Posted by Karl Johnson on May 24, 2013
Related program: Chapter Network
Beth Worth is a trustee of Architecture for Humanity London Chapter, responsible for communication and public engagement. Today the chapter helped her take down a series of temporary installations for Clerkenwell Design Week in London - structures reflecting the ethos of Architecture for Humanity, and an elaboration on themes and formats raising awareness for the organization's work and principles.
Somehow, Beth found time this week to talk about the chapter's development and ambitions.
When and how did you find out about the group, and what have you been up to?
My career began in journalism and the media (I was a radio and television producer in current affairs, then deputy commissioning editor of drama at Britain's Channel 4 Television) before pursuing a second degree in Fine Art and then interior design.
I found AfH London five years ago via Design Like You Give a Damn just when I was trying to figure out how to use my training in interior design. I started by helping AfH London with Crisis Christmas (offering homeless people welcoming accommodation during the holiday season).
Following the tsunami in Japan I organized a fundraiser - a photographic exhibition and auction called 'For Japan.' We held an open call for photographs evoking Japan and exhibited 100 of the best. We sold every single one.
Textile Hut from the 2013 Clerkenwell Design Week, London
Last year I organized an interactive event called 'Ideas on a Postcard, Please' to raise awareness of AfH and our activities. The event demonstrated the design process behind the finished product - from first glimmer of inspiration through sketches, drawings, models, prototypes etc. We held another open call - this time asking people (including students, artists, architects and design professionals) to submit their ideas on how to make London a better place on our specially designed A5 postcard template. We exhibited about 250 postcards and held workshops, talks and demonstrations during the course of the week-long event.
That's also when I invited Cameo Musgrave, a volunteer, designer and maker, to build something on site in the gallery so visitors could witness the construction process. Cameo came up with the 'Love Hut' to chime in with AfH's 'I Love Architecture' campaign. Visitors were invited to write 'love messages to London' on bright pink post-it notes and to stick them on the hut. We subsequently took the 'Love Hut' to Clerkenwell Design Week where it was set up outside one of the exhibiting showrooms.
This year Clerkenwell Design Week invited us to be part of their 'Clerkenwell Presents' programme offering alternative design. I suggested we build on the hut theme and they agreed to four. The huts would each have a separate theme evoking the ethos and spirit of Architecture for Humanity.
We held a call for volunteers and divided into four groups. The themes emerged fairly quickly: The Water Hut - demonstrating how we use and waste water, The Green Hut - an edible garden, the Textile Hut - using recycled textiles in an architectural context, and the Remakery Hut - an homage to the Brixton Remakery project (a local recycle reuse centre we've helped to design).
Could you talk about the group's evolution since you joined? Were (are) there difficulties to overcome?
In recent years we have been trying to balance our focus between London projects (like Crisis, the Brixton Remakery, the Hackney Local Food Food Kitchen) and projects oversees.
Funding is a priority. In an ideal world we would have an office base and at least one part time paid member of staff. One of the big challenges for a voluntary organisation is to do with people's time. Events and projects consume a huge amount of time and energy which can't be sustained in the longer term on a voluntary basis.
What are your ambitions for the group? Ie, direction for getting new projects or members?
The biggest challenge for our chapter is financial sustainability. We have looked into funding our opportunities - but that in itself is a full time job. Being properly funded means we can build on our successes and relationships with volunteers.
How does AFHLondon engage with other European chapters?
We have had a dialogue with AfH in Greece and have reached out to other European Chapters. It would be good to have a Euro Hub where different Chapters could convene and exchange ideas.
Any thoughts or advice for other chapters?
More dialogue among the chapters would be great. Joint Chapter projects - pooling resources could be a way forward for some projects. Maybe the onus of fundraising shouldn't be on every individual Chapter but the function of a larger consortium of chapters.
Rendering by Cameo Musgrove, photos by Peter Landers and watch out for video by Riccardo Cellottini in the near future. For more info on these huts see Beth's interview with Archilovers.
UPDATE: 27 JUNE 2013
A short video of the London Chapter's Clerkenwell Design Week 'The Huts' project was made by Riccardo Cellottini -
0:30 - Textile Hut - Hot air baloon material deconstructed, exploring the architectural use of textiles and ways to recycle fabric.
1:05 - Green Hut - A community pantry / An urban garden structure / Growing your own food in the city
1:45 - Water Hut - A water 'timer' illustrates how we (mis)use water. A pipe cloud above the hut brings plumbing out in the open.
2:20 - Remakery Hut - Using a collection of old discarded windows, exploring the beauty in salvaging materials and the notion of looking in and looking out.