Haslam & Co Architects Make RIBA Journal Shortlist for Rethink 2025
  • 18 Aug 2020

Haslam & Co Architects Make RIBA Journal Shortlist for Rethink 2025

A project entitled ‘Far Off is Close at Hand’ by Mike Haslam of Haslam & Co Architects has been chosen as one of only 12 projects for the RIBA Journal’s Rethink 2025 competition. The competition asked entrants: When we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic a new sort of design will be needed. How would you design the new world we will find ourselves in?

Mike Haslam’s project looked at living and being in the city through the lens of an urban house design. The Judges said: “This isn’t about new. It is a clever way to repurpose existing distressed assets,” said judge Ed Clark. As many shops struggle this is an unusually elegant conversion of a shop (and the accommodation above) into a home that gives something to the street – still allowing the possibility of exchange. Joanna Averley liked the reimagining of the high street, including the corner shop which has “seen us through the crisis”. For judge Francine Houben the strength of this entry was in the little details; things like a generous handbasin right at the threshold of the home, the “bar exchange” between street and home.

Judges for Rethink 2025 were: Hugh Pearman, RIBAJ editor (Chair); Joanna Averley, design advocate, London mayor; Sarah Castle, director and co-founder, IF_DO; Ed Clark, director, buildings engineering, Arup; Francine Houben, creative director and founding partner, Mecanoo; Matt Jones, principal designer, Google AI, and RIBA trustee; and Asif Khan, founder, Asif Khan.

Design Statement by Mike Haslam - Far Off Is Close At Hand

Philosopher and sociologist, Edgar Morin, makes the point that the “alpha idea” of all ecological thought is that the independence of a living being necessitates its dependence within its environment. What can be termed our state of inter-dependence. So what has happened to our state of interdependence following Covid-19 enforced lock-down? We are clearly still very much connected despite our steps towards isolation but our isolation is two metres defined and closing.

We have come out of the gym and into the park - re purposing our outdoor spaces

We have come out of our offices and into our homes - our daily commute is a walk to another room.

We have (re)shown we do not need to be commuting to be productive

We have (re) shown we do not need to be travelling physically to be travelling in the mind.

Our far off is now close at hand.

What then are the subtle spatial realignments? Are these at a strategic level or could they be much more to do with how we occupy the space we call home. With an increasingly populated world we cannot renounce dense living but must strategise our design so that space and privacy are protected and spatial quality goes hand-in-hand with quantity.

If home is again a more dominant part of our spatial existence, then can we define a place to sit and daydream - a perch on the street and the world? If our far off is to be close at hand then a sky view that allows us to breathe and watch clouds becomes more critical.

If home is to be our deeper sanctuary then does reinforcing the sense of nest become more important?

If working becomes more video-based can our work spaces positively exchange with the public realm?

If the transition between these states needs to be recognised and ritualised can washing reflect this?

We are looking at four critical aspects of living and being in the city through the lens of an urban house design. These aspects are a perch on the street, a nest to withdraw and feel safe, the ritual of washing as a threshold between inside and outside and the design of the bar of exchange - the interface between the home and the street.

The new house exists as a framework but critically too these elements can form part of an existing building.  In our newly defined separated existence, working from home can replace the closed retail outlets of our high street, providing at street level some of the theatre of occupation that retail would have provided. The bar of exchange is both symbolic of the interface between the public realm and the more private and also functions as both a meeting space and an entertainment space.