The quintessential English village has become something of a fictional construct today yet it remains an idealised archetype and aspirational home for people all over the world. In the UK, the ‘village’ moniker is increasingly used as a marketing tool to promote the sale of new developments or properties in certain areas.
Urban villages have a strong appeal to city dwellers, representing an escapist pastoral fantasy and evoking ideas of comfort, security, cosiness, quiet, simplicity, inclusiveness, human significance and community. But real communities evolve over time, through a common desire or a shared need or threat, not by diktat.
This year we took the ‘Village’ as a site of typological survey, critical analysis and proposition and asked whether it is possible to extract certain aspects and translate these into architectural proposals that enhance or even create whole new urban communities. Through a series of research exercises and two design projects, we have attempted to identify the essential characteristics and qualities of traditional village life and apply them to two recent urban village developments.
In the first semester we studied the physiognomy and anatomy of 36 villages through site visits, readings, film screenings, discussion and online research. Students used this research to create their own village pattern books and to invent a founding narrative and design for a new traditional event, such as a parade or a celebration, for East Village, Stratford.
In the final semester students applied their understanding of the Village Model to the design of a ‘Village Attraction’ for Greenwich Millennium Village. These critical and discursive projects variously explore updated, urbanised versions of traditional established village typologies: the village hall, village pub, village church, village shop etc. The proposals have emerged from site sensitive observations and consider what is lacking, or how to improve what is already there.