired a culture of inclusivity and ad-hoc possibilities, with growing Bengali, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish communities. Now gentrification has taken root (again), transport links have improved (again), and Brixton is (again) being reclaimed by young wealthy (white) middle classes, attracted by the cultural diversity (and lower property prices) while at the same time reducing the diversity and generating a new wave of migration away by the people who had previously called Brixton their own.
This revolving door of prosperity, poverty, interchange and migration has shaped Brixton’s fabric of endless nooks and crannies and railway arches producing a myriad of overlapping cultural references: The grand Palladium Cinema next to the townhall became the Regal, the ABC, the Ace, the iconic Fridge nightclub, and is now Electric Brixton music venue; East Brixton Station closed in 1976 to become the Medusa salsa club, now the Simulacra Yoga studios, while Lambeth Council explore re-opening the station as part of the London Orbital over-ground network. Electric Avenue once the “Oxford Street of the South” with glass canopies and electric street lighting was a centre for high-end fashion, then a market for cheap end-date fruit’n’veg, and now hosts an amazing array of yam, plantain and spice stalls, sari shops, afro hairdressers, fishmongers and halal butchers. The grand Brixton Synagogue on Effra Road became the Eurolink Business Centre, and the once glamorous Brixton Village arcade having fallen into seedy neglect is now home to world cooking and hipster bars.
Into this extraordinary context the Inter-Change will be sited within the multi-layered dilapidated maze of Brixton Station on Popes Road, explored in the “Electric Section”. Through careful intervention, insertion, adaptation and selective demolition, the Inter-Change will form a symbiosis with the station and adjacent activities, so existing communities benefit from your proposals, and in turn your cultural interventions will thrive and be increasingly convincing.
Your proposals will develop from an acute conceptual, physical and emotional reading of Brixton and it’s potential, and through detailed in-depth analysis of the place.
- Existing and adjacent occupation – buildings/ruins/landscape/use/people: Who or what lives here? Works here? Plays here? Grows here?
- Local activities: trades, production, crafts, and cultivation; and seasonal activities events and transformation of the site: existing, traditional, and historical
- Connections and associations to local and distant communities and places, and historic and mythical use and associations to the site
- Topography, geology and nature of the ground
- Prevailing weather and environmental conditions
- Availability and proximity of resources
- Urban fabric and existing infrastructures
- Public transport, access from above, below and on ground level, and connections beyond the site
- Views from the site, and views of the site from elsewhere: at a distance, from above (from below?)
You will need to intensively survey the site, thoroughly document your observations and research, and rigorously test your reading of the place to generate the material and evidence to accurately and beautifully draw and model the site; capture the idea, fabric, constraints and opportunities of the site; and provide the rich “intellectual soup” to drive the development of your design proposals.
Whatever the chosen purpose of your “Inter-change”, it will:
- Be specific to a local community in Brixton and their cultural activities and traditions
- Host a carefully defined cultural exchange
- Be actively public, inclusive, and engaging beyond it’s obvious participants.
- Be tailored to the specificity of the site and a defined spatial territory beyond your intervention
- Provide the essential facilities and accommodation to be functional, comfortable, delightful and engaging
- Draw on local resources, infrastructures and facilities to become integrated and embedded within Brixton and the Brixton Station site
- Harness and celebrate the local conditions
- Response to the routines and rhythms of the city
- Intervene in the site, city and community in any way you consider appropriate to form a critical spatial response to place, people, purpose and permanence
- Delight, entertain, inspire, bring the city to life, and in some way be a catalyst for change…
To define the spatial brief for the “Inter-Change” define and then make a drawing/diagram/model that graphically captures the following the critical qualities of the “Participants”, “Outpost”, “Exchange” and “Contribution” to become a visual spatial brief for the project:
Identify and investigate a specific local community their skills, traditions, passions, heritage, legends, stories, shared fears, delight, joy, concerns and pride
Who are they? Where are they from? How many? How do they engage with the exchange? Age, expectations, local etiquette and traditions, specific needs…
Identify the origins of your chosen community, their journey to Brixton, how their distant communities and cultural traditions are reflected in Brixton
Identify and investigate a specific activity drawn from your Origin/Migration Market/Treasure projects relevant to your chosen “Participants”
What is the nature of the exchange, techniques, crafts, expertise, and traditions, number of participants, equipment, materials, resources, spaces, facilities, essential environmental conditions, critical cultural cues, timing and duration of the exchange, seasonal qualities, storage, workshops, and management
Identify how the wider local community engages with the chosen “Participants”, “Outpost” and “Exchange”
Does the Inter-Change provide employment? public space? engage in the wider public realm? offer communication, critique, inspiration, delight or education?
An intimate knowledge of the people, process, timescales, and quantities will be critical to sizing, designing and organizing the “Inter-Change” in terms of brief and architectural strategy. So an essential step to define your proposal will be to visit, survey, document, and record an appropriate precedent (theatre, library, workshop etc.), and to join-in, or do-it/make-it yourself; developing your ideas from this critical first-hand experience.
The spatial organization and spatial experience of the Inter-Change will be defined by the people, activities, response to the site, distant communities, weather, materials, movement, noise, smells, and atmosphere; the architecture is expected to reflect and express these qualities to establish a critical spatial dialogue between the proposal, the people and the place.
Yr3 projects should be at a scale equivalent to Peckham Library or Pop Brixton with between 10-20 full-time staff and facilities for up to 300 community participants on site
Yr2 projects should be at the scale equivalent to the Black Cultural Archive, Brixton with between 5-10 full-time staff and facilities for up to 100 community participants on site
As a sustainable 21st century building the Inter-Change project will need to address the question of integration of resources and economies of scale, abandoning the selfish tendency towards self-sufficiency and off-grid narcissism. Instead the Inter-Change will embracing the idea of community and integration: collaborating locally and contributing generously, sourcing, and encouraging local productivity, and helping to develop a wider network of resources.
