Tag Archives: Community Self Build

Rethinking Housing Exhibition & Symposium

19-20th September
Lewes House, School Hill

An exhibition presenting a broad spectrum of new housing solutions, including Co-Housing, Self Build and Live-Work

With a micro Symposium on the 20th September, 13.30 – 18.30. £5 – £7 Suggested Donation

Speakers to include:

Lisa Baraitser – resident and Co-founder – and Ken Rorrison from Architects, Henley Halebrown and Rorrison on award winning Copper Lane Co-Housing project.

Cany Ash of AshSakula on their low cost self build LightBox House and other projects.

John Broome –  Pioneering self-build and community architect and founding member of Architype, the influential sustainable architectural practice.

Trygve Ohren of Nøysom arkitekter on their self build Svartlamon Housing project, Trondheim, Norway.

Frances Holliss – Architect and researcher on live-work design in buildings and author of Beyond Live/Work: The Architecture of Home-Based Work.

If you wish to reserve a place for the Symposium please make your donation here, and email us at info@makinglewes.org to confirm your attendance. 

Rethinking Housing Exhibition & Symposium is part of Make Lewes Festival 2015.

Rethinking Housing Exhibition & Symposium is supported by Lewes Town Council.

For more information email: info@makinglewes.org

Open Source Architecture

Open Source Architecture is a growing approach for designing buildings, where the design tools, plans and other materials are freely available, so that anyone can use them, rather than protected as copyrighted intellectual property.

Generally viewed as the architectural version of open source computing, and as analogous to hardware and software designed to be openly accessible and can be used by anyone. Cooking is often used as an example of one of the earliest forms of open source activities, a menu which anyone can cook from, share and change ingredients with anyone across space and time.

Like open source computing anyone, can add, adapt and rework designs which, again, can be used by anyone else. Open Source Architecture is being driven by a current, younger generation of designers, who see it as a part of a wider technologically informed tool-kit, enabling customised designs to happen on or close to a site. The new generation of tools include CNC routers, FABlabs and the internet of things. Some believe it is a part of a new ‘emerging paradigm.’ Of course, the arrival of the computer didn’t inaugurate openly accessible architectural design. Vernacular architecture is cited as the original open source architecture, with menus for designing buildings passed on from generation to generation, adapted, improved and updated as types are tried and worked on.

A good example of an architect developing a design and detailing system and making it available to all is what’s called the Segal Self-Build Method, named after Walter Segal, the community architect. Here are a few examples of how Open Source architecture is growing through the Internet.

Eco-Communities & Community Self Build

This section of Making Lewes highlights a variety of different ways in which parts of towns, cities and urban fabric are given over to environmental and sustainably focused living, in ways which go beyond the individual home.

Eco-Districts and Eco-Housing are an approach to urban design, which integrate green elements right through the design of the site, including energy sources, transport, and food growing schemes. Although the number Eco-Districts remain small they continue to grow in different and diverse forms. Some of which are initiated by Government (mainstream), while others are more grass roots in organisation and origin.

The examples presented are both mainstream and non-mainstream, and come from Britain and continental Europe.

There are also several examples of Co-Housing, which are communities initiated and organised by their residents. Households are generally individual and self-contained while various aspects of the community are shared and managed together. Co-Housing is still small scale in Britain, while on some parts of the continent – such as Denmark – it has been a major part of the way people live.

Community Self-Build differs from Co-Housing, in that the buildings are built by those wanting to live in the completed homes. And although once completed communities of self-build can follow similar strategies for community organisation, this is not necessarily the case.

Click on the bellow tabs for examples of Eco-Communities, Eco-Districts & Co-Housing and Community Self-Build


Abbreviated from Fabrication Laboratory, FabLabs have been popping up all over the place (see here for a world map) and are essentially digital fabrication resource centres for open source designers and makers to use of otherwise prohibitively expensive machinery and technological kit. Kit often available include CNC routers, laser and other cutters, and rapid prototyping machines such as 3D printers. Again very much part of the open source design revolution, FabLabs are seen as an essential piece in the suite of digitally empowering jigsaw, enabling what was hitherto only available at expensive mass production levels, to be customised and open the door to making ‘almost anything.’ A Fablab Charter can be found here.

FabFoundation, FabAcademy and Neil Gershenfeld

FabLabs are the accidental brainchild of Boston MIT’s Neil Gershenfeld. A tech-head in the classic MIT mould, Gershenfeld developed Fab-Labs out of a collaboration with the Grassroots Invention Group. Since the idea of these low cost, network based grassroots labs got rolling Gershenfeld has been at the centre of subsequent developments, such as the FabFoundation and the Fab Academy, A Fab-Lab Open University scenario (kind of!).

