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We Can Make…Homes

We Can Make is a new housing initiative that supports communities to create the homes they want and need.

Since November 2016 Knowle West Media Centre and White Design have brought together Knowle West residents, artists, academics, designers, architects and policy makers to try out new ideas for sustainable, affordable housing.

At a time when working people can expect to pay around 7.6 times their annual earnings on purchasing a home in England and Wales, the We Can Make initiative ensures communities, not property developers, call the shots: where homes are built to meet local need using local assets and skills.

Bristol, like many cities in the UK, desperately needs homes that people both want and can afford. The Bristol Cable recently reported that in 2013/14 Bristol built just 102 affordable homes against an estimated annual need of 1,500. We want to see communities at the centre of decision-making about these issues, not on the periphery.

Over the last year we’ve seen many issues and opportunities emerge, including:

• Gap spaces and micro-plots that could be built on (such as between homes and on the corner of streets)
• The need for new types of homes that can shrink or grow with the changing needs of families
• Housing that is integrated with other community needs – from social care to employment
• Mixing digital fabrication technology with craft, local skills, and local manufacturing capacity to create more locally-made and beneficial housing
• Exploring what is means to be a good neighbour – can housing be sociable as well as social?
• New kinds of legal and financial models and policy and regulatory frameworks

The first phase of We Can Make began in January 2017 and included workshops, indoor and outdoor events, hands-on making sessions, technology ‘hack days’ and artist commissions.

The second phase began in June, with the construction of the first prototype house: the TAM (Transportable Accommodation Module). Created by Bristol-based architecture company White Design, the TAM uses the ModCell straw bale building system and materials provided by Coobio, a renewable materials innovation company. The TAM is located on a micro-plot beside Filwood Community Centre.

Local people worked with artists Charlotte Biszewski and Alex Goodman to make the new house a home, using natural dyes to make curtains, cushions and tiles. Furniture for the kitchen of the TAM was made by local people with support from the technicians at KWMC: The Factory at Filwood Green Business Park.

In October 2017 KWMC and White Design launched ‘Civic Innovation in Housing’ – a report sharing the findings and potential of the We Can Make model.

If you’d like to find out more, explore new housing options, or have a look around the TAM, Melissa would love to hear from you: melissa.mean@kwmc.org.uk or 0117 903 0444.

We Can Make is led by Knowle West Media Centre, working with White Design and the Live Work Make Unit’s research programme at the University of the West of England (UWE) Department of Architecture and the Built Environment.  We Can Make is supported as a case study by Urban ID at University of Bristol. 

Featured image: Ibolya Feher

Read the We Can Make report

We Can Make: Construction begins on a strawbale house

Over the spring of 2017 a large wooden structure has slowly taken shape behind Filwood Community Centre. The moveable house is fully plumbed and wired, has walls made of straw bales, triple-glazed windows and a large wooden deck. Known as the TAM (Transportable Accommodation Module), the eco-friendly home is big enough to house a couple – and it will open its...

We Can Make: Making Natural Dyes

Over the last few weeks artist Alex Goodman has been collecting leaves and plants from across Knowle West to create a range of natural dyes. The dyes will be used to decorate and furnish the interior of a new home currently under construction in Knowle West as part of the We Can Make Homes project. Find out what Alex has been up...

We Can Make: Artist Reflections Part One

Artist in residence Charlotte Biszewski is working on the We Can Make...Homes project, exploring how communities could play a leading role in developing new housing for their communities. Charlotte's Blog: Part One The KWMC home-made commission has been an eventful one so far. It is a project which seems so relevant to so many critical debates and issues in Bristol...

We Can Make: Artist Reflections Part Two

Artist in residence Charlotte Biszewski is working on the We Can Make...Homes project, exploring how communities could play a leading role in developing new housing for their communities. Charlotte's Blog: Part Two - "On becoming a resident, communal living and further developments in cyanotype" I can't believe I have been working in Knowle West over a month now, I actually feel...

We Can Make: Artist Reflections Part Three

Artist in residence Charlotte Biszewski is working on the We Can Make…Homes project, exploring how communities could play a leading role in developing new housing for their communities. Charlotte’s Blog: Part Three Time to hit the streets: Knowle West never saw it coming. Except they did, from a mile away, and it looked like a big blue ice cream...

Contact Us

Knowle West Media Centre
Leinster Avenue
Knowle West
Bristol
BS4 1NL
+44 (0) 117 903 0444
enquiries@kwmc.org.uk

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