ACAN at Open House
On the afternoon of Saturday 19 September ACAN were at Rochester Square in Camden for Open House participating in workshops, a panel discussion and with our own climate confession booth.
Firstly ACAN wish to say a big thank you to Rochester Square’s Francesca Anfossi and Marta Fernandez for having us, Nyima Murray of Open House for putting us together and everyone who came down and took part. Was a fantastic venue and platform to talk about ACAN’s wider aims and campaigns with the public, sharing ideas and concerns.
The whole experience and day itself was a much needed escape from the drudgery of everyday lockdown life and was a joy to spend so much time building and making the installation in the idyllic garden and workshops.
Climate Confession booth
© Alasdair Ben Dixon
Having originally trialled the climate confession booth at our first open meeting, Futurebuild conference and even online we knew the concept worked well as an icebreaker to people thinking about their own role in the climate crisis. The idea was always about making people think that they are important and have a role to play in the climate crisis, hopefully leaving them with a sense that they can equally do something positive.
We also knew it had to be made of reclaimed materials, as an entirely new structure felt against ACAN’s principles and our budget. Fortunately during the partial demolition and refurbishment of a Grade II* listed church in Camden, Matthew Morris and his organisation Buildcycle were invited to recover and repurpose a portion of the materials. Amongst these were a wealth of pinewood planks that we used to create the primary structure of the confession booth.
Apart from some nails to connect corner pieces the structure was designed to need only the weight of the wood to hold it together, with each layer providing more stability and structure, eventually building up to a cross at the top. Though note for the future when cutting wood that’s older than your entire team allow for far more than 1mm discrepancy in joinery.
We were also fortunate to rely on the people, energy (and spare tools) of ACAN and we were glad to meet and work with those from our network after putting a call out. Working with others like fantastic and they were brilliant at creating a production line for cutting and organising the wood on Saturday and assembling it the day after. Second note for future, know someone who is 6ft7.
In total the climate confession booth was built over two days for just under £100, which were mainly moving costs. The booth will stay at Rochester Square as a contemplative space in the garden with plants eventually growing up around and inside the installation itself.
© Marta Fernandez
What was fascinating about the confessions received is that the two issues which came up again and again were the use of plastic bottles and flying. Though both pertinent examples of negative personal impact on the planet, it highlighted the lack of the knowledge or perception of constructions industry’s role in the climate emergency.
Jack Taylor who designed the confession booth as well as managed the build said “The opportunity to collaborate with Rochester Square and build something together with other members of ACAN was a welcome respite from the countless months of zoom meetings and virtual lockdown life - it served of a reminder of how great it is to use the power of our network and resources and skills that individuals can bring to create something special in little more than a weekend.
Bringing the concept of architects admit to new public audiences opened up new possibilities for knowledge sharing and getting the message out into the wider society away from the clique of the creative industries and the construction world. I hope that the next incarnation of this concept can start to engage with the people of this country in the town centres and suburbs where most of us live or grew up in, to take the conversation and to spread the gospel around the climate emergency far and wide.”
Where the Wild Things Aren’t Workshop
Given their focus on improving and promoting biodiversity ACAN’s Where the Wild Things Aren’t were perfectly placed to work on Open House. James Powell of the group said of the collaboration “Rochester Square is a much wilder, messier, more productive site than the typically private, manicured Georgian squares found elsewhere in London, and is as a result a site of rare value to the local community. Responding to this, the Where the Wild Things Aren’t thematic group put on a workshop that encouraged the public to sketch and survey the site, responding to the site’s legal definition as a sculpture garden. As well as producing a pamphlet guide, we also gave each visitor a plaque to fill in and place by a chosen sculpture, inviting the public to broaden their idea of sculpture to include the natural as well as the man-made. By the end of the day, the collection of plaques across the site gave us a fascinating ecological and cultural survey of what visitors found important.
© Marta Fernandez
The workshop helped to inform the panel discussion at the end of the day, in which the idea of a sculpture garden became a nodal point for wider discussions about urban green space and ecological change. The subjects raised, from ecological surveys to a call for urban commons, we hope to discuss much further in future public settings. Overlaying social values and ecological richness, Rochester Square offers a precedent that the WTWTA group will come back to as a wilder vision of what urban public space can be, and we intend to continue to collaborate with them as we campaign for more biodiverse and socially vibrant cities.”
In addition to the WTWA activities and climate booth a ceramics slip casting workshop was run by architect Farrokh Aman of Natural Selection, a ceramics project highlighting food waste.
We ended the day with a panel discussion chaired by Francesca Anofossi, Ben Brace (Landscape for Future), Betty Owoo (Edible Education/Waugh Thistleton), Farrokh Aman, (Natural Selection), Liz Andrew (ecologist and natural historian), Owen Luder (6a) and ACAN’s Katt Scott of Where the Wild Things Aren’t. This will be up online soon but was a fascinating and in depth exploration of the use, meaning and importance of gardens in people’s personal lives and communities.
Timelapse of climate booths cross by Alasdair Ben Dixon
© Marta Fernandez
Hwei Fan Liang