The third in our series of HausWork architectural talks took a broader look at contemporary residential architecture, focusing on the new apartment building and the role of density, planning and technology in creating new spaces to live in the city.

 week 3

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Peter Barber of Peter Barber Architects opened the talk with a whirlwind tour through his studio’s extensive residential portfolio. For Barber, the street, square and plaza are the vital threads that bond a city together, and he illustrated the ill-thought out planning of the 60s and 70s that left large swathes of the city bereft of life and focus.
Barber’s solution is density, creating cleverly interlocking floorplans that combine houses and maisonettes without compromising on outdoor space or the interaction with the street outside. Since the completion of the award-winning Donnybrook Quarter in East London, Barber has been working on ever larger schemes, bringing a more European sensibility to the beleaguered British housing market.
John Smart knows a thing or two about the struggle to get things built. In his presentation, the London-based architect explained how his nascent practice decided to go it alone and become its own client. Having discovered a prime site on south London’s Dog Kennel Hill, Smart and his small team gathered together a group of builders and sub-contractors to design and construct a modern apartment building completely from scratch.
The result, DKH, is a remarkable achievement for a first building, a 19-unit slab block that combines incredible attention to detail with city-wide views and generous living spaces. The hands-on, highly crafted approach of a small studio like John Smart Architects - along with their associated development company, Bespoke Homes - seemed to offer an exciting way of bringing high quality design to a building type that is essential for practical city living.
Finally, Dimitrios Tsigos of Athens’ Tsigos Design and Construction stepped up to talk us through the final piece in the urban jigsaw: planning small spaces and apartments. AA-trained Tsigos illustrated a series of built project that use transformable elements to turn closed plan into open plan, protecting privacy and practicality while embracing the design dictums that architects have harked after ever since the days of Le Corbusier.
Tsigos’s firm also builds its own projects, and the final example was of a particularly ambitious and innovative concept for a transformable living room, using a series of hydraulic rams to create a shifting landscape of cushions and tables. This way, Tsigos promised, the smallest of interior spaces could be endlessly reconfigured depending on your mood and activity.
All the projects intrigued, and the audience was keen to know more about practicalities, budgets, planning concerns and future ideas. Thanks to the freely flowing Champagne Taittinger at the post-talk reception, the debate continued late into the evening.
The final talk - on inserting contemporary architecture into existing buildings - will take place at 7pm on Wednesday 16 July 2008. As ever, tickets are selling out fast, so book now to reserve a seat.