There’s a Gershenfeld TED talk here. Click through to a classic MIT techgeek speak presentation, framing FabLab in total tech-transformation terms.

FabHub – Another, this time, UK focused list of hubs.

FabLab City – Barcelona, Spain. This is an obvious next step; linking a network of geographically close Fablabs – cross-fertlising, sharing and supporting each others work, Barcelona, which also has aims to be a self-sufficient city has been developing its FabCity network, “an interconnected community of neighbourhood fab labs”

Eco FabLabs

If you’re thinking this is all very well, but what does it have to do with eco-stuff, stop in your tracks for a minute, because Barcelona’s FabLab network is also about food and agricultural production. Valldaura is Barcelona’s self sufficient eco-fablab which is carrying out all sorts of natty experiments mixing appropriate – 21st century style – tech with food production and growth, including – they claim! – the first ever ‘intelligent bee hive’! Ok it’s experimental, but its food for thought, imagine a Lewes based Eco-FabLab collaborating with local farms on a host (and hive) of experiments, and you get the point.

Open Greens

There’s the beginnings of a network linking up these convergent Eco-Fablab’s at Open Greens

Almere – Netherlands

The Netherlands Almere is a Dutch new town of slightly under 200,000 standing on reclaimed land thirty minutes from Amsterdam. The site also contains Europe’s largest self-build programme consisting of a 350 acre site to the south west of the town. Master planned into a number of districts, each of which has around 720 self-build plots, with over 1000 homes already built, and an eventual 3,000 self built homes planned. This self-build city was announced The Almere Principles, a strategic policy shift in 2006, and is being closely watched by other European housing policy ministries, including the current UK Coalition administration. This local government document can be found here.

A Guardian article on the Almere phenomenon in the British context can be found here.


Segal Method

Walter Segal, a German émigré architect who settled in Britain, developed the Segal Method of timber construction to help enable cheap timber buildings to be constructed by non-professional self builders. The early projects were mainly in Lewisham, South London and the Walter Segal Self Build Trust continues to promote the approach to the public. A number of projects can be found on their website here.

Ashley Vale – Bristol, Uk

Ashley Vale is a community and self-build eco district in the heart of Bristol. Taking nearly fifteen years to complete, Ashley Vale consists of 17 buildings, all of which are self built by the community. The resulting buildings are diverse, and demonstrate a completely non-doctrinaire aesthetic, which is both individual and inspiring. Ashley Vale illustrates where self-build can be taken if the community are committed to and engaged with the process of self-build. For more information on community-self build projects in and around Bristol, visit the Bristol Community Land Trust.

 Ashley Vale is also where a number of national self-build organisations are based.

Lancaster Co-Housing – Halton, UK

Lancaster Co-Housing is the first Passivhaus Co-Housing project in Britain. Standing beside the river Lune, outside the North Western town of Lancaster, the 2.5 acre site comprises 41 homes, all of which attain code 6 for Sustainable Home standard. Designed by Ecoarc the project also includes community facility’s, workshops, offices and studios in a redesigned mill. Lancaster Co-Housing demonstrates the Passivhaus system being put to use for community ends.

LILAC Affordable Ecological Co-Housing Project – Leeds, Uk

LILAC stands for Low Impact Living Affordable Community. LILAC recently opened after several years preparatory and participatory work. Six varyingly scaled block houses are home to the first 21 LILAC residents, living in this inner-city and contemporary version of Co-Housing localism in Leeds. The LILAC site includes allotments, community and individual gardens and is considered a pioneering example of new style community localism.

LILAC has been designed through community participation with the Bristol practice, White Design. The Low Energy housing uses ModCell straw bale cassettes and structural cross laminated timber, two cutting edge ‘bio-based’ building materials. See here.

Svartlamon, Trondheim, Norway

Svartlamon  is a district in Norway’s second city, Trondheim. Squatted and lived in by a mixture of punks and alternative lifestyle greens, the Svartlamon community initiated an architectural programme in the early 2000’s involving local Trondheim architecture students, Geir Brendeland and Olav Kristofferson, to design a student housing block within the Svartlamon district.

The resulting Svartlamoen four-storey timber student-housing block became a highly popular and influential contemporary timber building in the late 2000’s within the international sustainable architecture world. The community has since continued with several further re-build projects, including a kindergarten built and designed within an old motor showroom http://www.bkark.no/projects/svartlamoen-nursery, a recording studio and flats for musicians to stay in while recording and a pioneering recycling culture education centre. More recently Husly, a house made completely from wood pallets, was completed. Further alternative housing projects continue this marriage of alt.culture and architectural adventurism.

For its advocates Svartlamon demonstrates the marriage of alternative culture and forward-looking architectural vision integrating the built environment in ways, which work with, rather than replacing local communities.