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Last Orders

Part 2 Project 2010
Caitriona Mcghee
University of Sheffield | UK
The current context of alcohol consumption is compelling; alcohol consumption is trending upwards and excessive consumption, known as "binge drinking" is commonplace. At the same time, local pubs which were very recently ubiquitous are in rapid decline. This drinking culture coupled with the closure of local pubs not only threatens the pub industry, jobs and livelihoods but also the social fabric of communities. The ‘knee jerk’ political reaction is to introduce prohibitive costing measures – as if that would be a deterrent to binge drinkers!

The thesis speculates that addressing the drinking environment and exploring the architectural possibilities of the public house would be more effective in changing drinking culture than introducing cost measures. Last Orders appropriates a locale of consumption that we are all familiar with: the local pub. An understanding of Karl Marx’s theory of consumption and production was employed as a design vehicle to firstly analyse and secondly manipulate, restructure and dissolve existing spatial and programmatic manifestations of the pub.

The programme of Last Orders consists of a public house, a funeral parlour and a coffin production workshop. This rather unusual juxtaposition arises from a specific response to site (the project proposes the re-opening of the adjacent historic cemetery) and also a more general response to public house typology. The project asserts that the existing model of the public house is too static, which is why it is failing. Last Orders creates a more dynamic and responsive architecture and programme which has the contingent ability to change with consumption patterns, drinking cultures and legislation. The different programmes operate as an integrated whole; cross-subsidising each other and also subjecting the consumers and producers to unexpected thought-provoking temporal and spatial moments which will undoubtedly affect the nature of consumption.

The design draws from the rich heritage of the public house and responds to the need for an alternative funerary culture. It provides a more dynamic and flexible building typology and management system for the furtherance of the pub; which is more resilient, sustainable and most importantly can endure.

Caitriona Mcghee

Last Orders is at first glance a modest architectural project. It is sensitive yet distinct in reaction to its locality; it is responsive to the natural and man-made features which determine the site; it is moderate in its size and acknowledging the scale of its surrounding; referential yet not mimicking the materiality and techtonics of the neighbouring terraced houses; it is measured in its spatial sequences; and, most essentially, at the project's core are human interaction and the human body - alive or dead.

On second glance, Last Orders is a radical project. Last Order contains a programme in which hitherto irreconcilable spaces of production and consumption are synergetically brought together in order create a new spatial and functional hybrid of social and material consumptive production. Last Order thus challenges not only our traditional understanding of the pub - a space of consumption we are all familiar with - but also that of death and its associated rituals. Last Order combines hereby findings from a thorough historical survey with a sharp contemporary economic and social analysis. The project is based in a deep understanding of Marxist political economy yet combines this theoretical background with a good portion of poetry and wit.

Mr Florian Kossak
Prof Sarah Wigglesworth
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