Architecture Resident: aberrant architecture - David Chambers & Kevin Haley

aberrant architecture were Architecture Residents at the V&A, January–June 2010

Aberrant architecture is a design studio and think tank founded in Tokyo in 2007 by David Chambers and Kevin Haley, with a mandate to explore a world full of complication and contradiction.The notion of working is our primary area of research. In the 21st century, working is becoming more flexible and the space where it occurs more diverse: a dining table is also a desk, a coffee shop is for trade as well as for socialising and a train carriage is now an office. Working is a subject that has the potential to stimulate a variety of opinions and debate, regardless of whether you are a nomadic 25-year-old knowledge worker operating out of a shared office facility, a 30-something couple with children running a small clothing importation business out of a converted garage, a middle-aged woman with a disability who has given up factory work to sew on an industrial machine at home, or a septuagenarian gentleman creating a financial services industry, post retirement, in the local Starbucks. to address the condition for the 21st Century

David Chambers

David studied architecture at Bath University, gaining the Barton Willmore Prize for Innovative Design (2004), T.U. Delft and at the Royal College of Art. He has worked for Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, Sall, Cullinan & Buck Architects, Richard Mitzman Architects and LOM architecture & design. David has extensive experience of working on a variety of award-winning projects, including Telford Millennium Community, Dunraven Sports Hall, and 15 Grove End Road, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy. As a researcher, David has worked with Foreign Office Architects and Icon Magazine.

Kevin Haley

Kevin studied interior design and environmental architectures at Ravensbourne College, gaining the New Designers Future of Design Award (2003), and architecture at the Royal College of Art where he was awarded the architecture prize (2006).He has worked for Greig & Stephenson, Portland Design Associates, Foster + Partners, and Softroom Architects. Kevin has extensive experience of working on a variety of award-winning projects, including Mercarti Generali in Rome, Glyndwr Student Residences and the Yotel hotel project. Kevin has also worked with the British council at the Venice Biennale 2006. Kevin is currently teaching architectural design at Ravensbourne College of Art and Design

You can read their residency blog to find out more about their work and creative processes.

aberrant architecture, 'The Single Life', render, research project, 2007

aberrant architecture, 'The Single Life', render, research project, 2007

Aberrant are fascinated by history and how the most successful lessons from the past can inspire new work to address our present and future conditions: What better place is there to learn from the past than the collections of the world's greatest museum of art and design?

People are our inspiration. Aberrant examine the way people live and interact with one another, researching hidden desires and unforeseen dilemmas that impact on our world.

Our work and research is neither inert nor carried out in a vacuum. We immerse ourselves in dialogue, discussion and collaboration with a wide variety of everyday people, not just artists and creative professionals, to facilitate a balanced outcome. We also teach, lecture and critique at various educational institutions to engage, discuss, measure and exchange new ideas and build networks of knowledge founded upon similar interests.

We embrace normality. Rejecting the superficial temptation to be 'different', we believe the greatest creative pressure on a designer is to come to terms with the normality and the everyday issues that affect us all. Tasked with making these discoveries we constantly ask questions and test our ideas through drawings, models and films before answering a problem with a building. We are committed to generating sincere and intelligent responses, which can be anything from an installation, a book or even an entire city.

aberrant architecture, 'Out of Office', research book, 2009

aberrant architecture, 'Out of Office', research book, 2009

Aberrant Architecture were architecture residents at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London, in conjunction with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the practice researched the museum’s historical precedents on the subject of ‘work’.

We mined the V&A and RIBA collections for drawings, journals, diaries and other source material in an effort to uncover the most successful designs and precedents that impacted lifestyles across the previous three centuries. These included plans for the proto-industrial weaver’s house, the design for a Victorian public house and engravings for an 18th century Supper Box. To engage the collections from multiple perspectives, we surveyed the large scale of the city, investigated the community and the dwelling, and zoomed in on the table. At the largest scale, we addressed 'the big picture' of how our cities and communities have successfully supported the needs, wants and desires of a variety of workers in the past. At the smaller scale, we studied the buildings, environments, products and services that the collections contain. The lessons learnt from this research directly fed into the production of a new creative piece towards the end of the residency that looks to address working in the 21st century.

We enjoy engaging people in architecture and at the V&A we devised a series of innovative events that stimulated a conversation about the built environment between professionals and non-professionals alike.

One example was our architecture-themed event for V&A connects where we gathered various members of the public to take part in a workshop entitled ‘Office Futures’.

We believe that the future of the office might be in the home but the home is not currently designed to be an office. The typical dwelling is full of distractions so with that in mind our aptly named workshop invited participants to design the dual-purpose home of the future.

The groups were assigned a table, arts & crafts supplies, a cardboard doll’s house in the shape of the traditional home and a list of characters with various home-working scenarios. The brief asked each group to convert the cardboard doll’s house into a work/live space that addressed the home-working concerns of their chosen characters.

We encouraged the participants to be bold - rooms could be hacked to pieces and extensions could be attached to the existing structure - and our roomful of knife-wielding designers transformed their dolls’ houses into multi-coloured, multi-purposed miniature show homes to present to the special guests who arrived for the group presentations of the grand designs.

Since leaving the V&A we have developed our architectural practice by securing a series of architecture, interior, installation and exhibition design commissions which have subsequently been completed or are in the process of being realised.

In particular we transformed The Mexican-themed El Paso bar on Old Street in East London into a lively bar, workspace and diner. Combining historical precedents that we discovered during our Residency with our own research into how contemporary ‘work-styles’ are evolving, the El Paso bar is specially designed to provide the modern nomadic worker with enhanced comfort, productivity and opportunities to interact.

We have founded our own gallery/event space, The Gopher Hole and co-curated a series of innovative events and exhibitions in conjunction with a number of different organisations and sponsors.

Our work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally; it has been published in a number of prominent architecture magazines & blogs as well as being featured in a national newspaper.

We have won a competition to design an art gallery extension and have also come runner-up in a number of other competitions.

Additionally we have continued to develop our design research through teaching at educational institutions such as London Metropolitan University, Central St Martins and Ravensbourne.

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