Building for the people

07 Apr 2011

Emerging architectural practice whose approach is rooted in anthropological study

Since the 1970s, generations of architects have been occupied with technical innovation or formal hyperbole. The future must be different.

Henley Halebrown Rorrison's work is rooted in anthropology, in the study of people. It recognises the character of society as heterogeneous and seeks to create the varied circumstances in which individuals may dwell. If there is a pattern, it is not a formal one. Instead, the space - a building's morphological structure - depends on those very people. It both reflects and extrapolates future social patterns of co-existence and co-habitation. Here, sustainability means much more than being ‘low energy'; it means the capacity to endure. And, at the same time the effect must be palpable.

This philosophy is anti-consumerist and anti-capitalist. It recognises the value of monuments, that is, things that do not dependent on their capacity to function but instead benefit from communal understanding. Henley Halebrown Rorrison's work harnesses existing circumstances be that a building or context.

Talkback (2001) unites four load-bearing brick structures around a garden framed by a multi-storey ambulatory to create a utopian working environment located in Central London. The practice's scheme for St. Benedict's (2008) creates a new concrete cloister between four existing buildings. In so doing it retrospectively imposes a significant ecclesiastical type - both material and plan - in the context of a Catholic school. Junction (2009) reuses a steel portal frame which is reformed with a brim. Subtle distortions in perspective accentuate the curious nature of the original frame. Only the St. John's therapy centre (2007) is a wholly new structure. Built around two gardens, with veneered timber elevations it has become synonymous with its local neighbourhood - St John's Hill in South London.

The challenge for the 21st Century is to formulate the poetics of endurance which may lead to a kind of husbandry for buildings.

Key Facts

United Kingdom

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