MSA Stage 4 School of Architecture

Philippa Cook

Philippa Cook – A Centre for Citizens

Throughout Stage 4, I have been hugely influenced by the writings of Ruskin and Morris and am particularly interested in how their work resonates with current debates around sustainability in contemporary architectural practice.

Questions around current unsustainable modes of extraction; poor working conditions; social inequalities; land injustice and environmental destruction and all problems that Ruskin and Morris were writing about in the Industrial era, and are still hugely problematic for society today.

This project uses labour as a tool to nurture a sense of agency, citizenship and community through the act of making, and in the process, helps citizens find joy, purpose and fellowship.

Key themes:

  • Polyvalence and adaptibility allows for self-determination
  • Self-build as a tool for learning and access to labour
  • Natural materials in response to circular economy principles
  • Crafted details and joyful expressions of labour
  • A sense that everyone has contributed and that contributions are visible and valued
A Centre for Citizens: Children’s Rights & Youth Activism
Philippa Cook – A Centre for Citizens

A Centre for Citizens: Children’s Rights & Youth Activism

The Centre for Citizens is foremost a space of fellowship, promoting active citizenship through learning, participation and debate.

Situated on the border of East Pollokshields, the Centre’s programme raises awareness of children’s rights (UNCRC) with age-appropriate activity that draws on Glasgow’s strong history of radical action with space for play, print, broadcast, debate and demonstration.

The building’s design expresses a spirit of collectivism and connection to the natural world; drawing on the writings of William Morris and John Ruskin, whose works resonate just as strongly with the social and environmental crises of today, as they did in the Victorian era.

These ideas are expressed through the building’s structure, envelope and construction methods which seek to create a building that lives in agreement with itself, its environment and its community.

Material choices have been informed by both embodied carbon and wider environmental sustainability (considering growing practices, land management and regionality). An appreciation of the natural environment is nurtured by bringing natural materials indoors; in doing so, we follow the path of William Morris, whose radical position on social justice was foregrounded by a love for nature and a deep recognition of Capitalism’s destructive forces on it.

Construction is based on a self-build, open-system where new skills are learned, materials can be playful and the joy of labour can be expressed.

All of these drivers sit within the framework of the circular economy, be it through knowledge, environment or economics, and I hope that it can be joyous and provide perpetual novelty; full of expression of the people and places from which it came.

Philippa Cook - Bay Render

Example of facade composition: The proposition is to enable the bricklayer freedom of expression within an open-system, akin to the Gothic. As skills develop throughout the build, the complexity of brick-laying and jointing can develop resulting in endless potential for self-expression and perpetual novelty.

Philippa Cook, Site Plan

Polyvalency is a simple tool allowing children to construct an environment that works for them, taking ownership of the building and their experience within it.

UK-grown timber is often graded to a lower strength category (C16) than imported softwoods which has resulted in the UK being the second- largest net importer of timber worldwide. In order to support the UK timber industry and encourage better silviculture practices, my building makes use of both lower-grade sawn lumber, roundwood timbers and LVL-C which make use of smaller, weaker stock, bonded to give strength. Scotland currently holds 84% of the UK timber market and is therefore well-placed to lead the changes necessary to ensure an environmentally sustainable and resilient forestry sector for the future. The lower grade of naturalised Scottish softwoods provides an opportunity to reimagine current timber construction practices. Looking back to the Medieval period that Ruskin so admired, carpenters were forced to adopt the scribe method due to low timber supply – this involed the use of smaller members jointed together in imaginative ways to create the necessary lengths required.