David Roberts is a Teaching Fellow in Architectural Design and Architectural History & Theory Tutor. David is also a Research Ethics Fellow at the Bartlett Faculty of Built Environment.
David Roberts is a Teaching Fellow in Architectural Design and Architectural History & Theory Tutor. David is also a Research Ethics Fellow at the Bartlett Faculty of Built Environment. Alongside his work at UCL, he is part of collaborative art practice Fugitive Images and of architecture collective Involve.
David uses poetry and photography to explore the relation between people and place. He has exhibited, lectured and published work related to public housing, architecture, critical methodologies and site-specific practice.
David's PhD thesis in Architectural Design, Make Public: Performing public housing in regenerating east London, explored the history and future of two east London housing estates undergoing regeneration: the Haggerston Estate, a 1935–8 London County Council neo-Georgian perimeter block demolished in 2014; and Balfron Tower, a 1965–7 Brutalist high-rise designed by Ernö Goldfinger facing refurbishment and privatisation in 2016. It won a RIBA President’s Award for Research 2016 and received a High Commendation.
David's research, art and cultural activist practice engages community groups whose homes and livelihoods are under threat from urban policy, and extends architectural education to primary and secondary school children. Through this collaborative practice he co-wrote and co-produced the feature-length documentary/fiction film, Estate, a Reverie. He co-curated a six-week project Real Estates, opening PEER up as a social, discursive and imaginative space around issues of housing and spatial justice in East London through a constantly changing series of exhibitions, screenings, discussions, readings and workshops. He developed an interactive website Balfron Tower: a building archive and co-coordinated a successful campaign to list Balfron Tower at Grade II*. Slab, a collection of concrete poems about life and loss in language and stone, will be published by Copy Press.
David is driven by an aspiration to defend welfare state architecture and salvage the principles at its foundation.
- Research subject
Make Public: Performing public housing in regenerating east London
First and second supervisors: Professor Jane Rendell & Dr Ben Campkin
The history of housing the working population in Britain has a predictable circularity in architectural form; one generation’s panacea becomes the next generation’s problem, only to be reappraised with remorse after it has passed.
My thesis is a practical and theoretical research project into this cycle. It explores the history and future of two east London housing estates undergoing regeneration; the Haggerston Estate, a 1930s London County Council neo-Georgian perimeter block demolished in 2014; and Balfron Tower, a 1960s Brutalist high-rise designed by Ernö Goldfinger facing refurbishment and privatisation in 2016.
To ‘make public’ expresses a demand and an aspiration; materially – to protect and extend public housing provision at a time when austerity measures are dismantling it in ideal and form [Phillips and Erdemci, 2012]; procedurally – to make visible problematic processes of urban change that are increasingly hidden from public view under the pervasive metaphor of regeneration [Campkin, 2013], and; methodologically – to make public the act of research through long-term collaborations with residents and other practitioners, using archival research and socially-engaged performance practice that reveals spatial changes and their affects on social relations [Harvie, 2013].
The thesis draws on the idea of ‘multiple publics’ to re-conceptualise a constructive approach to public housing and to evaluate the ethic of ‘making public’ [Fraser, 1990]. It works between architecture and performance to forge new connections with the research of Forty, Rendell, Schneider and Roms, and choreograph relationships between buildings, texts and residents through critical acts of writing, dramaturgy and re-enactment.
The practice is conducted through performative workshops that open a social, discursive and imaginative space for residents to re-enact the histories of each estate and build collective knowledge and experience. This collaborative work is shared with wider publics through a feature-length artist’s film Estate, site-specific performance Empty Words Build Empty Homes, and six-week exhibition Real Estates, and is documented in the thesis as two acts, comprising scenes interspersed with reflective essays. The evidence gathered is fed into formal and legislative frameworks with the aim of influencing housing policy: in Haggerston, a redesigned housing survey Housing Alternatives and at Balfron Tower, a successful Grade II* listing bid and online archive Balfron Tower: a building archive.
Sources of Funding
David was awarded a UCL Graduate Research Scholarship and an AHRC Studentship in Architectural Design.
