28 September 2015
Architectural Association, London
This summer, responding to the overarching summer school brief of Eccentricity, Unit 1 used the pub to explore the phenomenon of privatised public spaces in London. Privately-owned public spaces are being built all around us in London, sparking a debate about who owns the city. But this so-called trend is not a new concept. Public houses – or pubs – have existed in London for centuries as a space for the life of the city to play out – privately owned but publicly accessible, they are now very much engrained in the urban domain. But whilst new privately funded developments pop up by the dozen all around the city, pubs are very much in decline.
Unit 1 looked at how the pub could be used as a tool to inject life back into the (often bland) privatised public spaces that are changing London. The students began by making a pop-up pub to question what were the essential elements that defined this traditional space. This then was developed into dioramas that hybridised public programmes with the pub thereby creating a series of new public space typologies, which in turn were collected into a group stop-motion animation showcasing our vision for London as a Public House City.
This year was the third year we taught the summer school together and it was our most polemic brief to date. Exploring the premise of the pub with the students opened up a whole field of questions into the nature of privatised public spaces in the city, and as to whether these are a good or a bad thing. We realised that a wholly public space was nowadays considered to be quite utopian, while the privatised model was seen as reality. As a topic, it definitely polarised groups in discussion, but through engaging our audiences through a pub quiz format and testing their trivia about not just the pub but the type of space after which it’s named, we were happy to incite people to have an opinion and participate in our debates about ownership, accessibility and use throughout the three weeks.
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