Most of us will never navigate the complicated rules and regulations of the planning system. But a lot is possible if you temporarily ignore them...

London is a fascinating city because it offers such diverse opportunities for interaction, particularly as an architect, urban designer or artistic activist. During the six years I have spent in London the city has changed dramatically. The skyline is constantly transforming and down on the ground we have been seeking out new territories in which to operate and intervene.

A major part of our work with osa focuses on those areas of the city which tend to be overlooked, forgotten or abandoned. All over London you can find neglected sites that invite exploration and engagement. They offer up opportunities to create temporary projects that explore their potential and the possibilities for positive future development.


by Johannes Marburg

In 2004, we walked through an area in Shoreditch, east of Brick Lane and spotted a little house on stilts, formally used as a signal box but now as defunct as the disused viaduct it stands on. This house looked like a small and forlorn version of a stereotypical and slightly 'twee' cottage. Although it was old and weathered these idyllic associations made it appear out of place in its rough urban environs.

We immediately thought that this structure needed a treat and set about refurbishing the house in a way that aimed to express the idealised vision of a dream property. We called it 'Intact'. After a lengthy and unsuccessful process of trying to get permission from the authorities we decided to do this project 'guerrilla' style and embarked on an illegal makeover starting early in the morning and finishing 10 hours later.


by Johannes Marburg

Unfortunately this 'dream home' was destroyed three days later and we were forced to return to restore and add new elements for our official opening. After further vandalism we came back for the last time to add a final element, a huge fluffy 'animal alien.'


by Johannes Marburg

Public reaction to this project and other interventions of its kind has been overwhelming. Through a simple, low-budget and temporary action on a specific site such projects capture the imagination and raise awareness and debate around the spaces that we often pass by without so much as a glance.


by Federico Figa Talamanca

From a marginal site in the East End the next project took us to Central London and our 'London Roof' (2002) in Trafalgar Square. My colleague Bernd Trümpler and I were simultaneously working on large-scale architectural projects in London whilst searching for ways to interact more immediately with London's public space without the burden of processes like planning, financing, project managing etc.

We wanted to explore how architecture can be made that is not necessarily built. The umbrella, the most practical and utilitarian object used in London, represented to us a potential architectural module, and is used by most of the 8 million inhabitants of the city. We proposed a new roof over Trafalgar Square created through the connection of approximately 250 of these architectural modules, creating a new temporary surface in one of the busiest places in London. This project was not about a fixed and built space but rather a fluid one relying on public participation. A collection of people under one roof participated and made a new connection possible. The project had an immense entertainment value as people had fun taking part in a memorable event with an impact that lasted way beyond the 20 minutes of the event.


by Federico Figa Talamanca

The type of intervention we make depends on the type of space. In direct response to the media generated from our project 'INTACT' we were presented with a commercial commission to create an urban oasis in the middle of Broadgate Circus in the City of London. With its hard surfaces and almost soulless atmosphere it was a challenging space to work with.


by Federico Figa Talamanca

We approached the task by merging ideas of growth and nature with the architectural object and drew an architectural plan of a pub onto a rectangle of lawn. Gradually the furniture grew out of the horizontal plan covered in real grass turf. The message was: 'please keep on the grass' and enjoy the space by using and engaging with it. This unexpected working bar was frequented by business workers from the surrounding financial district and acted as a useful breathing space amid the concrete surroundings.

Our most recent involvement in a London project is a film project called 'The Games' directed by artist Hilary Powell and produced by Daniel Edelstyn of Optimistic Productions. It is a 15 minute film that involves staging a condensed and surreal Olympic Games amid the East London sites that are set to become the London 2012 Olympic Park.


by Federico Figa Talamanca

A steeplechase traverses an urban landscape currently populated by factories, allotments, construction workers, multiple communities, junk and rubble and sports in the film include hub cap discus, and mattress trampolining We were invited to work on the scenography of the film by making simple adjustments to existing structures - be they rooftop huts or pylons. The film was co-commissioned by Urbis and is currently screening in Manchester as part of their exhibition 'Play: Experience the Adventures of Our Cities' and will be showing during London Architecture Week at BFI and as part of a symposium on artists and the Olympics organized by Space Studios and The Museum of London.


by Federico Figa Talamanca


by Trenton Oldfield


by Trenton Oldfield

'The Games' will be screened in London as part of Architecture Week 2007. Go to the RIBA's website for details.

Visit Karsten Huneck's Office for Subversive Architecture: www.osa-online.net




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Supported by
Debate London is organised by The Architecture Foundation Charity Registration no.1006361
The Architecture Foundation is funded by Arts Council England www.architecturefoundation.org.uk