Gill Lambert
Geoff Shearcroft

DS21 is concerned with people, places and politics. We remain optimistic (perhaps naively) that architecture can make the world better. In the contemporary context of a global climate emergency, diminishing belief in democracy and a decline in living conditions we think there is potential for buildings to make people’s lives more joyful – environ-mentally, socially and, most significantly, emotionally. We began by defining joy through curating found objects. Intensely personal, frequently kitsch, often stereotypical, this collection grew and matured over the course of the year, captured in crafted boxes or curated accounts. A lexicon evolved, connecting the form, materials and myths of objects with the emotional effects they create. The design and realisation of familiar everyday components – door handles, light switches, joist hangers, rainwater pipes – was our first built declaration of joy in architecture. Ergonomics, regulations, clichés and expectations were interrogated and models tested and redesigned. The final prototypes erred towards a full sensory engagement, enriching functional economy with emotional engagement. We turned our attentions to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets – diverse and wealthy with vast inequalities. Each student identified and investigated a public service provided in the past and speculated on its future. Careful observation, archive research and analytical drawing developed an engaged understanding of the existing service and publics. Contemporary challenges and political events informed a radically reimagining of the brief. On our field trip to Porto and Barcelona we enjoyed a diverse range of buildings that evoke a subconscious emotional response. We studied and stole how colour, pattern and symbolism can be used to enhance the physical and emotional conditions of the city. The final proposals create a diversity of individual architectures that collectively define a new joyful and democratic vision for Tower Hamlets in which the emotional value and impact of public buildings and the services they host are paramount.