RIBA St Margaret’s Church Tour & Talk

RIBA St Margaret’s Church Tour & Talk

Last week we hosted a RIBA talk at St Margaret’s Church, the free event gave anyone, and everyone an opportunity to visit the church and ask the design team questions regarding this brilliant scheme. Luckily someone had the foresight to record our talk and Q&A session, well worth a watch if you were not able to join us.

We were joined by the wonderful Andrew Malbon, a key member of the church team and also a fellow architect. He gives a great introduction to the project, offering an insight into the project from the church perspective – ‘Keep the thing the thing – no matter how gorgeous and lovely the (architecture is), and it is, it is here to support the people who come in the building.’

Andrew was also able to share some figures which highlight the positive impact the scheme has had on the local community. The food bank, for example, fed about 100 people a week throughout the pandemic, totally around 10,000 meals provided which could not have been done without the physical space of the church. The children’s soft play now hosts around 50 children visiting per week (not including those who use it over the weekend during services), it has become a safe and inexpensive space for families (not just from the congregation) to come together and use.

 

From the Q&A session, one question that really stood out for us was:

‘What has come out of this which wasn’t planned – any unintended happy accidents?’

Andrew explains how the project has expanded across the building; people no longer just congregate in the center of the church but have grown into all corners of the building. He explains how at the first wedding in the refurbished church there was an amazing, fluid use of space, which was amazing to see how the church could be utalised in such a way.

Darren explains how this project has taught Studio BAD the importance of starting each project without any preconceived ideas. Since the success of St Margaret’s, they have been asked to recreate the scheme elsewhere, however it is important not to just copy but to see the needs for each community and shape the project that way.

The future of a church is not just about Sunday, it is about community and what the physical building can offer.

 

The talk starts around 4 minutes into the video, Darren comes in around 22 minutes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bG07Y9BlReI

 

RIBA Tour of St Margaret’s Church

As a recent MacEwean Award Commended project, the RIBA Hampshire Branch have invited us to host a tour of St Margaret’s Church for local members. We are thrilled to have this opportunity, to showcase how we have transformed the once condemned building though a minimal refurbishment and ‘meanwhile approach’, transforming it for the local community.

Do please come and join us, the event is free although we would encourage everyone who can to make a donation to the church’s fund. Pre booking your tickets is essential, get your here.

Date & Time:
Tuesday 26th April 2022
1800 – 2000

Location:
St Margaret’s Community Church
Highland Road, Southsea, Portsmouth, PO4 9DD

Reading University lecture

We were delighted to be invited by Reading University Architecture Society to deliver a lecture in their 2022 lecture series titled ” REFORMATION REQUIRES” which we gave last night; after so long presenting lectures across zoom it was a delight to be back talking to a real audience.

For the lecture I focused on our most recent community and public realm work, to highlight how architecture can be a vehicle for positive social change. This is an area which all of us at Studio BAD are really passionate about, in many ways it is a key pillar of the company and the reason I set up the business as I wanted to focus on this area of work.

We strongly believe in re-using what is existing, creatively engaging architecture to re-imagine the potential of a building, or a site, to make it fit the current needs. For example, St Margaret’s Church building had been condemned and likely set for demolition, through our work we have delivered a vibrant space for the whole community which is activated throughout the day and week with much needed services, such as a food bank, café, child’s play area and bicycle workshop. We touched the building lightly, only making physically alterations where vitally needed, such as the flooring where we replaced the wooden floor (which we sold, to help fund the works) and replaced with poured concrete, to work with the newly installed, zoned underfloor heating.

Architecture in the 21st century does not have to be just about a physical building, I believe many projects need architecture in a different which is not necessarily just about the bricks and mortar buildings. We have recently been working on projects that focus on reactivating the traditional high street; with these projects we interrogate how we can change the dynamic of the streets to create vibrant and engaging spaces. In Bedford Place, in Southampton, our project was a result of the community needs in the wake of covid, answering how to activate and reanimate the area to create opportunities off the back of temporary road closures. It has been a real pleasure to see the success of the scheme, now nearly two years later much of the scheme is still in place and the local council are looking to make it permanent. We are currently looking at similar reactivation projects in Gosport, Eastleigh and other areas of Southampton.

We truly believe Architecture can creatively problem solve many of the issues we are currently facing; without ego architecture can be immensely powerful, helping to reactive our cities, reduce waste, reduce carbon and deliver richer, long lasting and interesting projects.

 

 

The Business of Listening, discussion record with Business of Architecture.

Click here to listen to my full discussion with Rion Willard, from the Business of Architecture, about the ‘Business of Listening’, a topic I deeply believe in.

It is an area of architecture that I find more relevant and important than ever before, our conversation covers my approach to clients, being a teacher, setting up Studio B.A.D and how I see the role of architects in the 21st century.

Traditionally I feel architects have had a tendance to ‘know’ the solution right from the start but I believe we need to stand back, listen to what a project or client really needs and gaining the trust from the client. This in turn can give us permission as designers to be bold in our approach and our process, it also helps to get clients truly engaged with the process.

Our project at St Margaret’s church is a clear case when listening has been vital in unlocking the potential of the building and what it can offer the community. I think our clients on this project initially found it unnerving when we wanted to take time to listen, as they had expected their architects to come with a solution. We stood back and reflected on what we saw, not just with the physical building but also the community needs. By going through this process, the project has become richer. We were able to persuade the church to reopen the beautiful old church (previously condemned) and discover what the community really needed, since this exercise they have opened a café, a drop in area and second hand shop within the church. By not rushing the solution, this has given up the ability to go deep, aligning our design ideas with the business case of the client and giving solutions that work long term, our solutions for the church have future proofed an unidentified business stream for the church.

