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Teaching design at the LSA — Petra Marko

We spoke to the Design Tutors delivering our programme at the LSA and asked about their design methodology and ethos as professional designers and architects. Petra Marko is a First Year Design Tutor at the LSA, architect, communicator and enabler of creative projects within the urban realm. Operating between client-side enabling, placemaking and design advocacy, she has been shaping an alternative path to architecture practice. Petra is interested in breaking industry silos through her roles as director of Solidspace — an architect-developer unlocking small sites for housing, and as co-founder of Marko&Placemakers, a design consultancy addressing the overlaps between place, process and people. Here’s what Petra had to say.

At Solidspace we believe that small developments can make a real difference, providing new homes close to places of work, reducing commuting and decreasing pressure on the green belt. We are leading a campaign to unlock more of the small sites in London which are overlooked by volume housebuilders. All our developments employ a unique split-level configuration that allows interconnection between social spaces in the home and double height voids with high windows bringing in lots of natural light to promote healthy lifestyle.

The most recently completed project, 81-87 Weston Street (below) with AHMM Architects, is a culmination of 15 years of fine-tuning our spatial model and the first development where we expressed the split level on the outside — through interconnected windows that demarcate each apartment. ‘Conceptually it is a Victorian plan without wall’, described Mary Duggan in Architecture Today. ‘It allows for conscious surveillance, a state of coexistence with degrees of separation, a fluid space that can mitigate between, but not close off functions’. Comprising eight tessellating apartments stacked above a ‘Brutalist’ office space, the homes are cherished by their owner-occupiers dubbing them their ‘houses in the sky’.

 

Project 1 — Weston Street

London

 

Credit: Rory Gardiner
Credit: Rory Gardiner

 

 

Project 2 — VeloCity

 

 

Our VeloCity strategy for reinvigorating villages is not only a movement strategy that changes the hierarchy to prioritise walking and cycling, but tackles issues holistically including biodiversity, mental health, housing affordability and many others. By providing new intergenerational housing models within the village core we can prevent sprawl, reduce the need to travel by car and protect and enhances the countryside whilst enabling reintroduction of services that have been lost over time, such as the village shop, the school, local surgery or a pub, all important for building resilient communities.

 

Project 2 — Northala Fields Park

Northolt, England

 

 

Northala Fields Park marked a shift in the process of practice for us. The concept of the park involved not only design of the monumental land form, but also a funding strategy – using recycled construction rubble from a pool of London-wide development projects such as Heathrow Terminal 5, White City and Wembley Stadium – generating £6 million of income helping to deliver the project at no cost to the tax payer.

Creating the landmark park in London Borough of Ealing involved a very engaged public consultation process, through which local residents became the park’s biggest supporters. Since its opening to the public, locals are actively involved in organising activities and programmes in the park, which has become a vital resource for the whole area.

Northala Fields proves that creative design can be economic while delivering a range of social and environmental benefits far beyond its immediate site boundary.