New Typologies for Living and Working

Politics had been set at the beginning of the new academic year as an overarching theme for all the studios to think about. Studio 15 responded in the Autumn Term with the ethics of man’s relationship within nature but in the Spring Term we set an urban design project in the heart of the county town of Lewes, a few miles inland from Brighton. This is a town currently transfixed by a major new development to build hundreds of new homes in place of low cost places of work.

Some believe much of the creative energies of Lewes will be lost and others feel that we have become so transfixed with the need to build houses, that we have overlooked the need to sustain healthy local working communities. Will the new housing merely accelerate the process of turning Lewes into a commuter-based town? Thus was the premise for the Spring Term project coined, Places to Live; Places to Work.

Essentially we wanted the students to investigate new urban typologies that could provide a good and very proximate balance between residential and working accommodation. This might take the form of the so-called live-work unit but it could also mean a highly capable piece of infrastructure where these different and sometimes competing uses could coexist within dynamic urban clusters.

This was a complex brief and it would introduce the students to multiple levels of urban scale and sustainability considerations. We also set them two ‘live clients’ to chose from including a brilliant and rapidly expanding e-learning company that is experiencing first hand the issues of living and working pressures in the town.

The other was Studio Hardie who have shot to fame with Channel Four’s George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces programme. Studio Hardie are one of the creative enterprises in the Phoenix estate who have been evicted from their low rent accommodation ahead of the regeneration work commencing.

Another overlay to the brief asked the student to draw from their creative explorations of the Autumn Term project to inform the new proposition. Lewes is famous for its use of materials and its pertaining to place. Like Birling Gap, Lewes has many special qualities tied to its landscape context. This was recognised when Lewes was included within the boundaries of the South Downs National Park.