The Bartlett School of Architecture


Bartlett Research Team Unveils Block West – A New Housing Prototype

18 September 2020

Local residents of Knowle West council estate in South Bristol, UK, designed a temporary pavilion using a new app developed by The Bartlett’s Automated Architecture Labs (AUAR).

Block West

The result, Block West, showcases adaptable building systems and people-friendly technology that can help communities collaborate to create the homes they need.

The Bartlett’s Mollie Claypool and Dr Claire McAndrew worked on the project with Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC)’s Melissa Mean, with engineering provided by Manja van der Worp and Yoav Caspi of YIP Engineering.

Block West was designed by local residents using AUAR’s app, following a series of online workshops during lockdown.

Block West is made from Block Type A, a modular building system designed by AUAR. Block Type A uses a fixed set of Lego-like lightweight plywood building blocks that can be reconfigured into different designs over time without the need for specialised tools or expertise.

The parts were manufactured in community-based digital fabrication space KWMC The Factory, using a computer numerical controlled machine. A crew of local people assembled the blocks into the pavilion in under 10 days in September 2020. 

Block West will be in the grounds of KWMC for one month and is open to the public for booked visits, in line with Covid-19 safety rules. 

The pavilion will then be broken down into its constituent blocks and re-assembled into benches, planters, and a stage which will be distributed across the neighbourhood of Knowle West for community use.

KWMC and AUAR hope to support communities to build new skills so they can influence the creation of homes, workspaces and shared spaces in their area. 

We are breaking down the barriers of privilege, money and power in the housing system by creating opportunities for communities to get hands-on with new forms of architecture and housing. This is a test space for taking a values-centred approach to collaboration with local communities using modular methods of construction and democratising technology so communities are empowered to create the homes they need better and faster.”

- Mollie Claypool, Co-Director, AUAR

It has been amazing to be involved with every stage of this project - I’ve never done or seen anything like this in my life. I can’t wait to do it again - we could do so much for the community: building homes, workspaces, all sorts... I’m proud to be part of Block West.”

- John Bennett, Knowle West resident and member of the Block West crew.

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More information

Images: Block West, by Studio NAARO

Project information

The Block West Pavilion is part of the Making Together project, which is a collaboration between AUAR, Knowle West Media Centre, and We Can Make Knowle West. Making Together is supported by The Transforming Construction Network Plus (N+) which is funded by UK Research and Innovation through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.