Residents build pavilion – after learning new skills in lockdown

All images Iboyla Feher.

Local residents have been learning new design and construction skills online during lockdown – and created a temporary pavilion in Knowle West to showcase their work.

The new construction called ‘Block West’ is available for the public to see in the grounds of Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC) in Leinster Avenue.

It was launched on 11 September and completed by a team of local people in under 10 days.

It will remain up for a month as an example of an adaptable building system and people-friendly technology.

This could help communities create the spaces, homes, and places they need in the future.

The pavilion is made from a modular building system – called Block Type A – designed by Automated Architecture Labs (AUAR), a research laboratory based at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL.

It uses a fixed set of Lego-like plywood building blocks which can be made into different designs over time – without the need for specialised tools or expertise.

Block West was designed by Knowle West residents using a new design app developed by AUAR – following a series of online workshops during lockdown.

The parts were manufactured in digital fabrication space KWMC The Factory, based at Filwood Green Business Park.

The project has been led by Bartlett’s Lecturer Mollie Claypool and Senior Research Fellow Dr Claire McAndrew along with KWMC’s Melissa Mean. Engineering was provided by Manja van der Worp and Yoav Caspi of YIP Engineering.

Learning from the development of Block West is already being applied to KWMC’s We Can Make housing initiative, which is using Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) to design homes for micro-sites in the area.

Earlier this year, We Can Make submitted plans for the first two homes – designed by architects and local families working together.

If planning permission is granted, construction will begin this autumn.

Director of We Can Make Knowle West, Melissa Mean, said: “Block West shows what is possible when digital design and fabrication technologies aren’t just controlled by the big developers and are instead put into the hands of communities.

“Empowering communities with the skills and tools to build the homes, spaces and places they need is more important than ever as our hardest-hit communities try to recover from the impact of COVID-19…”

Co-Director of Automated Architecture Labs (AUAR), Mollie Claypool, said: “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…”

Knowle West resident and member of the Block West crew, John Bennett, was involved with every stage of the project – from using the online design app and learning to cut the parts in KWMC The Factory – to being onsite making the pavilion.

He said: “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.”

In October the pavilion will be broken down into its blocks again and re-assembled into benches, planters and a stage – to be distributed across Knowle West for community use.

A short film documenting the construction of Block West can be viewed at:

Due to COVID-19 restrictions Block West is open to the public for booked visits only. To book visit blockwest.eventbrite.co.uk