The piece around listening and communication is so important. As architects I feel we can’t be passive in all of this, we need to be thinking about the future and the impact our work will have, most importantly how we can have a positive influence. I believe we don’t have to always wait for the brief, we can communicate ideas out. For example, Studio BAD try to only work with existing buildings, pushing the idea of refurbishment and repurpose rather than new build, this stance has given potential clients alternative solutions that they might not have even thought of before.

By adopting this process of being a listener we are able to be influenced by cultural changes, it doesn’t always have to be about a physical change and designing a building, but as architects we can still have positive impact on our communities by working more in a curator role. Working on feasibilities can unlock potentials of buildings and businesses, I feel as a practice we can bring together people from different backgrounds to creating a richer discussion.

The importance of listening is not just relevant in the private sector, it is also critical to my teaching work. I have to really listen to students, learn who they are as people, their background, what interests them. By really listening I start to know what can unlock their potential, but one approach does not work for them all.

I can’t define what a career in architecture looks like now, I feel we should be more flexible on how we see ourselves, being more part of the conversation for positive change rather than just concentrating on the traditional architectural role. Students studying architecture now could go on to be an architect, or work for a developer, or be a developer, or set designer, architecture can be the bedrock for many other disciplines. By being more flexible on where an architectural degree can take you, I believe it takes the pressure off the need to complete all parts of the degree (which doesn’t suit all), helping to redefine what architecture is in the 21st century.

Why teaching matters to me, by Darren Bray

‘I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.’ –Albert Einstein

 

Since becoming a fully qualified architect I have always kept myself involved with academia, through part time teaching, reviewing exam work and acting as a visiting lecturer at various universities. The more academic work I have been involved with the more I have realized that teaching is important to me, it is part of who I am and what I do and has a positive influence on the evolution of Studio BAD.

Part of the reason I love teaching is that it invigorates me. Students often have a seemingly naïve or fresh way of approaching problems that keeps me from getting stuck into an architectural rut. They also challenge me to be better, to teach better, to design better, as they are not easily impressed by my work experience they do not just accept my word but want proof. I find that by having to justify my ideas and views it makes me think harder.

I feel lucky that my teaching work makes my outlook more current, in this academic world of theory I am exposed to people who would normally be outside my natural sphere of the practice and we all bring different ideas together. In this space theories are explored, this is a luxury many small practices do not normally have the ability to do, often the time spent on the practicalities of running a small practice take over from the time we should really dedicate to critical thinking.

As cliché as it sounds I do also really like giving back, teaching allows me to do that. I am hugely aware of the positive impact my teachers had on me, they helped shape me to become what I am today and I do believe that without their belief in me pushing me forward I would not be a successful architect now. If I can pass this positive impact onto just one of my students then I will feel I have succeeded.

Ecology of Communities lecture for PASS Portsmouth

I was delighted to take part in the PASS (Portsmouth Architecture School Society) series of lectures around the ‘Ecology of Communities’ last month. As a part time academic I feel it is important to continue to engage the next generation and to inspire those coming through. Others who have been part of this lecture series have included Piers Taylor, James Dale, Jo Hagan and Spark Architects. The whole series can be found on YouTube

 

‘In this time of uncertainty, we need more tolerance, compassion, and trust for each other since we all are one. Otherwise, humanity will face an even bigger crisis’

Ai Weiwei, Humanity

 

As a practice we have been fortunate to work on several community based projects, such as October Books, Bedford Place and St Margaret’s church, each quite different, with their distinct set of design aims, but all with driver to engage with their local community.

Recently we have been working on a feasibility for a mini masterplan of the Bedford Place district of Southampton. The area is set at the opposite end of town to the large shopping malls and has a reputation for being an independent district, with handsome Grade II listed buildings and with boutique retail offering and local restaurants. Due to the Covid outbreak many of the streets were closed to cars earlier this summer to allow for extra social distancing and additional outdoor seating. Initially this was a temporary measure by the council, done in haste and without much thought to the aesthetics, we were brought onboard to look at on-going street activation and animation.

Our recommendations included painting the concrete bollards, originally quite bleak but now bright and colourful, even acting as a draw to bring people to the area to see and engage with it. Our street activation plans have gone further to address the signage, put up street bunting, paint the road, increase planting and set up a series of events throughout the year to use this space. We see this as a huge opportunity for Southampton to create a distinctive district, with a unique sense of place which will draw people in, helping to improve the local economy.

This type of project is highly emotive, whenever there are discussions regarding reducing car access it makes people very passionate as we are a nation addicted to our cars. This is not a new thing, it is easy to find videos from Amsterdam in the 1970’s of locals getting violent at the new pedestrian streets, an area we now look at so positively.

It is however important to listen to the community and their concerns, to really hear what they are saying and reflect on their fears. As an architect it is important to not bring your ego or believe you know the solution from the start, I believe you can learn a great deal through listening and responding to issues, not only will you gain better community engagement in the project but it often makes for a far richer project.

Take a listen to the whole webinar here, it covers a lot more including an interesting Q&A session at the end which covers politics, dyslexia, collaboration, sustainability and even imposter syndrome.

The lecture can be seen here on YouTube. 

PASS lecture