- Publications and other work
David Roberts, ‘‘We felt magnificent being up there’: Ernö Goldfinger's Balfron Tower and the campaign to keep it public’, in Peter Guillery and David Kroll (eds.), Mobilising Housing Histories: Learning from London’s Past (London: RIBA Publishing, forthcoming - 2017).
David Roberts, ‘Housing Acts: performing public housing’, in Andrew Filmer and Juliet Rufford (eds.), Performing Architectures: Contemporary Projects, Practices and Pedagogies (London: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, forthcoming - 2017).
David Roberts, 'Three Demands', RIBAJ (December 2016).
Anne Louise Buckley, Briony Campbell, Chantel Forrester, Elam Forrester, Jahcheyse Forrester, Lorna Forrester, Rosie Fowler, Taina Galis, Steve Hart, Therese Henningsen, Lasse Johansson, Gillian McIver, Lewis Osbourne, Eric Phillip, David Roberts, Adam Rosenthal, Georgia Sangster, Ruth-Marie Tunkara, Smart Urhiofe, Julie Vandemark, Julia Vandemark, Cathy Ward, and Andrea Luka Zimmerman, ‘From ‘Heroin’ to Heroines’, in Ben Campkin and Ger Duijzings (eds.), Engaged Urbanism: Cities & Methodologies (London: IB Tauris, 2016), pp. 73-82.
David Roberts, ‘Make Public: a building archive of London’s Balfron Tower’, in Yasminah Beebeejaun (ed.), The Participatory City (Berlin: Jovis, 2016), pp. 65-73.
David Roberts, ‘None of the Lively Detail’, in Eduardo Padilha and Torange Khonsari (eds.), My Home is Your Home (London: public works publishing, 2016), pp. 18-29.
David Roberts, Balfron Tower: a building archive (2015).
Fugitive Images, Estate, 83 min, LUX artists’ moving image agency, 2015. A feature-length documentary/fiction film.
Theron Schmidt, John Pinder, Louise Owen, Andrea Luka Zimmerman, David Roberts and Sophie Hope, ‘Beyond Glorious: The Radical in Engaged Practices’, Contemporary Theatre Review, v. 24 n. 2 (2014), pp.284-288.
Thomas-Bernard Kenniff, Christian Parreño, Mariana Pestana, David Roberts and Danielle Willkens, ‘Lobby foreward’, in Lobby (London: Aldgate Press, 2014).
David Roberts, ‘Telling Stories / Empty Words Build Empty Homes’, Opticon1826, v.16 (2004).
Ben Campkin, David Roberts and Rebecca Ross (eds.) Regeneration Realities (Northampton: Belmont Press, 2013).
David Roberts and Andrea Luka Zimmerman, ‘The Certainty of Uncertainty’, in Ben Campkin, David Roberts and Rebecca Ross (eds.) Regeneration Realities (Northampton: Belmont Press, 2013), pp. 11-12.
Elam Forrester, Rosie Fowler, David Roberts and Polly Rodgers, Moving: An oral history of the Haggerston Estate (London: Printed, 2013).
David Roberts and Amy Thomas, ‘Harmony and Discord’, in PhD Research Projects 2013 (London: Bartlett School of Architecture, 2013).
David Roberts, Empty Words Build Empty Homes: A play for estates (London: Victory Press, 2012).
David Roberts, ‘Collaberate’, in Magda Fabianczyk and Sophie Hoyle (eds.), We were trying to make sense...: Exploring Artist and Non-Artist Collaborations (London: An Endless Supply, 2012), pp. 33-36.
Jon Anderson, Kye Askins, Ian Cook, Luke Desforges, James Evans, Maria Fannin, Duncan Fuller, Helen Griffiths, David Lambert, Roger Lee, Julie MacLeavy, Lucy Mayblin, John Morgan, Becky Payne, Jessica Pykett, David Roberts and Tracey Skelton, ‘What is geography's contribution to making citizens?’, Geography, v. 93, n. 1 (2008), pp. 34-39.
Ian Cook, James Evans, Helen Griffiths, Lucy Mayblin, Becky Payne and David Roberts, ‘‘Made in... ?’ appreciating the everyday geographies of connected lives?’, Teaching Geography (Summer 2007), pp.80-83.