NTU Architecture Subject Group

MA Year 1

Public housing

Connecting cities through the "nowhereness"

(Stenhil 1991)

Our theme this year examines possibilities for the relationship between community supporting infrastructures in two realms, that of our known world, the wonder of our contemporary tropospheric biome, planet earth warts and all. Twinned with the new frontier, the atom free nowhere-verse of cyberspace. We will set our design interventions in Nottingham and its twin city Nothingham - By its nature nowhere is both nothing and infinite, depending how it is viewed, we need somewhere to begin our design journey, a place to plot and ponder, escape, and commune, rest and revel - the typological oxymoron, itself the public house. The pandemic abolished public space in an instant, marking it as dangerous and harmful to health. Parks and squares were fenced off to avoid gatherings of people, all spaces with commercial activities closed, as well as recreational ones, streets were quickly crossed, with the goal of avoiding human contact at all costs. Our world of exteriors transformed into a world of interiors, the city functioned in what is typically civic void space, flipping the normal, a reversal of the Battista Nolli plan as we know it, life functioning without streets, without squares, without facades.

The Public House

We are on a course of re-adjustment, conventional activities are expanding from the home back into the city - we’re getting back to ‘normal’ - is this good? Will domesticity reclaim the house and thrive alongside new uses. Can the house of the pandemic ever recover from the role it has played as the total centre of human life? Is this a time to rethink the role of the Public House, an alternative hybrid future? A place of communal domesticity and communal productivity, a place to meet face to face without the boundaries of either the digital body-crop-screen connection or the habitual need to create a social levelling through booze, is this a chance for a more inclusive lounge for our cities? Initially, most pubs were an extension of domestic architecture. The humbler public house was literally that: the home of the landlord, who offered refreshment in his parlour or tap-room. Larger inns and taverns had more numerous and grander rooms accommodating all kinds of activities, from performance to political meetings. Meanwhile, activities formerly at home in the pub had been given specialised premises elsewhere, such as concert halls and sports venues.

MIMESIS: Reuse, Reproduction, Reimagination

Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: Its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be

Walter Benjamin

The Project

We begin the design journey by investigating Nottingham's public houses. We will undertake detailed surveys of 14 Nottingham pubs, each of which provides a shared, convivial atmosphere for chance encounter, celebration and with this the potential place of debate for a particular context and community. The legacy of the pub itself carries lessons for how to create a community building. We will first re-imagine an archetypical object, artefact, element or piece for each pub in an attempt to capture its character, exploring ways of opening it up to the city and the depth and breadth of the local community it serves. We will then use these new understandings in the adaption and reuse of the pub, designing for new spaces of productivity and domesticity, of debate, representation and community.

A fictitious extension for the existing building will compliment the inherent narrative of the original structure and use. By challenging the locality and cultural siloing of existing pubs with a new digital infrastructure where physically separated spaces are digitally bought together as a place of dialogue, exchange and collaborative reuse of space and material - this will be the role of your digital twin in Nothingham. Nothingham exists only in a non physical reality, this is a new frontier in which we are pioneers. Frontiers have freedom and potential which can be misused. Considering that pubs are a place of escape, in part enabled by the licensed sales of alcohol, Nothingham gives the chance to visit ‘alternative means of escape’. Conventionally offered in the form of ‘booze’. Alcohol, is a depressant drug that is the active ingredient in drinks such as beer. Among other effects, alcohol produces happiness and euphoria, decreased anxiety, increased sociability, sedation, impairment of cognitive, memory, motor, and sensory function, and generalised depression of central nervous system function. This system is sometimes referred to as the reward pathway and is a dopaminergic pathway in the brain. Pubs are licensed for the sale of alcohol and holding the licensee responsible plays a role in governing the behaviour in pubs when users are under the influence. Who will be the governor in Nothingham? Each project will be explained through the experiences of a licensee, the protagonist, on earth and in cyber space.

Simon Beames
Technical Tutor
Marisela Mendoza