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Architecture (MA)

William Lewis

William is an architectural designer based in London. He completed his undergraduate degree at Manchester School of Architecture in 2018 where he developed a keen interest in the spatial agency of adaptive reuse projects; he further explored this subject during the first year of his MA in ADS1 and devised a non-destructive masterplan for a residential conversion of Palace Gardens shopping centre in Enfield.

During his time at RCA, William’s practice of architecture has coalesced around its intersection with political economics. His dissertation ‘Seen but Not Heard?’ assessed the impact of digital media platforms on participation in estate regeneration public consultation practices, and how this affects power dynamics between stakeholders in the development process.

This year, William’s work in ADS3 has investigated the importance of architecture as a medium of constitution-making and its relationship with national identity, materialising sites through which the imaginations of a political community can be launched and interrogated.

Before joining the RCA in 2021, William gained three years of professional experience as an architectural assistant and a public sector urban planner. 

A product mockup of natural wine in clay bottles.

'Re-building Sovereignty in The Garden of England'

The project attests to the constitutional role of public houses in reflecting and shaping broader social and cultural changes. Through mapping the constitutional repercussions of Brexit and the impacts of climate change on the county of Kent, a speculative future context considers the implications of viticulture expansion and widespread agricultural automation in southeast England; this context enables the interrogation of the village pub’s political agency and the future role of this typology in rural society. How might the infrastructure of Kent adapt to exploit the financial products of an emerging automated winemaking industry whilst reconciling the potential obsoletion of manual labour?

The project aims to develop strategies to reinvigorate and diversify the pub as a socio-cultural centre and site of political activism within the village of Stone-in-Oxney to promote resilience within a transitioning socio-economic context. The interventions facilitate the creation of a new public house typology and associated vineyard in Stone-in-Oxney, to compensate for the loss of the Crown public house in 2016 and local demands for socio-cultural infrastructure. The site is operated as a resident’s community cooperative and a collectivised agricultural enterprise centred around a programme that enables natural wine production, sale and consumption using traditional, non-mechanised methods: organic viticulture and handmade artisan goods are framed as an act of resistance against agricultural automation, marketed for their quality, individuality and product story that urges customers to reject mass-produced wine. The product thus embodies a subversive act of collective protest, whereby the sale proceeds would redistribute wealth within the local community.

The design of the building aims to act as a site of political imaginaries for non-hierarchical politics, local economic heritage and sustainable ecology. Wine-making methods echo southeast England’s ancient Roman heritage and ferment grapes using amphoras made from locally sourced clay; these amphoras would be manufactured on-site alongside clay bottles used to distribute the wine.

The interventions seek to create a building that encapsulates the locality's heritage and tradition whilst embracing and challenging social and environmental transition to benefit local residents, aiming to create a ‘new heritage’ of political imaginaries that intertwines natural winemaking into local residents' day-to-day lives.

The 2016 EU referendum result demonstrated the national resonance of the slogan ‘take back control’ and its reconstituted framing of identity via nostalgia for a constitutional past. This suggests a failure of the British constitution to produce an optimistic and inclusive narrative to frame political society.
A room with a grape treading pit and clay amphoras storing wine.
Warming of over 1°C in southeast and eastern England since the 1980s and further anticipated rises in summer temperatures of 2 – 3°C by 2040 have enabled the expansion of the UK viticulture sector. Coupled with Kent’s soils, this environment will provide optimum conditions for grape growing, with research suggesting a close resemblance to areas such as Champagne and Burgundy.
A section of the proposed public house.
Natural wine production will seek to promote a new economic identity for the locality that builds on the region’s agriculture and brewing heritage, creating a new heritage that is rooted in the community’s relationship with the soil. Organic viticulture and handmade artisan goods are framed as an act of resistance against agricultural automation, marketed for their quality, individuality and product story that urges customers to reject mass-produced wine.
Themes of identity, political society and the drinking industry’s economic sustainability converge on the public house, a typology arguably ingrained in the collective consciousness of English identity that has reflected and shaped social and cultural changes. My research into country pubs and chains, such as Wetherspoons, has encapsulated the additional constitutional agency of the pub as a political site, incorporating ancillary functions as a museum, a public forum and a place to distribute propaganda.
The crown public house
The proposed interventions will be situated in the village of Stone-in-Oxney. The closure of the Crown public house in 2016 has left the village with limited social infrastructure given its remote location.
Converted oast house.
The residential conversion of oast houses exemplify remnants of the hop-growing industry within the village.
A bus stop used as a notice board
The use of a bus stop as a public notice board suggests a lack of more formal civic infrastructure.
The crown public house
A recent planning application to turn the pub into housing was met with approximately 90 objections from residents who continue to campaign against its redevelopment.
A political forum inside a pub.
At the heart of the proposed scheme is a new public forum contained at the base of a structure resembling the form of an oast house. A circular, non-hierarchical forum is imagined within post-industrial architecture, a symbol of economic nostalgia reinvented as a political imaginary for grass-roots community politics. Is it a political forum, a bar or a tasting room for wine?
A section of the proposed public house.
The design of the building mediates the liminality between the political and everyday, whereby a series of thresholds links the forum with seating areas in the main bar to promote public involvement within political processes at an informal level.
A rammed earth bar with wine served from clay amphoras.
Wine would be served directly from amphoras in a specially designed rammed earth bar, incorporating a sculptural pedestal that is framed in vistas across the ground floor of the pub through the choreography of internal spaces.
A museum inside a pub.
The pub as a museum is accentuated via the idea of ‘the local’: that the artefacts of the pub – such as trophies, beer mats and pictures – tell a story of its place and contribute to the identity of its community of users.
Final masterplan of proposal.
A timber walkway extends from the rear of the pub into the vineyard offering visitors unobstructed views across the landscape. Additionally, the walkway provides flat-level surfaces to aid workers in transporting boxes and equipment for grape collection during the harvesting season, terminating at a sheltered reception area and internal sorting room.
Narrative and reference images.
The project is situated in rural Kent, southeast England, known colloquially as ‘The Garden of England’ due to links with agriculture and food production, particularly hop cultivation and beer brewing. Oast houses – pointed hop kilns – are a vernacular closely associated with the region’s former hop-growing heritage that significantly declined in the early 20th century, becoming emblematic of the county’s cultural identity that is rooted in its economic past.