SOAR in Architecture Today / by Nick Ierodiaconou

Check it out - we've been featured in the March edition of Architecture Today. Pat on the back to Sarah, David, Lynton, Joni, and Jean for all their hard work on SOAR works and thanks to Steve Parnell from Architecture Today.

"While waiting for the opportunity to build, 00:/ has been actively seeking to realign a ‘systemically wrong’ architectural practice with a new social model emerging from our malfunctioning economics and politics. Johar talks about the post-war Social State developing into the Private Economy, which is ostensibly making way for a more democratic Social Economy based on social media, open source, ‘wisdom of crowds’, ‘long tails’, ‘tipping points’ and other such Gladwellian rhetoric. Johar himself is rooted in this enterprise and at the time of writing, is the most influential of the architectural Twitterati with well over 3,000 followers.

So, they can talk the talk, and think a thought, but can they build a building?

00:/ has completed a couple of smaller projects including the Westminster Hub 'incubation lab', but SOAR Works is its first building of significant size. SOAR (Southey Owlerton Area Regeneration) is a community-led regeneration charity in north Sheffield, which is developing a reputation for commissioning architecture for its regeneration projects in the most unassuming areas.

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From the detailing to the spatial organisation, the project is intelligent and convincingly appropriate. Furthermore, the building came in on budget and received a BREEAM excellent rating due to its high level of insulation, heat exchangers and biomass boiler – a condition of the funding, but which SOAR’s Ian Drayton says is the only thing he would do differently due to the ongoing commitment it imposes.

But how is this an exhibition of alternative practice?

After all, it’s a conventional building delivered for a conventional client using a conventional contract. Project architect Sarah Hollingworth explains that it represents 00:/ practising what it preaches and describes how the architect helped the client with its business plan as much as with the building. Hollingworth was involved with SOAR as part of Sheffield School of Architecture’s live projects and this close understanding of the area’s and client’s needs helped. But the building’s evident success seems to stem more from the holistic understanding of the ethics and pragmatic modesty of the third sector and social enterprise, an insight that drives design decisions.

That good architecture requires a good client is a common cliché, but SOAR should be credited for appointing a small, young and untested practice. Its faith was well-placed. Whether 00:/’s laudable values can be maintained when the big-money clients come knocking remains to be seen. Until then, as an interesting, exciting and provocative contemporary YANAP, 00:/ is in a school of one."

  Read the full article from Architecture Today here.

-DS