Block West

Automated Architecture (AUAR), Bristol, 2020



Photography by Studio NAARO & Ibolya Feher     Download Original

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Block West is a temporary structure with an associated public programme that explores how new forms of collaboration between designers, technologists, architects and community-led arts organisations can enable local communities to reclaim local housing pr

The project was a collaboration between AUAR Labs (UCL), citizen-led digital arts organisation Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC), social scientist Dr Claire McAndrew (UCL) and community members of Knowle West, Bristol. Block West used an arts-led co-creation methodology that placed local residents’ lived experiences and participation at the heart of local housing production, enabling them to gain skills in designing the kinds of spaces they need.

The approach included a workshop series with local residents exploring the potential of new digital tools, e.g. accessible web-based digital design applications and digital fabrication technologies in the design, fabrication and assembly of housing. Block West uses AUAR’s lego-like modular building system Block Type A. The system can be assembled and reassembled together in a variety of ways, offering a wide range of possibilities for designing adaptable community-led spaces.

Pre-fabrication and assembly of Block Type A also requires very little specialised tools or expertise, making the system accessible to everyone. The project offered equitable and inclusive opportunities, creating 25 part-time jobs to be filled by the community throughout the project. This job creation programme was both a test bed and training programme for embedding digital skills in the local community.

The final structure measuring 38sqm consists of 145 plywood timber blocks made of CNC cut sheets milled by KWMC’s digital manufacturing hub The Factory, and assembled into the prototype on a plot outside KWMC by a team of local residents in just 10 days. Open until Spring 2021, Block West serves as an outdoor community hub, and has been used as space for artist residencies and events.

NB. Architect: Automated Architecture (AUAR) Labs (UCL) & the Knowle West residents: Toni Gray, Don Jones, George Knowlson, John Bennet, Sarah-Jayne Turner, Megan Clark-Bagnall, Megan Royall, Lucy Harris, Ben Griffiths


  • Begun: Aug 2020
  • Completed: Sep 2020
  • Floor area: 38m2
  • Sector: Education
  • Total cost: £75,000
  • Funding: Transforming Construction Network Plus
  • Tender date: Dec 2019
  • Procurement: Design Build
  • Address: Knowle West Media Centre, Leinster Avenue, Knowle West, Bristol, BS4 1NL, United Kingdom