A Housing Crisis in Question



Across this semester London has been playing majorly on my mind. Having just return from the city to complete my masters and my dissertation focusing of residential development in London, it would seem inevitable. 

On returning to London recently I was struck by the immense power of the Barbican centre. It intrigued me and I struggled to understand why. However, it is beginning to become apparent that the barbican is almost the epitome of my thinking. I recently watched a video article posted by Archdaily entitled The Barbican : A lesson from London’s past for the housing crisis of today. 

It discusses the purpose of the Barbican as social housing, but not social housing as we perceive it. It was not designed for the working classes of London but for the middle-class. It faced challenges in that central living was unfashionable at the time. It held a need to be safe and luxurious and provide the cultural amenities appealed to the middle class of London. 

The Barbican centre is a successful urban project, that knits its way into the fabric of London seamlessly. Yet it has achieved fortress status. It’s entrances are hidden and unorthodox, it’s walls are solid and tall. Yet it is this obscurement of availability that allows the barbican to sit on the shoulder of the city and allow it the transform, move and bustle around this concrete castle. 


London is not the only place facing a severe housing crisis. Dublin is also, some might say it is even worse here. But how can we learn from this brutalist masterpiece, and apply it to our own crisis. Firstly the need for housing does not belong to a particular social ranking. Analysis and data on housing needs, and identifying the social groups and their variant needs are necessary. It also begs the lesson of vision. The barbican brought middle class back to the centre of London, which is now considered to be going through a social cleanse, where the lower classes are forces further from the centre of the city. This was not the case when the barbican was being built. So what change in dwelling will happen in Dublin over the next 10,20-50 years? What alternative methods of housing can we introduce that could potentially become the norm or even the desired. As the Barbican adapted brutalist architecture to its British setting and climate, how can we take successful foreign models and adapt then to serve our city and population? 

References :

  1. http://mappinglondon.co.uk/2015/barbican-before-and-after-the-blitz/
  2. Patrick Lynch. “The Barbican: A Lesson from London’s Past for the Housing Crisis of Today” 07 Nov 2015.ArchDaily

A Need to Map

I submitted my Archipeligo (mind map) the same day that we were given a presentation on our options of thesis groups for next semester.

My archipeligo consisted of a collage of images that I perceived as describing my thought process of the year so far. A map of London featured heavily, with an overlay of a historical map of the Regents Canal. Maps, to me, are the starting point, for everything, from my interest to my thought process to my detailed designed ideas. They say images speak a thousand words, I think maps speak even more. Maps are a tool, a method of portraying data and information, from geographical, historical, economic, social demographics, to emotions and behaviors. The represent a vast amount of information while being a single image within themselves.


For my archipeligo, I have still some untied ends that are showing themselves as images overlayed onto a map. I envisage that through-out next semester my Archipeligo can become a purer ‘map’. A refined single image that portrays my ideas and thought process.


With relation to my thesis. We have a choice of five studios. Some have very similar themes that are attracted. From what I briefly mentioned before, it it obvious that I have an interest in maps. This is somehting that I have always possessed, which I think many people do, but something which has driven the work of my dissertation. My dissertation is looking at how the construction of the Regent’s canal has moulded the socio-economic dynamic of Bow in East London through residential and industrial developments. For this study I have done extensive research of  the mapping on London since the late 17th Century up until today. It is clear from this study that the art  of mapping as heavily evovled in the last two hundred years. I have looked at historical maps from the 1600’s where houses are drawn in elevation, while the streets and drawn in plan. In contrast you can look at Henry Beck’s iconic tube map of the London Underground, which takes on a infographic form that is simple, clear and easily navigated. Even more interesting is how maps can start to make the transition from purely transmitting information but start becoming images in themselves. Like the work of Irish artist Kathy Prendergast and her odsessive hand drawings of cities, as shown in the above images.



Maps can be more than just one single images. They can become layers of information, layers of images. Each layer conveying it’s own information or telling it’s story. Yet never straying far from the overall portrayal that is attemping to be composed and disseminated.

With the digital age upon us and everything being reduced to code and data, what place do maps have today. Maps I believe are more inportant than ever. With constant access to unfathomable amounts of informtion, literally at our finger tips. How can we access this? Maps are the key to disseminating information. They simiplify large amounts of data and make it conceivable in the blink of an eye. Easily portray by Simon Elbvin’s map of silent London. From this iamge, that only maps the intensity of noise, you can see the street scape of the city, the location of parks, the areas that intensely used and the ones that are not. It can also let you speculate over the usage of each of this areas.


silent london

In conclusion, all I can say is not that I want to map but that I need to map. The gathering and mapping of information is what is going to determine my thesis topic and probably everything I undertake from there after, irrespective of what group I choose.

Image References:

  1. Kathy Prendergast City Drawings Series – London-n13, 1997, pencil on paper.
  2. Kathy Prendergast. Chimborazo, 2013, watercolour on printed paper
  3. International Research Centre by Mark Erickson on Behance.
  4. Silent London by Simon Elvins