Carlotta Novella

MA Architecture: Cities and Innovation student Carlotta Novella speaks about her project "Industrious Neighbourhoods" and how she plans to live/work in a trailer during the Degree Show - for at least one day… Carlotta’s project aims to open up a wider conversation on the topic of home-based workers and their social and architectural needs, particularly within social housing. Watch out for updates when we talk to Carlotta again nearer to the start of the show.


How has your work developed since we last spoke? 

Carlotta: Now there’s just six days to go until the show and I finally have a finished structure and it’s very similar to what I intended it to be. I’ve been working directly on this for three weeks now and I am happy with what I’ve got. I’ve added some extra wheels to the trailer so just one person can move it, I am happy because it seems to move really nicely. 

The structure I’ve built will be more of a working environment compared to what I had initially planned, but the structure can be closed up so you can work privately and have more of a living space. The idea is that it will be an addition for the home-based worker that will also allow them to work in public, but also exhibit it. At some point I would like to create a system where tables and chairs will be able to be stored inside the structure to allow people to also run activities and events from it. 

Did you enjoy the building process?

Carlotta: Definitely, it has been brilliant to be building again. The technicians at the 3D Large Workshop have been amazing too, they have understood that we are all on deadlines and they’ve been incredibly helpful! I am very grateful because I have relied on them a lot. 

With the show just a matter of days away, what are you having to work on now? 

Carlotta: I have some finishing touches to add.My structure, at the same time as being a live-work unit is also an activist device.  On one side the structure will have my drawings and my urban strategy wallpapered on to it and on the other side there will be a billboard that will present rule 23 of the manual for tenants of Tower Hamlets. This rule states that within social housing systems you must use your home only as a private dwelling space and forbids the running of a home-based business. I’ve based my project a lot around this rule so I want it to stand out and be clear. I also have a bit of other painting to do. For example, I am going to paint red the parts of the structure that will be active when it’s open. 

Are you looking forward to hearing people’s reactions to your project? 

Carlotta: I am bit nervous because I want to be really clear and for people to easily understand the project. I’m excited because it will be a test to see how people approach the topic. When the Degree Show is finished hopefully I can take the reactions on board and improve on certain things before the unit goes out to be used practically. 

Do you have any recommendations for what to see at the show? 

Carlotta: All my colleagues have really great projects. We have all created bespoke handmade pieces that seem to all work well together. We are the first year of this course and we’ve been given a really wonderful space at the front of the college so it will be a really great exhibition. We have been very lucky! MA Narrative Environments is also very interesting and they have a beautiful setup in the Crossing.

Can you tell us a bit about your project and what inspired your brief?

Carlotta: The project started off by looking at the network of open workshops and shared co-working studios to rent around London, with a particular attention to the urban model of industrial warehouses converted into studio spaces to allow for a live-in work environment and collaborations.This type of shared live/work spaces are normally preferred by young artists and creatives as they allow maximum flexibility and affordability, but at the same time they require a positive attitude towards community living. I wanted to look into the possibilities for alternatives to this home-based work scenario that could accommodate a more diverse typology of urban settlement.

I decided to look into building upon social housing and their existing structures and facilities. I’ve called my project ‘Industrious Neighbourhoods’ as it rethinks the community-based networks, social spaces and the sustainability of these living spaces as well as the architectural structure. I hope to create a urban strategy model where home-based workers are encouraged and enabled to use the existing public infrastructure and create new self-sustaining practices by spending time working together. 

What are the processes leading up to the Degree Show?

Carlotta: Through the Course's curriculum I undertook first a placement, then ongoing Summer employment and mentoring from public works, an art and architecture practice based in Hackney Wick. Thanks to my positive placement experience with public works, through which I had the chance to learn more about new maker spaces and collective live-work communities in East London, I started my research on domestic and working space and forms of co-habitation and co-working architectural environments. I began the project with a lot of intense research, mapping out the open warehouse studios available and the typologies of these studios. I interviewed home-based workers to understand more about how they have to use their environment, the benefits and the problems they face.

I also tried to transform my own house, partially to create a space for me to work from home, but also to allow myself to have a practical understanding of how the space of the house can be transformed, customised and appropriate to both live in and work professionally. That helped me a lot to understand the ideas I was working on and how I could transform a space to suit a home-based worker.

Part of my research looked into the work of Dr. Frances Hollis’ theory of the ‘workhome’ and the current policies related to home-based work for social housing tenants in UK. In fact, The 2010 UK Coalition government has pledged to lift the ban on residents of social housing starting businesses in their own homes. This makes design for home-based work a live policy issue. During the research I also had the possibility to volunteer for a construction training centre part of the network of residents facilities connected to the social housing provider I chosen a site for my project. 

Together with the research and the design I wanted to include a series of events and live projects aimed to open up the discussion on home-based work and communal making. All the events are designed to experiment and test a series of possible cultural infrastructures that facilitate the meeting between the home-based makers and that allows work and social life to take place and happen together. 

I’ve focused a lot on that area hypothetically to give an idea of what a working example of my project could look like.

What have been your main challenges during this project?

Carlotta: I think that I have found focusing my research a big challenge and I had to work hard to make myself choose one concise aspect of the topic to develop. I also found that I was becoming too romanticised by the idea of the home-based worker, which led to a change in the focus of my project from the individual to the neighbourhood. 

How are you currently preparing for the show?

Carlotta: From the start of the year until now it has been research and designing, now is the time when the intense building begins. For the degree show I am working on developing an old trailer, which can be transported, and turned into a live-work unit and informative device that I will use during the degree show and after. The idea is that it can then be used as an extended working space by other people and residents of the housing estates after the show.

What is the general feeling in your programme towards the Degree Show right now?

Carlotta: Right now, everyone is really focused, and really very involved in their work. We are all really looking forward to seeing all the finished works that we’ve been working on so intensely for the past year.

What aspect of the show are you most looking forward to?

Carlotta: I am very excited about the fact that I am building a unit that will move and be used somewhere else after the show. I am looking forward to opening up a wider conversation and seeing how people respond to the project.

What are your post-Degree Show plans?

Carlotta: I am going to look for a job in an architecture practice but at the same time I will carry on studying for one more year here at CSM. Then I plan to stay in London to keep working for a further two years until I will become a fully trained architect. I really want to develop my skill-set as I have an Italian background in construction management and architecture, which is very focused on the history of the subject, so I would like to work and develop my construction and 3D drawing abilities. 


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