Monthly Archives: Jun 2011

Forgotten Spaces 2011, Bee Project.

Studiodare’s ‘Bee Project’ has been shortlisted for Forgotten Spaces, 2011.This competition, organised by the RIBA, calls for architects and designers to think up new uses for neglected spaces in the Greater London area.

Our site is a 10m wide easement to a Thames Water ring main in Neasden, in the London Bor­ough of Brent. Triangulated by Neasden, Willesden and Cricklewood, the site runs through the Cricklewood Pumping Station. Originally constructed by the Met­ropolitan Water Authority, both the pumping station and ring main served an area of London stretching from the Thames to Hampstead.

The proposal itself is a combined urban park, ‘agroforest’ and bee-keeping apiary, which promotes a mutual dependency between the community and eco-system; it is a diversified growing system based on perennial crops, such as fruit bearing trees, plants and herbs. The urban park is achieved by carefully selecting, sculpting and arranging these crops to create vistas and frame views.

It is democratic and open; it can be enjoyed as a park for recreational purposes, an educational facility for school children and the unemployed, an activity for pensioners or a business for community organisations.

Highlighting our dependency on bees and the delicate nature of our ecosystem is central to the main idea. This is celebrated in the design of the beehives, which are constructed on an elevated plinth, providing focal points within the landscaped garden as well as protection against the colony.

Bee Project is designed to be ‘extendable’. Through community engagement, the project offers the potential to create an economic market for the exchange of produce, such as fruits, jams or honey. Produce is exchanged through a ‘farmers’ market and could link to similar other initiatives within neighbouring communities.

Encouraged by our shortlisting, we look forward to developing this proposal in more detail. We are also actively exploring opportunities to introduce the concept to a number of sites across London, taking it to local communities and key stakeholders.

Stuart McKenzie

The Adventurer Came Calling

In late 2006, we were asked to consider an unusual project; a new house on the beach in Morocco. How can you refuse of course, but in reality a project with an extremely limited budget. Construction costs and design fees were hopelessly inadequate (Mark won’t mind me saying this) but the idea was compelling, so Justine and I jumped on a plane and set off on what has become a 5 year journey.

Mark Anstice, explorer, adventurer, documentary television film maker & writer had bought the site, almost on the beach, in Moulay Bouzergtoun, close to Essaouira, the fabled ‘windy’ town on Morocco’s west coast, as celebrated by Hendrix, Stones and other musos of that era.

On site we were blown away by the sheer wonder of such a building plot, 130m x 50m sloping towards the sea. Met a local builder, spent a couple of days looking at construction, design and philosophy in the area; had a few nice tagine dish meals as well!

We were to use local materials; timber, stone gathered up from the site, the wonderful ‘tadilac’ render and importantly we were to use local labour and skills.

Maximum spans of 4.5m using the local un-sawn timbers set up the scale; random rubble walls, stone arches, no lintols and definitely no mechanical devices; no electricity at this point but simply a donkey for carrying the stones. A well, mansized,30m deep, was sunk; without water it would have been a non-starter (no mains) and Mark was off and running.

Slowly the shell rose from the ground, ably assisted by the donkey and supervised by goats. Mainly single storey (with a bit of two), a ‘tower’, several courtyards and five guest rooms, (Mark has ideas about running a wind/kite surfing school at some stage) the building now had a name ‘The Serai’ (Palace,Inn, peaceful haven).

The latest message from Mark, shows him and his new wife Ayelen, living in a partially completed building, some windows glazed, three habitable rooms, outside loo, tower bedroom and the beginnings of the tadillac render adding a bit of finish. The garden which is beginning to emerge, has terraces in honey coloured stone walls, and will eventually provide vegetables to compliment the ‘haggled for’ fish from the neighbour.

The project was and still is fascinating, and has cemented my commitment to using local, natural materials, local skills and traditional techniques. The harmony with the site, surroundings and environment is so evidently obvious. Lets think on that.

Footnote: the North African building techniques used in the Moroccan house are very similar to the examples of traditional construction that impressed me in my time in Nigeria in the ‘70s, I’ve got the books! but that is for another story or another blog.

By Ian Logan