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Group of students and staff gather together

The Roundhouse at The Story Garden

Written by Teleri Lloyd-Jones
Published date 18 December 2019

Each year, BA Architecture students take part in Making Week, a collective project building a structure at 1:1 scale. For 2019, the project took a new dimension with students working on site to create a Roundhouse for the local community at The Story Garden.

“Making Week gets students to engage with physical making and understand materials in a very direct way,” says Greg Ross, Course Leader for BA Architecture, “it’s short, intense and all about collaborative working.”

This year, it focused on The Story Garden, a community growing space instigated by Global Generation and the British Library, and was the second collaboration with Global Generation following the Kiln House in 2018. Working with Guest Maker Nicolas Henninger of Office for Crafted Architecture, the challenge was to create an insulated and heated communal storytelling space set within the meanwhile garden.

This is the first time that Making Week was to deliver a structure for use in the real world. It meant that the principle design strategy was fixed beforehand and delivered to the students whose roles were then to refine design details, organise and build. Global Generation supplied reclaimed scaffolding boards and with basic hand tools the students set about building the eight segments of the building. The pre-used material brought its own challenges, requiring reconditioning and more sensitive handling.

“We wanted students to think about how they might adapt details and structure according to the available material, not designing something for an ‘ideal’ material that you might buy.”
Greg Ross, Course Leader, BA Architecture

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Third-year student Nimra Shahid found the week pushed her to work in new ways: “Because the timber was old we weren’t allowed to cut it on the machinery so we had to use hand saws. It was my first time using a saw. We needed a lot of elbow grease. There were lots of first times for me on this project.”

Not only does the Roundhouse form part of the College’s MAKE initiative but it is an ongoing project with students able to return over the year to develop the structure. The initial plan was for it to be insulated using straw bales set into wooden cassettes but as it becomes a live teaching space it has transformed into a large-scale experiment with, for example, the possibility for innovative mycelium insulation and a sedum roof to reduce the use of plastic and support bio-diversity in the garden.

Some students feel the project’s impact on their own work too. Shahid, for example, is basing her dissertation on The Story Garden. Her experience of connecting to real places and people has informed her individual perspective:

“Why produce something for the sake of producing something? I’d rather make something that we’re proud of and that works for the community… I can’t wait to see how people occupy and use the space. Architecture should respond to people, we should build for people.”
Nimra Shahid, student

More Information:

Minh Le Pham
Make @ Story Garden (photo: Adam Razvi)