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Organic Living

Part 2 Project 2008
Mbachi Kaluba
University of the West of England, UK
Organic Living is an approach to housing that evolves an ecologically
grounded typology within the existing neighbourhood of Swanscombe to maximize sustainable energy sources, enhance the environment and to promote a healthy-living
lifestyle, including local food production - for the benefit of the entire settlement.

As a mechanism that is part of a new wider social and environmental strategy, the buildings are assembled from a mixture of natural and sustainable manmade materials in a range of new-build, retrofit and landscape configurations that acknowledge changing demographics and the need for localized living, working, food economy and agricultural education.

Mbachi Kaluba

Unit 1 studied the Swanscombe peninsula as a complex system, balanced between human action and natural reaction and driven by a process of extreme financial exploitation. This has marked the landscape with successive industrial acts of quarrying, refinery, tipping and abandonment, leaving a legacy of spent human activity – including derelict industrial relics and a man-made cliff formation, 80-feet high. Exploratory work in the Studio looked to capture the relentless action of these forces and aimed to understand how these actions might be inflected towards an ethically designed intention. Parallel studies looked at contemporary housing conditions as constructed at the ‘award-winning’ new housing at Ingress Park and as proposed in the master plan for 8000 new inhabitants in the quarry basin to the north of the existing Swanscombe settlement. The Unit developed critiques of these suburban mono-cultures, designing initiatives for small public space-making interventions within existing housing developments and by applying principles of sustainable neighbourhood planning - as these have been developed by the University of the West of England’s Healthy Communities Research Forum.

Mbachi Kaluba’s proposals are fully engaged with the subtle and complex agendas set by the Unit. His response to site (particularly his choice of site) offers a very close reading and clever response to the urban situation created by the new quarry development’s ignorance and rejection of the existing Swanscombe development. Mbachi developed this intimate understanding of the site by foot, walking the possibilities of public connection between peninsula and town into existence. This experiential approach then developed into a strategic design that proposes a liminal zone of productive housing landscapes that links farm, town, new town and nature reserve in a thoroughly persuasive manner. The project is driven by an agenda that places Mbachi’s conception of housing within a more essential context of food production and self-sustainability; and to this end, his housing architecture is rooted within this healthy and enabling aesthetic. Throughout, the project designs are explored in beautifully made models and diagrams which capture a poetics of construction that, while modest, is rich in sensation and the possibilities of life.

Mr Harry Charrington
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