Your Inter-Change proposals will be rooted in Brixton, London, and engaging in the sense of place, while also drawing inspiration from the distant community of participants. The project’s sense of place will be informed by the connection to the site and ground and how the proposals stand up, the materials and methods of construction, and the nature and qualities of the internal (and external environments). Your proposals may be a hybrid of local, technical and homespun; self-grown, harvested or imported, permanent, temporary or experimental; familiar or deliberately alien; each as you deem to be appropriate to your conceptual ideas and personal definition of an Architecture where “necessity is the mother of invention.”
But make no assumptions about what is, or is not, sustainable in any location or community: draw your conclusions and position from research, experiment and testing: seeking sources of abundant minerals, materials and energy; questioning what is really required, and celebrating the implications of generosity.
In the book “Cradle to Cradle” William McDonough’s and Michael Braungart make the analogy to a cherry tree, which produces a natural abundance of fruit, food, shade, habitat, compost, colour, and fragrance well in excess of necessity in response to the changing seasons and conditions: each process positively contributing to further abundance in the next process, benefiting both the cherry tree and other local and associated organisms – there is no waste.
Your response to the materials, construction, structure and environmental design of the “Inter-Change” project will be in parallel and intertwined with conceptual spatial design process, to seek a synthesis between community, exchange, production, bye-production, people, and place.
For both Yr2 and Yr3 the “Inter-Change” project is the primary vehicle to explore and demonstrate your exploration, invention, integration and control of architectural technology within the yr2 and yr3 Double Design modules and for the Yr3 Advanced Technology module. Your technology proposals are to be fully integrated within your final portfolio presentation of the project, where the work will be assessed within the Portfolio marking process.
Your detail technology proposals will initially be explored through the development of a “Negotiated Section” drawing cut through the critical spaces of your proposal, before developing a structural model and critical details to explain in depth your constructional, material, environmental and structural ideas and propositions through experiments, models, prototypes, sketches, diagrams, and drawings in 2d and 3d, relating your proposals to carefully chosen and considered precedents.
Your final proposals will (beautifully) convey how your technology proposals respond to site and seasonal conditions, spatial necessity and activities, cultural and social considerations, strategic organization and detail resolution, conceptual ideas and spatial experience.
Work: Inwards from an initial proposition through iterative models and drawings to test, explore and develop the final proposals
And: Outwards through models and drawings to test and develop the final relationship to the site, community and place
And: In parallel to test and develop your final ideas for the materiality, structure, construction and environmental design
- Identify, research and investigate a specific community and “Participants” and consider their needs, traditions, aspirations and origins to propose what the “Inter-Change” will provide for the community: the “Outpost”; and how it engages with the wider public: the “Exchange”
- Draw from the “Origin”, Migration Market”, “Treasure” and “Electric Section” projects to inform the proposed purpose and link your ideas to your conceptual reading of the Brixton station site
- Visit, survey, document and research relevant working precedents to your “Inter-Change” ideas (schools, theatres etc.)
- Investigate the qualities, resources, opportunities, constraints and associations with the Brixton site through highly tuned site drawings, models, images and diagrams (“Electric Section” +)
- Use your research to define the spatial brief, scale, timetable of activities, numbers of participants, ingredients/materials, quantities and spatial organisation, consolidated in diagrams and drawings
- Use your research to explore the “Participants”, “Exchange”, ideas of “Outpost”, and define the “Contribution” to the local community and place
- Explore the programmatic, pragmatic, conceptual and emotional responses to the site, communities and activities, consolidated in diagrams, models and drawings
- Develop a 3D organisational and conceptual model or drawing to capture your Spatial Strategy for the intertwined activities, communities and response to the site
- From the Spatial Strategy, test your ideas through sketching and modelling to develop a First Iteration of the proposal in scale drawings or models
- Change scale, and look in detail at the critical spaces in the proposal to develop the next Iteration
- Change scale, and look at the relationship of the whole to the site to develop the next Iteration
- Analyse and refer to precedents to support each conceptual idea, material, space, detail, atmosphere, structure etc. to inform your design process
- Develop further iterations in response to: views out, views on site, spatial occupation, light, structure, acoustics, water, materials, the journey, seasons, smells, or whatever is critical, alternating between sketches, sections, models, plans, and 3d views
- Test each iteration through photomontage and collage into site images, your site model, and the “Electric Section” drawing
- With each iteration explore and develop the graphic and modelling techniques to communicate your ideas and inform your thinking and design process
Use any appropriate media, material or technique to best explore, test and communicate your ideas. The complete project narrative and design process will be presented in no more than 30no. A2 (or equivalent) hybrid portfolio sheets, inc: design, process, technology, models, materials, samples, annotation and precedent. The final drawings must include finely crafted 2-d plans, sections, elevations, site plans and site sections, together with:
- A thorough spatial exploration of the underlying strategic, organisational and conceptual ideas
- A 3-dimensional exploration of the spatial experience within the proposal and of the proposal in context on site
- A detailed exploration of the materials, construction of the proposal, the structure, and critical qualities and control of the internal/external environment
- Selected process work will be integrated into the portfolio sheets, plus a wider range presented on process pages (trace?) interleaved between portfolio sheets
Community/Program/Electric Section Pin-Up: Thursday 25th January Week 1
Interim Review: Thursday 22nd February Week 4
Review: Monday 19th March Week 8
Final Review: 3rd yr Cross Crit Monday 9th April Week 9
2nd yr Cross Crit Thursday 12th April Week 9
Introduction Presentation: Interchange Introduction