Taking Care and Making Do: Finding Opportunity from Failure

Oliver Ray-Chaudhuri

Top image sketch 1

The immediacy of climatic and financial crises suggests that working with what we have is preferable to the vast resources required to construct brand new buildings. Our lust for the new and improved often comes from a misconception of architecture as static and incapable of changing to meet today's needs. Yet buildings continue to change far beyond their initial construction. Architects are just one contributor among a complex network of actors who design, inhabit, damage, fix and alter buildings.

This thesis asks how foregrounding the incompleteness of buildings could allow us to view ‘reuse’ as an ongoing process rather than a dramatic transformation of an already degraded shell. It investigates how the longevity of ordinary buildings could be extended through strategies that perform ‘more-than-maintenance’ to proactively shield against obsolescence.

Back door 2 indesign 2

Using my family home as a case study, a practice of drawing sought to expand architectural representation to better reflect buildings as part of a wider ecology by reducing the hierarchy between physical fabric, social networks and traces of inhabitation. The drawings reveal, through their gaps and defects, possibilities for small acts of maintenance and repair that are not simply uncritical restorations of the building to an idealised ‘original’ state but adapt and challenge the status quo as well.

2460 two images 1

Failures force us to engage with the building at a deeper level than our day-to-day interaction. The interventions explore how a practice of repair can extend beyond the scale of the single building element to respond to other failures, such as the unaffordability and lack of community that has resulted from our current model of low-density, commodified suburbs. Together the repaired drawings form a semi-fictional story of the house – beginning in reality and then diverging, a sort of collage of actual and imagined events.

798 garden drawing 2
2460 two images 2

Probing the boundaries of building and property fosters a ‘repaired’ suburban condition characterised by incremental improvement and ongoing negotiation between neighbours. An installation for Late Night Art tested this process and practice of negotiation in an already dense urban setting:

2460 late night art 1

This project does not suggest the replacement of the architect with a general DIYer or mere maintainer of existing buildings, but suggests how our architectural knowledge and skills could be applied in an expanded way in the face of numerous conflicting crises. We cannot continue as we are, but we can make use of what we have.

798 broken lawnmower 1

(See personal website for animated drawings).