We are delighted to be awarded the first prize for the Wakeford Hall Competition in Hooke Park. In many ways, this is a curious project for our office.
There are two key factors motivating the project. Firstly, we are located in Melbourne Australia, over 10,000miles away from London. Our physical distance from the project means that we need to remotely disseminate our ideas and transfer ownership of the design to the Design and Make students at Hooke Park. This requires a different methodology which looks at design strategy as a continuously evolving process; we call this ‘continuous designing’ to borrow a term from software development.
Secondly, as an architectural practice that has its own digital fabrication workshop, we have a deep interest in material research. Most of our projects at the moment require us to explore making and assembly processes as design strategies. The brief for Wakeford Hall simply provides a framework to test our process further.
Responding to our first motive, we asked: how do we design a project that can be ‘un-designed’ after the competition? Our aim is to design a series of tactics which allows students to un-pack the design process; taking the defining moments of the project and re-formulating an emerging design language through future material research. So, what we have presented at competition stage is but an instance of the design ‘machine’, the real fruit is in the working through of the design.
We designed the building as pedagogy; a matter which is close to our teaching and practice. The strategy laid out is not a tabular rasa of ideas but to seek a radical rethinking of current and emerging research at Hooke Park; tapping into existing research to go deeper and perhaps more daring than before. At the same time, seeking new means of making; inventing tools and techniques as part of the design process. The making processes (techniques, tools and materials) are themselves a form of design strategies, a way of thinking, investigating and interrogating design through action.
Our second motive sets out a series of making techniques as research trajectory. The aim of this is to sustain the proposal as it moves through phases of construction. Programmatically, the building is conceived as ground, enclosure and envelope; the ground as the hall, the enclosure as the library, office and reception and the envelope as a green ‘skin’ that will be eventually be taken over by the existing flora. Here, we want to test how technology and ecology can deeply penetrate architecture. It is not just imbedded or overlaid but critically part of the making of the architecture itself. That is to say the materials are technological and ecological media and making is a procedural strategy that operates within the formulation of the schema.
What is described above starts to formulate an agenda of continuous designing, not simply as a methodology of thinking for our practice but we literally present it as a physical manifestation of Hooke Park; as a laboratory of experiments in timber technology built over a period of time. In this sense, the competition brief intrigues us. It presents itself as a perfect opportunity to test out this methodology. Designing with making strategies, inventing tools, devising tactics and deepening research trajectory is all part of this continuous designing process; a perpetual investigation for our practice.
The above writing is also published in AA Conversations