Copyright 2021 © The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL
Urban hegemony over the rural landscape through privatisation of nature, industrialisation of agriculture and commercialisation of building has resulted in an imbalanced urban-rural continuum. The project sees the river as a valuable trans-rurban commons network that can potentially uplift rural areas while mitigating the impact of urban centres.
Sited along the River Wensum in Norfolk, the building is a roving river restoration machine that visits rural villages to restore the damaged chalk river while engaging and empowering the local community to sustain an intimate, interdependent relationship with the environment through rituals and beliefs.
The river rover is simultaneously a restorative and ritual machine, marrying ecological values with the process of restoration. It floats down the river, initiating different rural communities towards the establishment of a productive River Wensum Commons Collective.
In the context of the climate crisis, the scheme proposes not just a new way of building within the ecosystem but advocates a resilient approach towards community engagement that leaves an impactful non-architectural legacy.
An animated cartographic drawing played out the process of urban hegemony and was used to interrogate how the river could be used as a means of rural leverage.
These drawings inspired by folklore capture the different material cultures, village identities, crafts and customs that emerge as part of the river rover’s legacy.
The river rover is designed as a collective construction ceremony which acts as the initiation of the local community into the river commons.
Ritual scripts depict the idealised rituals, ceremonies and cycles within the building that follow natural rhythm of seasons and restoration.
As architects aim to act as agents of change, scenes of friction and negotiation between building and the community have to be expected and embraced in design.