Harnessing learning, collaboration and sustainable production to generate a sense of belonging
Focusing on the health and social benefits that come from living closely with nature, this proposal imagines that a community land trust has acquired a narrow site bordering arable land – a common scenario due to inaccessibility to contemporary farm machinery. Such plots are neither harvested nor rewilded and are of little interest to housebuilders due to their scale. For this reason they can often be purchased at below agricultural rates.
Drawing on the experience of team member Barbara Jones who co-founded The School of Natural Building (SNaB), Home Building is a 12-month design and construction course offered to teenagers leaving care, people leaving the armed forces, ex-prisoners, and asylum seekers over the age of 16, with the intention of assembling a group from diverse backgrounds.
Twelve homes of varying sizes and a multifunctional live / workspace for a community of 50 will be constructed using locally sourced natural materials– with particular focus on straw as a by-product of agricultural activity.
Learning, collaboration and sustainable production generate a sense of belonging, offering participants a real stake in the places they live. Throughout construction, 12 trainees would live on site in a live / work building, providing participants with the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with each other and the wider community.
The community land trust will maintain the homes at affordable rents in perpetuity, with the newly qualified natural builders being offered permanent residence and the opportunity to participate in future schemes or seek construction employment in the area. The remaining housing would be allocated to vulnerable people, who would join a community invested in its homes and countryside.
Over time, once monocultural edge land will develop into a rich tapestry of people and wildlife. Shared community buildings will host group dinners, yoga classes, childcare and homeworking. As the project is repeated, linear corridors of communality will spread throughout the UK.
The Home Building team developed their proposal at Finalist stage by working up the design of housing clusters in detail – exploring form and massing, construction and materiality, interior and exterior spaces and a programme of activities designed to promote interaction with the wider community.
James Houston, Architect
School of Natural Building
Barbara Jones, Straw Bale Builder, Instructor, Advisor
Robert Magowan, Policy Advisor
Louise Houston, Development Manager
Millie Walton, Writer
Christian Cargill, Filmmaker
Emiliano Zavala, Architect