Workshop #1 with Architectural Emporium

On Tuesday 9th June, we had the first of our intensive workshops with Architectural Emporium, follow-ups to our first three initial “Build Your Own High Street” sessions.

This first workshop involved Luke, Andy and Toby of Architectural Emporium working with us and guiding us through some of the more complicated processes.

To begin with, they re-introduced themselves and explained how though this is a ‘structured agenda’, for the time-being we are coming up with ideas. These ideas aren’t set in stone, and can (most likely will) change during the process.

The agenda of the evening was as follows;
-An exercise in which we introduce ourselves and share a photograph we’ve brought which we feel signifies the importance of “home”.
-Looking at the design process for the next few months.
-Having a look at some polaroid photos A.E had brought of possible designs and features we might use on our high street, and placing them on our “Favourites Wall”, in order of preference.
-Massing Studies (presentation of ideas in grid form, i.e: the retail to residential buildings ratio, where does Homebaked come in?)
-Organisation of our team.

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So, to begin with, we looked at our photographs and collected our ideas of what ‘home’ means.
Architectural Emporium started off, with Luke sharing a photograph of one of his favourite features, a large bath (ideal for family), followed by Andy sharing his of a wood burner (free fuel, he makes his own bricks, recycles energy), and finally Toby shared photos of his home which are filled with souvenirs from places he’d been – “To me, home is the memory of other places.”

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The floor was then put to the rest of us, and though everybody had their own photographs and idea of “home”, there were some repeating themes and desires.
I would usually collate these ideas generally, giving the basic gist and sharing what we all agreed on (or not, as the case might be), but for this exercise, I found it really interesting to see a personal insight from everyone involved.
Plus, as Britt and I myself agreed, some genuinely lovely anecdotes came out of this exercise.

So, here’s what everybody said!

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Mick liked that the fact that his home gave him the ‘sense of control’ in his tenancy agreement. He described it as a “material reality”, and also likes that he has a nice view of the Pennines in the distance.

Britt mentioned how she likes to entertain guests, and so her open plan kitchen is important as whoever is cooking can still remain social while doing so. She also pointed out her “monkey in a cup” – which is literally that, a toy monkey who sits in a cup! – who has travelled with her to many houses.

Peter shared a photograph of a house he admired in Ireland, as it gave him the sense of it being peaceful, and out of the way – somewhere to build memories.

Sam was also keen on her view and the idea of a social space, but also liked having somewhere to think and a social place for others to visit and feel is a ‘different space’ for them to reflect in – such as when her mum visits.

Michelle shared a photograph of her front door, explaining how once she walks through it, she knows she’s in her ‘sanctuary’ (a feeling I can very much relate to myself). She also shared pictures of the interior – the vestibule with original features, for example, which has special memories for her.

Cal shared a photo of her backyard and her unique ‘stairs to nowhere’ – literally, a set of stairs there which go nowhere in particular. She described them as being “lovely, but not functional. They look great, but they don’t serve a purpose”. Sometimes it’s the charming quirks that make a place feel like home!

Neil lives in a small flat, but also likes its open plan kitchen. His feature wall also has the original brick work which gives it the ‘wow’ factor.

I was up next, and shared a photo of my niece and nephew (who do not live with me, but obviously come to visit a lot!), and explained how family is the important thing for me. I also mentioned how, in my new home, my bedroom is important to me as it’s my space and I’ve put my own personal stamp on it. It’s organised chaos, but it’s my organised chaos.

Grace liked the idea of something that has the potential to become beautiful and shared, for example, her plants, and echoed the thoughts of being social and sharing space with friends.

Finally, Jake
, who is documenting our process via film, mentioned how he’s in a new build but likes it because, in his own words, “oh my god, it works!”. Like Cal, he’s also keen on the quirkier features, but likes his new house because he’s noticed that his childrens’ health have improved since being there. He also mentioned how the sockets are all in the right place in his new home.

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After we shared our thoughts and photos, Luke recognised the common themes – privacy, hosting space, memories, history, family and sanctuary.

