The Bartlett School of Architecture


AUAR Lab's Block West Wins AJ Social Sustainability Prize

23 April 2021

The prize was awarded to the collaborative community project as part of the AJ Small Projects 2021.

Image: Block West, AUAR Labs with KWMC, Claire McAndrew and Knowle West residents, 2020. Credit: NAARO

The winners of the competition, now in its 26th year, were announced at a virtual event on Thursday 22 April. AJ Small Projects celebrates smaller-scale, lower-budget architecture in the UK or designed by UK-based architects. This year saw nearly 200 entries to the competition.

Launched in Bristol in September 2020, Block West was a temporary pavilion with an associated public programme that explored how new forms of collaboration between designers, technologists, architects and community-led arts organisations can enable communities to reclaim local housing production. The project was a collaboration between The Bartlett’s Automated Architecture Lab, citizen-led digital arts organisation Knowle West Media Centre and local community members of Knowle West. 

Block West used an arts-led co-creation methodology that placed local residents’ lived experiences and participation at the heart of local housing production, enabling them to gain skills in designing the kinds of spaces they need. Block West uses AUAR’s lego-like modular building system Block Type A. The system can be assembled and reassembled together in a variety of ways, offering a wide range of possibilities for designing adaptable community-led spaces.

The judges called Block West “an intersectional piece of architecture which goes beyond a building”, praising the successful collaboration between Automated Architecture, social scientist Claire McAndrew, arts charity Knowle West Media Centre and the local residents who engaged in the digital design process. 

The other winner of the AJ Small Projects 2021 was Rashid Ali Architects' 30m² common room for the Town Hall in Hargeisa, Somaliland. The judges said that both projects sparked “important conversations about how we live together”.

Block West was among a number of shortlisted projects by staff and alumni of The Bartlett School of Architecture; the other three nominated practices were Knox Bhavan, Alma-nac and Material Architecture Labs.

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Image: Block West, AUAR Lab with KWMC, Claire McAndrew and Knowle West residents, 2020. Credit: NAARO