The Story of a Corner Shop
by Thorsten Deckler
Living and working in one place feels like village life and in Brixton most things are in walking distance (crèche, park, shops, friends, work colleagues...). The universities where we teach and also work at as architects are 5 mins drive away... Not travelling long distances lends a bit of calmness to an otherwise busy life with kids, running our own business, teaching and travels.
A long held dream of ours was to create a ‘family village’. This idea took root firmly once our offer to purchase was accepted. Then we still had to convince the banks that Brixton is a well-guarded secret – the next ‘happening area’. This took the form of a mapping showing some 120 odd ‘professionals’ including a constitutional court judge who reside in the area.
We also confronted the evaluator with the simple observation that the people he noticed ‘loitering’ in the street may, in fact, be students and that the fancy cars he was looking out for, a sure indicator, according to him of an area’s risk profile, might be at work with their owners during the day.
Then on to build as cheaply as possible: harvesting everything from bricks, windows, roof rafters, plumbing and light fittings. Even salvaged Vibracrete wall panels were ‘laid to rest’ as paving and an iron bathtub (found in the garage-flat) was installed on the boardroom roof providing a low-budget alternative to the obligatory middle-class ‘en-suite’ bathroom. It feels kind of exciting having a bath on top of your boardroom and it’s a special treat for our children to splash as much as they want.
This is not, no matter how hard we tried, an architecturally refined object. Being a courtyard house, it is essentially anti-iconic (whoa – archi-speak! but we’re doing well) and instead offers memorable experiences in the form of neighbourhood and office parties, Friday Sessions in the middle of winter, dinner under the stars or play-dates with kids screeching and splashing in an inflatable whale.
Does the architecture add joy to our daily working and family life? Absolutely. Is it sustainable to not drive to work? Is it greener to just have one bathroom and a board-room which doubles as library, dining room, patio? We like to think so. Does it point to a ‘new’ form of mixed use? Well, we think it is human nature to make the most of your spaces by working from home, being smart about how much you need and where you spend your money.
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