Wednesday, February 22, 2012
The open-plan layout of Peter Barber’s centre for the homeless in Ilford, east London, creates a lively atmosphere conducive to getting things done
Peter Barber is just back from a trip to Morocco when we meet. He was there to tour Marrakech and Fez with his students from Westminster University, not because they have a project there, but because “they should see good places”, he says, “places that might inspire them”.
The medinas and kasbahs of Arab cities have long been an inspiration for Barber’s own work. His housing schemes are dense spatial puzzles of notched terraces, clever courtyards and clusters of blocks, all rendered in a brilliant whiteness that longs for a sunnier climate. But, more than anything, they are conceived as multi-levelled landscapes to be animated by people.
His practice manifesto begins with a quote from Walter Benjamin’s description of Naples, where “buildings are used as a popular stage. They are all divided into innumerable, simultaneously animated theatres. Balcony, courtyard, gateway, staircase, roof are at the same time stages and boxes.” Barber talks of space as inert without people and culture, and where better to see this than the bustling streets of Morocco?
Well, in these chastened times, his students could do worse than get on the train to Ilford.
Read the full article here.
Originally published in BD, 22 February 2012