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Architecture (MA)

David Rich

David completed his final year at the Royal College of Art in studio ADS5 with Amin Taha and Peter Rae (of Groupwork, Clerkenwell). The studio focuses on low embodied carbon materials, material joins and reciprocal structures, and renewable energy.  

His pragmatic approach to problem solving and design is often based on past presidents, then improved or modified to meet 21st Century demands.  David’s interests range from large scale infrastructure, to the individuals private dwelling and the attention to detail of material joins.  This broad scale of design, is epitomised in this year’s final year project where David studied the national housing target, its subsequent effects on the countryside and greenbelt; offering remedies to the multiple uncoordinated plans for the Thames River; whilst finding opportunities on national infrastructure projects to resolve these multiple dilemmas. 

A new kind of living?

Concerned by the increscent growth in population, the national housing target and the subsequent impact on Britain’s greenbelt and rural landscape, David’s project initially explored the issue of land use with specific interest into the likes of Taylor Wimpey housing, whereby just some 21% of developed land is actually used as human living space.

Simultaneously, he investigated infrastructure proposals for the Thames Estuary, that included a new Thames flood barrier which is aimed at defending the river and its surroundings from rising sea levels by the year 2100. His proposal promised more than just another concrete sea wall. Using this infrastructure project as an opportunity, David took the proposed new Thames Barrier down river, but instead used the Dutch polder and dike system as the flood barrier.  This new space created new carbon sinks, new agricultural land, human habitation including jobs, it would become taxable, and of course acts as a flood defence. 

The advantage of this new organic space was its fertility, versatility and proximity to water.  Subsequently this provided the possibility for new carbon sinks - a reed wetland was chosen as the most suitable of carbon sinks for its effective ability to sequester carbon, in addition to providing valuable by-products (reed thatch) including amphibious sporting pursuits, river transportation and biodiversity.   Hydroelectric energy became a source of revenue, generating some £50mn each year, crucially, this proposal would become suitable habitable space for Britain’s growing population. 

The project experimented with urban topography, by borrowing from the industrial added value of the site, the habitation settled on the wetland itself whereby every other pair of water reens (small canal) have been ‘filled in’ and extruded by a stone jetty, cast from the banks of the dike.

Houses, apartments, shops and thatch storage facilities align the flanks of this jetty with a single broadway connecting the aforementioned to the dike and its main road.  Contrary to contemporary housing estates, this singular broadway removes the multiple tarmac access roads, driveways and pavements for, one broad way.  Much like a medieval rural village, this cobbled space is both car and bicycle accessible as well as being a pedestrian walkway, communal gathering space, market exchange and recreational space.  

This ‘every other canal’ topography means that every property has street access and water front wetland views. In some ways replacing the monocultured gardens of a housing estate for wetland outlooks, whereby residents can fish, kayak, ramble, ‘twitch’ or simply enjoy an evening meal on their terraces. And yet this wetland environment is actively absorbing carbon and providing the materials for the surrounding properties in which they live.

Plan drawing over the Thames Estuary and proposed polder
An aerial over the Thames Estuary and our proposal
An aerial over the Thames Estuary and our proposal
A long section through the settlement
Detail drawing
urban topography
The urban topography follows the direction of the water reens. This allows the flow of water to pass through the settlement unhindered, whilst permitting wildlife to inhabit these spaces between human residence.
Canal view
Broad canals were conceived in response to the functional needs of the flowing water reens - siphoned into the polder from the Thames (west) and pumped out in the east - so as not to obstruct its flow and allow wildlife to live in and amongst the settlement. This informed the linear layout of the urban topography.
Street condition
All houses are adjoined by a single but multi purpose ‘broad way’. This dispenses with the multiple access roads, driveways, pavements and asphalt of the housing estate for one cobbled ‘village’ street. The street is connected to the main road leading out of the polder.
Scale 1 : 20 prototype model
Thatch and DLT
Within This Little Wooden World
Within This Little Wooden WorldEnvironmentally and structurally sound, dowel laminated timber offers cost effective, glue free, quick to assemble yet homely qualities.
A section through our contemporary 'piano nobile' dwelling
In SectionA section through our contemporary 'piano nobile' dwelling
Ground and first floor plans
Ground and first floor plans
Second and third floor plans
Second and third floor plans
Window Detail
image 5
A Rural OutlookEach dwelling has both street access and water access, so as to benefit from the convenience of ‘village living’ and its local markets, whilst also enjoying the direct pursuits and infrastructure that comes with living on water.