"Sarah Ernst, RIBA Student member, 2nd Yr student, Sheffield
ASF [Architecture Sans Frontieres UK] – 4 days working outside the box
While there were an overwhelming number of activities going on during Architecture Week the project entitled Re-cover(y) stood out and sounded intriguing. It was run by a Peruvian Architect, Mariana Leguia, and organised by Melissa Kinnear and Peter Newton from ASF. It presented a challenge to set aside the formalities of an architecture degree in favour of designing through exploration, experimentation and participation.
Sunday 12th June - Reconnaissance
Our location was Vernon Square near Kings Cross in London, and our team, a combination of students and architects. Mariana explained the brief; to transform the site through developing an understanding of the area and community. Through unconventional methods we mapped the area, discovering contrasts, idiosyncrasies and qualities we might have otherwise missed. This was a shady retreat on a sunny day, an open square in area where fences and signage marked out territories.
Friday 16th June – User, Negotiator and Technician
Today our materials and the rest of our group arrived on site. We were introduced to a new method for generating design ideas. It involved splitting into groups of 3, and taking on the roles of ‘user’, ‘negotiator’ and ‘technician’. The user talked about their experience of the site and suggested changes that they would like to see, while the technician recommended what could be made out of the available materials. As groups we began to sketch out possible ways to transform the site for a party and performance on Sunday, as well as providing spaces to accommodate the varied users in the long term. A playground for everyone…
Saturday 17th June
The fun started with using the materials to create our visions for the site. Everything had been salvaged or donated… so the main ingredients for our scheme were pallets, carpet tiles, plastic bottles, 2 sails and 3 doors. The materials went surprisingly far as we created raised seating areas, drawing tables and benches for children, a stage, tables, canopies and exhibition space to display other projects by ASF. We pushed the boundaries of each material; the plastic bottles became decorative chains, a ball pool…and a chandelier!
Sunday 18th June – Raising the Chandelier
After a bit of a lie in, we returned to site to raise the sails into the trees and devise a way of lifting the chandelier, which had been made from around 100 bottles and 8 hours of labour! We were finally able to take the fences down which had encaged us, and our materials… and to open up the space to its inhabitants. The homeless people who seemed to use the site the most, quickly reasserted their territory. They explored the exhibition and drawing tables as well as enjoying the live music. As the afternoon went on, people came and left, and talk started about how the ideas raised by ASF could be applied in the homeless community to lead to real changes."