“This isn’t like London”
An architect who built a community and brought people together, an architect who invented in self-build and created a whole community. Although his self-build is in London, when people go for a visit it seems like they are in a different country.
Welter Segal is the only architect that has two streets named after him, Welter way and Segal close.
“Walter Segal was a visionary architect who designed homes that ordinary people could build themselves.” (GRAHAME, 2017)
Walter Segal died before his community was fully built.
A community that involves a lot of group support. “There was a lot of peer-group support. If you needed more hands to lift something up, they’d come and help you. We’d be working on our individual homes, but when it was time to raise the main frame of the house, the whole group would stop what they were doing and come and help.” (GRAHAME, 2017)
An invention of an idea that seems impossible is involving ordinary, non-skilled, working-class women and men to build their own homes. A huge group of people from elderly, youth, to even single mothers and families with young children joined to constructively build their own homes. Segal focuses more on materials, ‘”seeing through” it to reveal unexplored potential” (GRAHAME, 2017). In this case, his materials are the self-builders. “we freed ourselves from the architect-design facade at last” (GRAHAME, 2017) he would say, as he invented a game of astonishment at those who master and make full use of it. Segal change many lives through his self-build game, he even made people more confident and can do what they set their minds on.
What are Walter way and Segal close?
Two tiny roads, located in south-east London. Walter way is a cul-de-sac of thirteen houses, and Segal close is a passage that consists of seven homes. Although they are two small roads but it attracts a lot of attention from architects, filmmakers, writers, and photographers.
Walter Segal is a modernist architect who builds his community as part of a council-run self-building housing scheme, the first of a kind in the UK. Enabling ordinary people to build their own homes themselves. Walter way and Segal close were built in two phases. Phase one build between 1977-1982 and phase two built between 1984-1987. Welter Segal died before his second phase what finish and in his honor self-builds who are the first residents decided to name the streets after him.
Segal close (1984-1987):
Has seven single-story houses with a car park at the entrance. The houses are made from timber and wood wool slabs.
Walter way (1977-1982):
Has thirteen two-stories houses. Made of timber and wood wool slabs. The houses have private gardens and wooden decks. A shared roadway acts as both car park and a socials space for the kids and adults. A sloping site and the roads curves down a hill.
Segal method is an easy effortless technique that began with a design drawn onto an A4 paper sheet. It only includes necessary information on the building design process. There is a specific grid was used called tartan grid, therefore tight space represent timber and wide spaces represent panels. Segal tried to use materials that are friendly and easy to use for the builders, plus to reduce the need for cutting. There is no base for the houses, but instead, the houses are supported by stilts that sit directly on paving slabs and placed over concrete piles. A specific order that the house was put in, first assembled the window frames then raised to create a quadrate structure. After, the roof and floor were added, after comes the walls, service pipes, and lastly the interior. The aim for Segal is to achieve a lightweight structure that could be made without any special skills.
Jon Broom made clear that “The Segal method has two aspects to it: building in timer and self-build” (GRAHAME, 2017). Segal opened up chances for people to build their own house they way they desire. “It was the technology that enabled self-build” (GRAHAME, 2017).
Why Segal’s house looks the way it does? Because of the way it is put together. A mixture of modernist cubes and preindustrial timber. As Segal believed that a home should adjust to the will of the owner and not the other way round. The structure of the houses is not load-bearing so therefore the houses can convert the layout of the living space. Segal’s plan allowed the owners of the house to be free with how they want their homes to be like and not be restricted, as the self-build purpose is for the economy and the simplicity of construction. Build regulation back then was not as restricted as it is now.
My thought: Walter Segal made the self-build easier for the non-architect to create their own living space while using simple ‘ingredients’. Non-architect can now create a space where they feel more comfortable and relaxed living in and at any time it can be changed and adapted to their needs. Using easy method and techniques with the help of bolts and screws.
