So below is my ‘Archi-Commune’ For Change; essentially a commune for myself and 20 fellow architecture classmates and our particular tutorial group’s theme was Poverty and how we, as young architecture students, can tackle the issue. I know a lot of other people think that design can make a difference but my belief is that we (as designers) can’t actually do as much as we (as people) can.
Poverty is not only about homelessness. That is just one extreme. There are many others who suffer varying degrees of poverty, including emotional poverty. A lot of uni students themselves fall below the poverty line. For me, the answer is ‘being present’ and ‘forming real connections’…. it’s about building trust and feeling as though you are not alone… and restoring dignity to those who may be ashamed of their situation but who have no reason to be.
For this reason, my design response was 2-fold… the larger bonus space formed a communal and convivial garden, in which the less fortunate members of the community could come and tend to a small plot, grow food and form relationships… the whole idea of ‘breaking bread and sharing lives’. As those relationships strengthen, those people are invited to write on a small piece of paper the problem that is most taxing emotionally to them and bury it with a seed in a planter within a modular green wall. That way, the green wall grows over time, not only benefiting the commune and those whose relationships have contributed to its growth, but also the wider community.
My explanation for the garden is as follows:
I’m operating on the idea that providing a community plot with designed areas for regular convivial food sharing events will foster a sense of inclusion through ‘being present’ to those in crisis and that the ability to tend to the gardens and grow their own food will help restore dignity to those who make minimal income and may not necessarily be able to afford to put food on the table by the end of the week. As a designer, I’m creating / designing a program more than a product that contributes strongly to fostering social sustainability and tending to basic human needs, whilst also drawing on my skills of place making.
In terms of overall design, one particular desire of the tutorial group as a whole was that the building had “personality”. To respond to this, I have designed the building with a warehouse aesthetic, utilising the cut & fill to make bricks that are then used to construct the building. The building is stripped back to its bare bones, with the sawtooth trusses and brickwork exposed, as are the polished concrete slabs. The student residences are all north facing and are formed out of shipping containers, ensuring each individual had their own space for private study and sleeping.
Please excuse my mediocre sketching and lack of rendered elevations but I was desperately under the pump to get stuff on panels!!