Architecture Occupied

James Longfield and Laura Harty
Newcastle University - Architecture and Urban Planning Programme

As architects we work between reality and representation to document, imagine and project new possibilities. The skills required to propose, test and implement possible futures exist in the same realm as documentations of existing realities. A studious discovery of precedents may therefore perform the dual function of transporting us to real places that are remote from our immediate physical surroundings, and teach us how to project alternative possibilities through use of the same manners and means.

Over a four weeks duration students were asked to creatively and imaginatively occupy architecture through studying its representations and produce their own proto-architecture through re-making their own interpretations primed for occupation.

This close study of precedent was intended to help students understand not only spatial form in 3D, but also how these spaces become inhabited on an individual level through use, light, material, ventilation, colour, etc, and how they set up the possibility of distinct social relationships between individuals.

Each group was allocated one of six housing schemes consisting of a series of house types, arranged in a particular pattern or cluster. These schemes were chosen both for the variety of architectural expression, but also for the distinct social circumstances and relations that enabled their realisation. In most cases, the process of design, construction or inhabitation offers space for residents to make a meaningful contribution to the ongoing or final materiality and configuration of the spaces.

Working together in small groups at first gave students the opportunity to collectively understand each schemes through research and modelling at 1/50. From then each individual was tasked with selecting a key ‘atmospheric moment’ or ‘threshold’ within the scheme to look at in greater detail.

The final production saw students produce a creative collage, expressing their personal interpretation of the selected threshold - its mood and relations between space and occupation - before using this imagined moment to project detail, inhibition and light captured in a final 1/20 model.

Run over three years, and still ongoing, the project has become a key introduction for students enrolled on the Architecture and Urban Planning (AUP) undergraduate degree to the concerns both of architecturally designed space, but also wider urban, social and political forces that shape the built environment and the potential of individual and collective occupation of the city.

Ruth Jefferis: