This is the first in a series of guest blogs from Stephen Foley, architect with Mangera Yvars Architects
The workshop began with presentations from each of the students about their field trip around some of the faith spaces in Ealing where the Making Suburban Faith project are undertaking research. Following the presentations, Stephen Foley from Mangera Yvars Architects introduced the first architectural exercise.
The aim was to quickly introduce the students to fundamental architectural principles of structure, economy and light using the photographs they had taken at various sacred spaces.
The importance of the imagery was two-fold, firstly it was essential not to break association between what they had seen the previous week and what they were being asked to do in the workshop. Stephen explained that these spaces are considered sacred mainly because of the identifiable elements which people can relate to. He argued that a successful faith space is recognisably spiritual as well as representing the community which will congregate within it.
Stephen brought a set of business cards on which were fixed images. These cards could be easily manipulated to become structural elements. After a short demonstration the students were given a number of cards and asked to create spaces by folding, bending, cutting, or leaning them against each other, making beautiful structures without any additional support. He explained that his intention was ‘to force the students to use economy of material in basic conceptual design’.
This exercise proved an instant success and Stephen and Jose Acosta from Mangera Yvars were amazed with how well the students responded to such a quickly explained process. Photos were taken of the temporary card structures and then the students we asked to stop and change seats for the final part of the exercise.
By switching places the students were now faced with another students work and were asked to change/improve/adapt the structure to become something else. Apart from making the exercise more dynamic it demonstrated that even with limited materials the possibilities were endless. Also in responding to another student’s work instead of starting from scratch this new challenge meant even more interesting arrangements were produced which they would not have thought of otherwise. This adaptation of an existing structure also echoed the theme of the field trip when students had seen how successive faith communities had adapted or redesigned existing buildings, including previous religious buildings, to make new community spaces.