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Syncro-Plex Housing, Droylsden, Manchester

Part 2 Project 2002
Christopher Taylor
Julia King
Manchester School of Architecture Manchester UK
Syncro-plex Housing - to engage - many elements.

Providing affordable houses for key workers has been a recurring challenge for architects and related professions. It is re-gaining prominence as much early C20 housing stock deteriorates and its neighbourhoods decline. The studio unit's work considers the peripheral conditions and processes that define the suburban "middle landscape" areas of cities such as Manchester and its East, now stimulated by the advent of the XVII Commonwealth Games. Can such major events erode social boundaries etched by a polarized property market that places ideas of wealth and desirability at the centre of the city?

From a series of empirical group studies experimental games were devised, attempting to objectively describe the conditions and commercial constraints that have shaped East Manchester and its housing typologies.

My thesis extends this enquiry to question the traditional three-bedroom house and its fitness for the modern family amidst the demographic change in patterns of home ownership. The result is a prototypical model for personal adaptive space that generates a bold housing intervention for 9.5 ha of wasteland at Droylsden; the site was interesting in so far that it provided opportunities to engage, enliven and mediate the disparate suburban ubiquity that starts to address its edges. The housing units are designed as perforated forms that can accommodate accessible private outdoor space. High living densities decrease as the site shifts from urban to open with semi-public spaces connecting the busy A662 Manchester transport corridor to the tranquillity of the Ashton-under-Lyne canal.

Christopher Taylor
Julia King

Concentrating on typical conditions that arise in the contemporary city Chris has consistently developed his work throughout the year to address possibilities of urban living. Initial work focussed on descriptions of the city, taking East Manchester as a test-bed/case study. Here, the effects of rapid de-population are evident with voids emerging in the urban fabric as industry has left and inhabitation has reduced from around 80,000 in 1950 to 35,000 today. New housing schemes struggle to succeed in this depressurised situation. Studies of the area demonstrated that a population the size of Sheffield would be necessary to fill the vacant land if Barcelona densities were applied. New elements of infra-structure such as the metro-link tram and recognition of significant existent community facilities are critical to the successful re-inhabitation of this space. The peculiar conditions of suburbia (Sillytown) were identified as the greatest potential working terrain, unencumbered by preconceived ideas of ‘urban’ character. Offering a default condition, reflecting the automatic developer led processes that formed them, possibilities for reinterpretation of suburban space were evident. Initial responses took the form of analytical board games abstracting the process and experience of suburban living.

Recognising and understanding economic and legislative criteria that inform the current mass housing market Chris developed an approach to the design of housing that fused functional and representational ideologies. Façade expression becomes a function of taste, house form becomes a function of programme. The initial model for the development of his thesis scheme grew from work with Gerald Hitman in Brockhall, Lancashire exploring typological possibilities for housing in an entirely suburban condition. Lessons learnt regarding plot configuration and density in relation to infrastructure provision were then adapted to the site conditions of Droylsden, Manchester. Syncro-plex Housing offers a diverse range of house types with many associated forms of occupation within a currently inconsistent suburban context. Through testing latent potentials within legislative and development criteria Chris generated architectural propositions that show a coherent well developed theoretical approach. He acted as an architectural filter through which his Syncro-plex Housing scheme emerges as a humane response to the demands of suburban living without sinking into clichéd architectural good taste or spec-housing kitsch.

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