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Housing as City Making: A Mansion Block in Vauxhall

Part 1 Project 2013
Matthew Gregorowski
University of Cambridge, UK
Beginning with an in depth study of numerous European mansion blocks, the project was based in attaining a detailed understanding of the many facets of this nuanced typology. Key to these considerations was an appreciation of housing’s role in the formation of the contemporary city, as a fundamental part of urban life. Viewing the home as a private realm, both personal and invisible, and the street in opposition, as structured, displayed and formal, Vauxhall Mansions makes physical distinct and contentious identities.

A collection of red-brick urban blocks form a cohesive development, but shift in demeanour, appearance and scale as one moves from street to piazza and from communal garden square to private dwelling. A series of dual-aspect three- and four-bed apartments and maisonettes contain a vibrant and duplicitous private life; hidden and controlled when in contact with the city, allowed to break free when contact is no longer explicit. At its heart a silent and rigorously defined piazza is contained by towering parapet walls, brought to life by garden terraces that lie behind them.

Disciplined and structured public facades shred and dissolve as the buildings are encouraged to expose the intricacies of everyday life; flat and tectonically continuous walls are broken into formal objects through a passage from ‘front’ to ‘back’ (public to private). Vauxhall Mansions unites the order of the fronts with the profanity of the backs, attempting to make visible the inexplicable and intangible qualities of life behind closed doors. Peeling away the flesh of the urban block reveals the sinuous tendons that allow it to function.

Matthew Gregorowski


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