London Festival of Architecture

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Is calling for entries for its 2017 run.

London Festival of Architecture has announced that the theme of the 2017 festival will be ‘memory’. The theme of will be explored through a wide range of events and activities when the London Festival of Architecture – Europe’s biggest annual architecture festival – returns on 1-30 June 2017.

London is a city of myriad layers, each infused with memory: of people, buildings, places and experiences. London’s built environment, with memories bound up within it, is fundamental to how people experience the city, and the starting point from which architects, developers and communities can address change.

London’s built memories are never far from its present – living on in old place names, the City of London’s medieval street pattern, or London’s rich architectural heritage. Memory is fundamental to a sense of place: something that communities cherish in the face of change, and a tool for architects and developers as they achieve change and place further layers of activity and memory on top of all the others.

Recent and future development at King’s Cross, Nine Elms and Smithfield Market are reminders of how memory is inextricably linked to character and placemaking. They show how architects, planners and developers need to proceed with care: aware that carelessness can obliterate cherished memories of London’s places, and alert to opportunities to harness memory in positive ways.

How awesome is that? Memories, time and architecture. How do we make that into an event for the Festival? How do we incorporate the elements of play into the event, hopefully that could be for kids? Need to think and write a proposal for 300 words.

And hopefully find a venue and ask for permission to build on it for a while. Are there ways to find people to collaborate with?

If we could theme it around timber and its wear and tear in terms of remembrance? Temporary timber structure where the assembly and disassembly all becomes part of the architecture. Architecture is not just the construction of things but the destruction of things.

How do we make it interactive? How can the processes of play be participant in the processes of destruction? How do you take it apart? Could it be a puzzle where kids can take bits of the timber apart? Giant Jenga? Wood puzzle? But how can it be translated to the scale of architecture? What if I were to re-install it every night and every morning people could take it apart? What if the processes of destruction/taking apart is the architectural process? If memory talks about preservation, how do we create memory through destruction?

Memory creation is dependent on event, which is in turn, dependent on time. Persistence of memory depends on recollections, of which space can be a big contributor. Memory can be a direct or indirect experience.

Public Space, Streets and Gates

What is the function of ‘street gates’ in urban villages? How do they participate in making the enclosure of public space? What are the existing boundaries of public space (skins/walls/lines) in the urban village spaces?

If Camillo Sitte is speaking against technocratic developments of city design using square building blocks and instead making design through the negative spaces, can we design starting from the movement of the skin as a guideline of separation of circulation and access? The building blocks then come at a second stage to occupy the left-overs from circulation?

Three Schools, Three Concepts

1. Tower Heritage

Like the regenerated Liede Village, the way for traditional buildings to be preserved in a urban village redevelopment was to remove and rebuild them collectively in a different area. With the amount of heritage left in Xiaozhou Village, this method would mean that some buildings will be completely erased away. Is there a way to rebuild them in a vertical tower and preserve, not the location, but the craft of construction and the spatial relationships within and between buildings? Could the tower be an exercise, like the Ise Grand Shrine in Japan, in storing the memory instead of the physicality of the materials? When the mentality for preservation is strong enough in the future, could these buildings’ memories then be reinserted into a new urban design?

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2. Walled Heritage

The typical urban village building grows by securing the largest footprint possible with walls. Public spaces, however, are unprotected spaces there others could possibly encroach. Is the way to preserve these public spaces by creating that physical wall of protection? The resulting school would be strongly formalistic – based on traditional, inward-looking and highly efficient teaching methods. This wall would act as a boundary for the school and for the traditional buildings to be safe and monitored.

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3. Free School

If activating the public spaces is the key to preserving the traditional buildings, then could opening up the public spaces and allowing overlaps of uses be a possible way? In this case the streets regain their function of being semi-public/semi-private spaces where there is a mixture of different uses – chatting, washing, waiting, resting, playing. The linear building then act as a vessel of activities to activate the street and public space.

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School: education in the Urban Village

Xiaozhou Village has a kindergarten right outside of the historic core. The kindergarten accepts migrant’s children but charges 1200 RMB per month (privately run), which is more than half of some migrants’ pay. Opposite the kindergarten is a primary school (government-run), which accepts migrants’ children on the basis that they satisfy certain requirements. There is then a specific percentage allocated for migrants’ children who do not have their hukou in the city. There are privately-run primary schools in nearby neighbourhoods and they do not have a percentage restriction. However, they do cost more.

The result of this is that many migrant families struggle with their children education. Young couples either leave their young children to their grandparents back in the rural village where they came from or have the female in the family not work to take care of the children. There is a need for a school for second-generation migrants to be together with their core family in the urban village.

But what kind of school should it be?

Fairy Water: visiting different wells in the village

Following the community workshop, we realised that availability of water is an issue in the village. We went to the village clinic to ask about the water conditions and the doctors explained that kidney stones and other kind of water-related diseases are common in the village. We started investigating further into the situation.

Many households still get water manually from wells in the village. Water from the village comes from the mountains resulting in a high level of minerals, visible on the kettles after boiling. We mapped the different kinds of wells in the village and also ran a water survey to understand water usage and the severity of the disease situation.

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Water usage survey.