Cottage Production, Mass Production, The Digital Vernacular
In order to survive in the face of industrialisation, craft has elevated itself from modest vernacular to luxury. Marx, Ruskin and Morris have all written about the ‘joy’ in making that has been challenged by machine manufacturing. They spoke of the monotony forced upon the worker when sitting on a capitalist production line, and the loss of variety which can only be present when endeavouring to satisfy individual needs for a particular user. William Morris in particular, wrote about his attempts to set up workshops to produce goods in a way that he felt embodied craft production. Despite his apparent success, he hated “spending life ministering to the swinish luxury of the rich”. “What business have we with art at all unless all can share it?”
The solution may lie in a movement of makers who are promoting open source design and sharing projects so that we can learn as a collective and create designs that fulfil the needs of individuals often neglected by the mass-market. This use of open source makes production accessible when paired with appropriate technology. “Open-source architecture is presented as an innovation, but it is really just the vernacular with an internet connection.”​​​​​​​
Hence this thesis explores opportunities offered by emerging technologies to reconcile craft with the masses. To do this, a model has been proposed to empower a community to shape their own social and architectural environment: a community who would otherwise have no capacity to do so, and are in need of a regenerated environment. This model aims to train a community and facilitate the erection of self-build architectures that are both necessary and beneficial to the quality of that place. The network of new architectures can then continue to develop with the growth of a new vernacular that acts as an alternative to mass-produced homes and luxury facilities. In this instance, the greatest need within the community of Blaengarw is that of a new Primary School, with the additional incentive of sustained community training. The design of the school exhibits how emerging technologies can be adopted by a community to create tailored crafted architecture with ease.
The principal behind the model, is that small catalytic developments can lead to crafted facilities that can be both unique and accessible to a community. What may seem like insignificant changes, a child getting a 3D printer for instance, can contribute to the social sustainability of their environment.
Section of the Garw Valley
The model begins with a way to bring the technology needed to the site. This appears in the form of a box that is sized to fit on the back of a lorry and contains a CNC machine.
With the technology available, the community undergo a self-build primer. This takes the form of a crow’s nest which exploits the potential for tourism in the area from mountain biking and rambling, to give an excellent view down the valley.
The next stage of the model is to provide a future home for the technology in the form of a community workshop, very much like a FabLab.
With the workshop in place and a basic understanding of the skills needed to build in this way, the community might begin to shape their environment. Small renovations to houses, a visitor centre and bike rental for tourism, new public space, are all possible and all are individual needs of the community.​​​​​​​
The frame is assembled first and is designed to be put together easily and lifted into place by 2-3 people. The cladding of the beams is then clipped on, after which, the panels can be assembled and positioned into place. To make panels removable, joints and weatherproofing have been carefully considered.
The tower has been designed so that there is no need for scaffolding. All panels can be assembled on the ground and then erected from within. As the steps are fixed the panel from the floor below forms a handrail and the building emerges with every step.
Presently, the greatest need within the community of Blaengarw is that of a new Primary School. The old one has been deemed unfit for purpose and a new-build is in the local plan. A school would also have the additional incentive of sustained community training.
After the school is erected, the network of new architectures can then continue to develop, studios for designing with open source systems, new housing, a library within a derelict church, 3D printers in houses to help print door handles for elsewhere. Ultimately culminating in the growth of a new vernacular that acts as an alternative to mass-produced homes and luxury facilities.
Diagrams from left to right: Factories & Cottages, Vernacular Layout, Unified Front & Unique Back, Global to Local
The school takes the form of a traditional community school, but with emphasis on Inventing to learn, perhaps teaching elements of maths and literacy through coding on a raspberry pi (built at the bottom of the valley in a Sony factory).
It responds to the thesis exploration of factories (mass production) and cottages (craft production), as well as the layout of the vernacular (streets parallel to the valley). It does this by creating a central more public factory that contains a workshop, hall, library tower, and staff facilities, with two streets either side that act as breakout spaces for the classrooms as well as learning resources and tinkering space. On the other side of these are classrooms, all tailored to the needs of that class, the teacher's teaching style, etc, responding to context by creating a unified front with varied backs that can change over time according to needs.
The whole design develops a system that can be used to create tailored spaces that are easy to build and can adapt without extravagant costs.
From top to bottom: Classroom, Workshop, Street
Ground Floor Plan
The system is designed to be very simple to put together once cut. Taking inspiration from Wikihouse, joints are designed so that very little can go wrong and so that it only takes a humble mallet to rigidly connect the components together.
The system consists of a frame that is derived from the vernacular span as well as the sizes of standard sheet materials (4.8m spans in most areas).
Structural panels are then made with strong wedged mortise and tenon joints that can be fixed with only a mallet.
Panels are then erected into position and fixed together using a connection piece and pegs, and waterproof membranes are sealed from the inside. The panels are then filled with insulation and an internal finish sheet applied which can be any machine-able material.
Joints are all exposed from the inside and designed to be flexible in the hopes of encouraging an evolving environment, and not just that, but if you can see how the building is made, users can contribute to the development of the system.

You may also like...

Back to Top