Among the most renowned projects of Alison Brooks Architects are the Folkestone Arts and Business Centre “Quarterhouse” (2009), which with its backlit facade of fluted mesh cladding has become a new landmark for this English coastal city, and the Accordia Living complex in Cambridge, where the architects conceived apartment buildings that provide clever solutions to the question of the quality of life and living in the future.
Alison Brooks, Alison Brooks Architects
What is the first thing that comes to your mind with regard to the topic “urban future”?
Our urban future(s) must be radically transformed if we are to co-exist successfully with the planet’s natural eco-systems and eliminate our fossil fuel dependence. Our urban future is about societies, cultures and ecology as much as about infrastructure, mobility systems and built form. We also have to acknowledge that globally, societies are confronting wildly different urban conditions that require different urban futures – the extreme human suffering in the slums and favelas of developing nations require a different response than over-development and traffic congestion in ‘modernised’ cities, and there are ‘easier’ questions of how to make civilised urban neighbourhoods operate more sustainably. Sustainable principles must be adapted in unique ways to each urban future.
Do you have a personal idea of what this future could look like?
Every urban condition needs a site and culture specific response; it’s a process of feedback and re-invention. ABA never replicates an image from one place to another, only ambitions and principles. But I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t think our urban future will be more green, figuratively and literally, and more quiet. Imagine no more combustion engine noise on urban streets - amazing.
What is your impact as an architect or landscape architect on this topic?
We hope we’ll have a really big impact. As architects we embrace every aspect of city building from the pragmatic to the poetic - infrastructure, land use, land value, landscape, history, demographics, branding, ecology, memory. With the massive influx of the world’s population to cities, it is our duty to improve quality of life for urban dwellers; we believe this begins with housing. Housing creates a physical and social armature for streets, parks, neighbourhoods and communities. It affects quality of life on a daily basis; where urban dwellers work and how they get to work is probably next on the priority list. Housing defines the character of our cities and quality of life more than any other building typology – in itself it has the capacity to radically improve urban futures!
Do you think mobility concepts will change the future of the city, or do urban conditions change our concept of mobility?
Access to different forms of mobility will definitely change the future of the city and its morphology, but this is also reciprocal. ‘Going Local’ is good, but it’s very rare for one city neighbourhood to provide every facility that urban dwellers need. Different districts of the city offer different character and qualities, but the means of getting around to these different places is not always easy. It should be an adventure, a healthy experience. I believe mobility concepts will change as we become more collective urban animals, more efficient and eco-logical in our land use, more conscientious about supporting local culture - but also more creative in how we get from A to B.