Event Review: We Can Make Site Visit

As part of the Architecture Centre’s season on housing, we organised a visit in collaboration with Knowle West Media Centre, to their project We Can Make – a test space exploring affordable, citizen-led housing solutions at the Filwood Community Centre.

An enthusiastic and optimistic audience listened to an introductory talk at the Knowle West Media Centre led by their Head of Arts, Melissa Mean in collaboration with Craig White of White Design.  Melissa introduced the project outlining the initiative which supports communities to create their own homes, by experimenting with delivering new homes at the point of need.  The audience was a responsive mix of: intrigued Knowle West residents; engineering and architecture students; architects who had travelled especially; and the general public.

The idea of We Can Make, stems from the needs, assets and knowhow of Knowle West to create a citizen-led system and a set of tools for delivering affordable housing which can eventually be replicated in other neighbourhoods and cities. At its heart, We Can Make is an experiment in civic innovation. Working with the local residents and communities, the Knowle West Media Centre and White Design brought together local people, artists, architects, policy-makers, academics and industry professionals with the intention of drafting a strategy that could better meet the housing needs of this community.

Melissa’s talk highlighted how current conventional strategies to access housing are reductively competitive.  They either require people to divert ever more of their wages and savings to getting on a property ladder where the bottom rungs are missing, or it compels people to prove how weak and incapable they are in order to win eligibility for austerity rationed social housing. We Can Make has not only dreamt and re-imagined a different kind of housing future  but it has prototyped it in a practical and scalable way, creating a home that is well made, sustainable and affordable.

The We Can Make building sits in the grounds of the Filwood Community Centre in Knowle West.  The large moveable wooden structure is fully plumbed and wired, has walls made of straw bales, triple glazed windows and a large wooden deck. Known as the Tam (Transportable Accommodation Module), the eco-friendly home is big enough to house a couple and it is open to Knowle West residents to stay overnight and experience it first-hand. But don’t worry if you’re not a local resident and would love to try out this innovative venture – it is also available to book on Airbnb.

The We Can Make project is currently featured in our Mapping New Homes in Bristol exhibition, which runs alongside Saving The City, an exhibition by Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners on their response to the housing crisis. Both are free to view in the Architecture Centre gallery until 8 April.