A New Kind of Suburbia: Architects Making Suburbia, Suburbia Making Architects

A New Kind of Suburbia: Architects Making Suburbia, Suburbia Making Architects

Architects Making Suburbia, Suburbia Making Architects is a series of reflective accounts by practitioners working within our London and Dublin studios. The series aims to explore how living in suburbia in the past or present, has shaped practitioner perspectives on the value and potential of the suburban developments and how this informs our aspirations for the suburban places we are involved in shaping. Part our motivation for producing the series was the realization that suburbia is where most people in the United Kingdom choose to live, it has nurtured many of us within the practice and continues to be the place we call home. Yet, suburbia as mass housing is frequently overlooked within the architectural curriculum, used as a synonym for poorer quality speculative housing within the architectural and national press, and represents a difficult to access commission for some architects beyond the public sector because of existing market preferences and structures.

Our reflective accounts reflect the variation within suburban developments and the experiences they afford their residents. As a practitioners many of us are the product of a shared suburban identity, one which reflects a broader suburban culture that is dominant in the United Kingdom but whose true diversity of form and experience is frequently overlooked by overriding stereotypes about what it means to live in suburbia and inhibit exploration of what suburbia could be in the future. In reflecting on our lived experiences of suburbia we hope to refine our understanding of our motivations during our design process, and in doing so, produce more thoughtful and generous schemes for residents.

Collectively our suburbanite contributors accounts speak to several experiences that influence their conceptualization of suburbia and the potentials it affords with relevance for our shared creative endeavour within the practice. These salient aspects include: the use of communal gardening and other community activities as a means of creating communities and friendships (Richard Robinson), the role of play within new towns to generate and sustain a sense of community (Tom Mitchell), the need to foster a sense of home within suburbs as we address future technical challenges (Jonny McKenna), and the challenges and opportunities afforded existing residents experiencing the intensification of neighbourhoods through architect-led forms of suburbia (David Prichard). As with suburbs themselves, these personal accounts provide a humane, interpretative grounding for the expert enquiry to be pursued through other aspects of the New Kind of Suburbia programme.

We intend to supplement these accounts as our programme progresses. If you would like further information or would like to contribute to our Architects Making Suburbia, Suburbia Making Architects, please contact Dhruv Sookhoo, Head of Research and Practice Innovation (dhruv.sookhoo@metwork.co.uk).

Sputnik over Suburbia, and Serendipity

David Prichard founded Metropolitan Workshop with Neil Deely in 2005, having worked together at MacCormac Jamieson Prichard. He has contributed to the development of suburban developments across the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, including contributions to the new towns of Milton Keynes and Warrington, and the London Docklands. At Metropolitan Workshop, he led the Ballymun Regeneration Masterplan.A chance encounter in suburbia 1960s and serendipity saw him apply to the Bartlett School of Architecture, where he met Richard MacCormac in crits. After graduating, he travelled overland to India, won a scholarship to work at the Swedish Building Research Institute, later joining Alex Reid’s research unit at UCL/ LSE to contribute to a project into the ‘Impact of Telecommunications on Planning’. He spent another year out working on site building a crematorium, before returning to the Bartlett where he won the Sir Andrew Taylor Prize for a suburban housing competition entry, joining Richard MacCormac and Peter Jamieson when they formed their practice in 1972. Read more.