What are the urban issues that architecture could assist in addressing? How can we help create more convivial spaces that are not only driven by commerce but by the needs of people and increasingly diverse communities? How could this become economically viable? How could we provide alternative urban and architectural scenarios that might bring spatial capacities which are currently missing? How can we harness existing but dormant or overlooked urban and spatial capabilities to enrich our cities and at the same time make them also more resilient and sustainable? Who has been edited out of our urban realms and what can we do to (re)include them? Where are our civic spaces and how can we rebuild or strengthen them? Studio 66 tackled these wider urban questions by bringing them right down to a real urban context in Catford, south-east London. Rather than regarding architecture as something ‘remote’ or ‘other’, students often have a deep connection, or even real experience of wider issues and concerns, from the unaffordability of housing to the lack in care or youth funding to the disappearance of public space to environmental concerns. Using their creative capital they set out to discover opportunities in often stagnating or uncared-for spaces from housing estates that were left ‘in limbo’ hovering for decades in a political struggle between renovation or destruction, to a declining 70s shopping centre, to hospital environments and infrastructures such as stations, railway tracks and carparks. Students set out to imagine, harnessing overlooked spatial capabilities and opportunities, filling them with alternative stories, infusing them with different cultures and atmospheres, or declaring an altogether different alternative setting. Come and visit Fun Town Not Old Town, honestly, it does not matter if you are young or old (you will want to stay). In ‘Sh.’ A Catalyst to Tackle the Issues that Minorities Experience, you will find a space, that offers dignity rather than indifference. The Alternative Waiting Room will help make your hospital appointments a less dreaded experience, whilst the Catford Ecology ‘Factory’ will turn pollution into diamonds. And these are just a few of the infusions that students of studio 66 have created for Catford. Watch this space; there is more to come in August / September, when those wonderful students of ours who have been impacted by the current pandemic in more than one way will add their offerings.
The following is work produced by the studio in recent years.
The city. A proclamation (as was the title of the brief) was the very first brief for all studio 66 students at the beginning of the year in October. The students were given the opportunity to bring issues, questions, ideas, discontent, dreams, … about cities to the forefront. These may be overriding urban issues, issues that they have personal experience with, or issues that they noticed and which they found important enough to proclaim. They were encouraged to proclaim these issues first and foremost as a citizen living within the urban context, with the secondary agenda being their architectural studies. The format was open; they were invited to stage a protest / proclamation / happening / installation, and to ‘act’ this out within the department. The aim was that students could voice their thoughts and concerns about urban issues whilst at the same time developing tools and activities that they could potentially use to engage with the general public or particular stakeholders (i.e. architectural ‘activism in the broadest sense), from staging an event, performance, poll, engagement, wearable protest, stall.
Note: The public staging was unfortunately not possible due to safeguarding issues and ethical vetting, so it was all staged in the school.