The next portion of the evening was to look at the bigger picture.
We’re going to be concentrating on two key design stages.
The first is to gather together a definitive brief, and the second is to take those designs and ideas, and turn them into a concept.

At this point, we have to start narrowing down these ideas to something more concrete – how big will the properties be? How many will there be? How will they connect to the outside?

Ideally, by mid September, we’ll have a concept design which we can then work on to be ready for planning permission in January 2016.

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The Favourites Wall

This next activity is one that you’ll notice when you come into Homebaked, as it’s replaced the portraits that were up on the wall.

It involved us focussing on our priorities at this point. We were given different photographs to look at, each with various elements on, and had to decide as a group where to place them on the wall (in order of preferences).

It was important to look at this subjectively and think about the ‘master plan’ for the area.

There were different categories, each with their own photos. You can see the photos in person on our Favourites Wall, but for the purpose of this article, I’ve listed them in each category.

As follows:

Local Elements

1. The new main stand at Anfield.
-It will be a fantastic boost for the area, but obviously there have been knock-on effects with the dereliction and blight.

2. Lost streets/the blight of the area.
-Obviously, this was a sore topic for some of us (myself included), and was one we placed low in favourability.

3. The local health centre at the top of Mere Lane.
-It has a consistent style, and is generally considered a ‘good’ building, but it’s still very different in design to what we might have been used to.

4. Victorian Housing.
-Similar to some of those now lost. Very traditional and much-loved designs, but difficult to replicate in modern standards.

5. Georgian Housing.
-More common in the city centre (Rodney Street, for example), but again, very beautiful designs.

6. Homebaked itself.
-Has helped Anfield as a community rediscover a sense of pride, in the community’s best interests, but we’re also an older building.

7. Keepmoat’s properties.
-New builds, lots of light and a nice-looking modern community, but losing a sense of tradition and familiarity.

8. Pastiche.
-The idea of ‘copying’ the older looks but in a modern way. A nice ideal, but is it practical?

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Gardens/Outside Spaces
1. External private garden.
-The idea of ‘personal space’, favoured by many, but does this also mean we’re losing the social aspect?

2. External activities and sports.
-Good for the community (and wider community), but could be considered anti-social to people living nearby.

3. Communal garden.
-A popular idea, and one that would encourage community spirit, but the upkeep has to be considered.

4. Allotments.
-Same as above.

5. Vertical plants.
-A modern form of planting, but does it fit in with Anfield?

7. Roof gardens.
-Another popular idea, but is it something that we could see working in Anfield and with the wider community?

8. Recess balconies.
-Balconies carved into the houses themselves. Keeps a ‘closed-in’ structure.

9. Projected balconies.
-These would “jut out” – consider the landscape?

10. On-Street Parking vs Off-Street.
-With on-street we would lose area, and with off-street, it loses the sense of density. People locally seem to prefer the more traditional ‘on-street’ style of parking.

11. Car park.
-Would be handy for community, especially on a match day, but where could it fit in?

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Access To Buildings
1. Front door onto street.
-Remembering Michelle’s idea of ‘sanctuary’ and defensible space.

2. Core entry.
-Shared door/stairs, as with a block of flats. Gives a small sense of the social while still staying private?

3. Deck access.
-Inspired by Victorian design, a shared walkway but a private living room. Interesting idea, but not too common in this area.

4. Rear access.
-Frees up the front for retail, and allows people to walk through the potential gardens.

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Form of Buildings

1. Flat roofs.
-They’re formed lower and allow for roof gardens, and are cheaper, but not too common in Anfield.

2. Pitched roofs.
-More familiar.

3. Chimneys/rooftop features.
-No longer serve a traditional purpose, i.e: a fire, but can be used as ventilation or to help let in light. They’re also seen as favourable purely as an aesthetic.

5. Stepped forms.
-Again, these allow for roof gardens, but they do look quite unusual/not traditional.

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Materials

1. Brick.
-Ages well, is affordable and familiar.

2. Timber.
-Looks appealing, but does not age well.

3. Render.
-Very affordable, but does not age well and can chip.

4. Tiles.
-Can look beautiful, but are not very traditional and can damage easily.

5. Mesh.
-Allows for layering and potential greenery, but does not look very familiar/friendly.

5. Metal.
-Long-lasting, but has negative connotations (thinking of abandoned houses during the blight etc).

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Windows
1. Natural ventilation.
-Basically, just opening up a window. Obviously this is good, but can be noisy (lets in street noise).

