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INSIGHTS


23


Architects have an ethical duty to make the world a more interesting, more pleasant, more stimulating place


Sarah Wigglesworth


“using the building as a teaching tool”. As well as being aesthetically playful, she says they are also “tactile, intellectually interesting, and stimulating for the kids, getting them thinking about and understanding things they may not have realised before”. A different approach to an education and cultural sector commission, Siobhan Davies Dance Studios in Southwark saw the practice transforming a disused Victorian building with a few spatial alterations that include a sinuous new timber roof inspired by dancers’ movements. The award-winning 2005 result “still gets a lot of positive comments,” says Sarah.


The practice has found it more challenging to work in housing, in one case leading Sarah to put her head over the parapet writing a candid piece titled ‘The Battle for Quality in Design’. However


having recently won a place on the GLA framework, the practice is looking forward to creating more housing in its own city. Responding to the ageing population, she is keen to promulgate ideas on multigenerational housing – developed during the three-year DWELL research project (Designing for Well-being in Environments for Later Life) she led at the University of Sheffield. To this end, the practice is working on minimising health impacts of the environment at Ebbsfleet Healthy Garden City, but Wigglesworth counsels that the whole environmental system needs to be considered as the end-goal: “there are too many casualties of a siloed approach where it’s assumed that a single building is the answer.”


Motivations Sarah Wigglesworth has some forthright views on what can get in the way of quality, but as part of a the practice’s rigorous approach, she says that success in architecture is all about teasing out people’s motivations. “A building is fulfilling a deep-rooted desire, and as an architect you have to get under the skin of that, what is this person really trying to achieve?”


“Even a developer is ultimately trying to sell an emotional connection with place, which is what you’re trying to work on when you’re working with people”. She reminds us that a client/architect relationship is also “one of trust, and you construct that by building an emotional relationship with the people you are working with.” Wigglesworth concludes: “Ultimately architecture is a people business and we don’t talk enough about that, we tend to think of it as a technical thing. Often the worst buildings are divorced from the people that will inhabit them”. 


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