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Architecture for the Other Ninety-Nine Percent

Part 2 Project 2012
Christopher Allen
University of East London, UK
A university’s autonomy is inextricably linked to the idea of the public sphere. Meanwhile, the public sphere is the precondition for the Kantian emancipated subject; a subject that has the ability to think for itself and scrutinise as independently as possible different points of view. This interdependent relationship establishes a university as a public institution: interwoven and engaged in the process of social and individual emancipation, a university bears practical, social, ethical and political responsibility for society.

Today, we see the decline of public space in our contemporary society and on the other hand we witness the transformation of universities from public institutions into private cooperations. Marketized universities now have the freedom to outline their mission, subjects, programme and awards, which in turn, generates an opportunity for new institutions and new subjects to emerge.

In a world where 99% of the built environment is produced without the help of experts, professional practice can seem remote. The UN-Habitat Architecture School will look to address this imbalance with a new practice for architectural education, implementing more humanitarian thinking and participating in worldwide development and disaster aid work. The school’s engaging topics and programs will be mutually beneficial, complementing both academic priorities and disaster relief.

Situated within the post-industrial context of East London, the university will act as an activator for regeneration, a cultural hub open to both students and the public, spread over one single fluid space. The building’s morphology aims to stimulate informal encounters between all users of the building through the manipulation of the traditional corridor into a heterogeneous field. The corridor was identified as one of the key communal spaces in an educational building in which social encounters could flourish. It is often regarded as an inconvenient transitional space but there is untapped potential for the overlapping of people and programme to promote cross-collaboration between students and interdisciplinary learning.

Through the frame of the building, the university would contest neoliberal urban development and represent a space for the civic city, a place of scholarly exchange, a physical environment for the testing and sharing of ideas, an intimate ‘public space’.

Christopher Allen

Mr Robert Thum
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