Tutor: Sean Griffiths
Sean Griffiths practices as an architect, artist and academic. He was a founder member of the art architecture practice, FAT, and now practices as Modern Architect.
Communist Utopia Oxford Street
Our projects this year imagines what might happen to London’s world-famous consumer paradise, Oxford Street, in the event of a collapse of capitalism and the establishment of a new Eco-communist society. The project is motivated by the growing realisation that climate catastrophe cannot be averted without overturning an economic system that relies on perpetual economic growth and which in turn requires continuous increases in carbon emissions, resource extraction, exploitation of labour and growing inequality. So, what might an alternative look like?
In exploring the possibilities, we have undertaken a wide variety of work ranging from the experimental material practices that have characterised the work created in DS15 over many years, combined with research into the concepts of de-growth and ‘half earth socialism’, the generation of political slogans, and the devising of very different kinds of programmes that might arise in a new society with a different ethos to the one in which we presently live. In doing so, we have been speculative but tried to maintain a degree of realism. In the spirit of creating a circular economy, we have worked mostly with the existing buildings, thinking of new uses for important sites in and around Oxford Street, such as Marble Arch, Selfridges, John Lewis and Soho Square, alongside the space of Oxford Street itself and some of the area’s more mundane buildings.
Students worked in teams to produce ideas for the new society, expressed in urban visions for different sections of the street, before developing individual projects within the group proposals. The project has also been carried out under the auspices of an educational experiment called Platform for Cross Disciplinary Exchange which has involved contributions from students and tutors from Architecture, Transport Studies, Urban Design, and Architecture and Environmental Design.