MArch Unit 14: Old Habits. Mike Aling, Simon Withers & Erika Suzuki

Greenwich Park with the Royal Observatory on Easter Monday, engraving by Pugh, 1804

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” 
– Dr Seuss, The Lorax

The recent pandemic demonstrated that we all have the ability to radically alter our behaviours when needs must. And although there is a certain comfort in returning to “the normal” that we are at least partially enjoying at present, we must drastically change our individual habits and routines in a very different way if we have any hope of averting the worst ravages of the climate crisis. This is not to put the blame at the feet of individuals at the expense of holding corporations and governments to account, but we simply all need to take some form of personal responsibility and advocate for co-operation and change. Yet the complex and seemingly overwhelming nature of the climate crisis means that very little change is happening, very slowly, whilst the number of unprecedented extreme weather events and natural disasters accelerate.

This year unit 14 will ask all new students to commit to changing a behaviour for the sake of improving our individual environmental impacts. The unit will ask each new student to alter one (or more) aspects of their lifestyle; this can be subtractive (take something away/give up something), additive (do something additional to your normal routines) or a substitution (change one behaviour for another). To begin with, we will ask for changes outside of your professional and/or academic capacity as an architect and the immediate concerns of the industry – we ask for changes to your everyday life. Our altering of hard-wired habits does not solely need to focus on reducing waste water and cutting down on meat consumption, there are a wealth of purposeful activities that we can undertake as individuals, and items that we can or cannot choose to consume, that will have impact – we ask you to be inventive and surprising in your choice of new you. We will seek out new behaviours from the crevices of the everyday and develop architectural programmes and projects from these starting points: tiny, personal changes, when scaled up, can have planetary consequences.

Year one students will site their projects in our local context, in and around Greenwich, by working with the Greenwich Park Revealed scheme currently in development by the London Royal Parks group. Students will evolve their projects through research into the implications of their chosen changed behaviour, alongside investigations into the rich histories and splendours of Greenwich park and its surrounding area.

Final year students will develop projects through research into their individual themes and agendas. We encourage students to work through the processes of modelling and the outputting of models. This year there will be a focus on how photogrammetry and laser scanning can inform physical modelling practices. We seek to explore the potentiality of the architectural model in its manifold forms and aim towards proposing new model languages and methodologies. Our models aim to be long, and large, projects: additive investments over the entire academic year, tended to, cared for and evolved from early maquettes through to final proposals.