2. Bay windows.
-Very popular given their traditional look, can be modernised.

3. Punched windows.
-Not as familiar/traditional.

4. Floor to ceiling.
-An interesting aesthetic, but again, unfamiliar to Anfield.

Types of Accommodation


1. Commercial understory.
-Leads onto high street, similar to traditional housing seen in Anfield.

2. Live Work Units.
-Integrating the commercial with the house – retail on bottom, residential apartment on top, for example.

3. Apartments.
-Handy for smaller families or single person homes.

Interiors


1. Open plan vs cellular.
-Rooms merging with each other or separation?

2. Ceiling height.
-Would we want to go with the traditional idea of high ceilings?

3. Double-height space.
-Adds a sense of drama to a property, but can waste space.

4. Roof spaces.
-Pitched volume and adds extra space to a building.

5. Storage.
-Always important! ‘Clever storage’ solutions could be looked at.

6. External connection.
-How do the interiors meet with the exterior?

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After pinning up the photos to the wall, we looked at the complex (to a beginner, that is!) ‘Massing Studies’.

We were given a set of plans, to get a feel for how much we actually want on the site.
Sizes are based on the London Housing Design Guide (there is no other guide…).

Again, there were various options to look at, which I’ll describe as best I can from memory. Our architects chose different extremes for us to understand what the possibilities are. Of course there are lots of variations in between.

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Option 1 – City Block
This would fill the ground floor with commercial buildings, with apartments above.
The extreme option is 32 1-bed flats, but of course unit sizes can be varied.
This would give a lot of units as a starting point, but might be contextually too large with the surrounding buildings.

There is flexibility with this option, with the idea of duplexes, and gives a demonstration of what area is available if we go with this severe approach. Roof gardens could be a possibility here.

Option 2 – Residential Plinth.
Same amount of commercial units, but with 8 large residential, ideally for family homes.
While this is in keeping with the traditional family home idea, it is not actually financially viable to build for us and it potentially cuts out a large number of possible tenants (for example, smaller families, single person homes).

Option 3 – Limited Commercial.

This is a mixture of the two above. Fill the site, with a central access to the upper floors.
4 houses would open on the street, and 4 commercial units, with apartments on a higher level – 14 residential units in total.

Option 4 – Mixed Residential.
We would retain commercial buildings at floor level, and have 17 residential units overall.

Option 5 – Rear Dock Access.
16 large residential units, with 8 two-story 1 bed apartments on top of each.
This gives a higher density and a full ground floor of commercial.

Option 6 – Tower & Houses
23 residential units, with 3 large family houses with gardens.
Dense apartment block on the end, of 20 apartments, with the commercial units on the bottom.

Option 7 – New Build Bakery

This one was a bit of a surprise, but it’s all just ideas for now.
Replacing Homebaked with a new-build bakery, freeing the site up for 4 large family homes and an apartment block, with 21 units overall.

As with the photographs, these options were placed on our Favourites Wall in order of preference.
It’s important to note, though, that this preference is based on what we feel is best for the community as a whole.

Finally, we looked at how we would organise these group sessions and what kind of open sessions we would like to offer. We will let you know the dates!
We also briefly discussed the financing scheme, and what we might potentially do with the rec.

It’s all quite a lot to take in at this stage, but in the best possible way!
There are so many wonderful ideas coming out of these sessions, and as the weeks go on, our ideas will become more consistent and concrete, so we can put forward a definite concept and, eventually, proposal scheme.

Please do continue to keep up with our progress by reading these blogs, or, better yet, by stopping by the bakery, looking at our Favourites Wall and asking us about it! There are some blanks, so you can write or draw your ideas and add them to the wall.

Until next time..

Photographs by Britt Jurgensen and Patricia Levey-Bennett.

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