Assemble is an independent practice that involves the public as both contributor and collaborator. Assemble began in 2010 that consist of 15 members as they all started off as architects they needed the help of other experts like designers, architects, etc.
What makes Assemble interesting as a practice, they don’t just focus on just design process, architecture, or engaging the public but they also focus on how they work together with the connection between them that will help them create the project. The way they work, communicate and gather people together around their projects that became facilitated around the internet. Although they are 15 members in the practice each one of them has they have their own job besides Assemble, whether they teach or study, but most importantly they find time to get together and work on Assemble practice. Their practice reflects on how architecture with design and art could re-connect the public into a sense of place and community, they achieve this using reformative art and involving the public in their project.
Assemble Sugarhouse is the shared facility, where they all gather and bring their ideas with. Space itself is not just a studio workspace only but it goes beyond that, The front of the house is where they collect their tools and where they test things at large scales. The front of the house is where they store their tools as well as where the events happen, it is interesting because while you walk through the house you can see people constructing.
Instead of hiding the design process they make it visible to others, they unhide the hidden element of the design.
Sugarhouse is where they create a community that focuses on the idea of interaction and being sociable. The key element that draws them together and makes them captivating from other architects is their main common interest which is addressing that typical disconnection between the public and the process of the design. They interact with the public depending on the space that they use. They use large sculpture depending on the space, but if it was smaller space they play around with furniture and make the place intractable for the public.
Assemble don’t focus on the design on it’s physical or material aspect but they also think of its organization, culture, and the activity that it can bring. To engage with the city is to explore, learning, and testing things out “learning through doing”.
Project no.1 they turned a petrol station into a cinema. As they didn’t have that much of big budget they used many hands to help each other out and achieve a brilliant project. Everything in this project was handmade and that’s what makes their projects standout and enjoyable for the public.
“the power of suggestion”
Project no.2 folly for a flyover, challenging the public to reimagine what space could be used for and change people’s perceptions. Turning a motorway into a public gathering area, would you ever imagine it was a motorway again?
Encouraging other people to get involved in transforming and testing things themselves.
The Yardhouse is built in a way where they can be easily dismountable and be reconstructed anywhere (timber frame). Creating the Yardhouse is a collective of all 15 members’ skills. Each artistmember got the opportunity to create their own workspace within the Yardhouse. While they all got involved and each one created their own wall it gives the space a shared ownership and commitment to space and others that are using it. The project is built around “building a community”.
Making doing things together can become a way of re-thinking how spaces can be used.
Baltic street adventure playground: “you can do whatever you want to do as long as you don’t stop other people from what they want to do”. Changing perception. Children making the rules.
What’s the difference between art, design, and architecture? Understanding the sharing process.
Burning man is an annual gathering festival consists of art, music, and dance. About thousands of people gather at one point get together, dance, laugh, and enjoy the moment without thinking of anything for a week. Experience and experiment.
What is burning man?
Pop up musical festive in the middle of the desert 3 hours away from north Reno, Nevada. For one week it goes from zero population of people to thousands of them.
Who attends burning man?
Everybody. Teachers, parents, workers, sergeants, hippies, and the list goes on. At burning man everyone is equal.
Buring man is a gifting society. Encourage self-expression, a place that is hundred percent judgment free.
Why is it called burning man
Black rock city. From two o’clock to ten, where the housing, camps, and activities. From ten o’clock to two, no camps just sand and art installation right in the middle of the circle is where a giant wooden statue a man stands, the man becomes the focal point for the burner to understand where they are on the circle. At the end of the week, all thousands of people gather around the man to watch it burn to ashes.
Chose to write about each case study in this order simply because historical Walter Sagel is the one who started the self-build, then Assemble is the contemporary, then though out the years it evolved until it reached to burning man.
Are all three case studies comparable?
– They all have their own work, theme, and ideas when it comes to building a community but They agree on one thing which is, all encourage the public to help each other, work hand-in-hand, and gift but don’t expect anything in return.