Dr Piers Taylor

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About me

Dr Piers Taylor is an Architect, and is Professor of Knowledge Exchange in Architecture at UWE. He was the inaugural Studio Master at the Architectural Association for the Design & Make Programme at Hooke Park, a former Design Fellow at the University of Cambridge, an external examiner at the Arts University, Bournemouth and the Convenor of the annual Studio in the Woods workshop where ideas are tested at 1:1. His PhD research (for which he received an anniversary scholarship) examined empowerment via making in architecture. Piers Taylor is also founder of Invisible Studio, which is is a multi-award winning architecture practice which aims to be a different organisation from a conventional practice. They operate through collaboration, experimentation, research and education. They work internationally and very locally, in a variety of fields and at a variety of scales. They operate from a self built studio located in a working woodland which they also manage as an ongoing forest enterprise alongside practice, and have pioneered a number of academic programmes that rethink the relationship between design and making, where making is not a mechanism for simply providing us with some new form-making techniques which are inflected by their material realisation, but instead, is interested in making in terms of how material practice can address social and political questions.

Most of all Invisible Studio are interested in work that makes change, through a variety of means. This desire for ‘impact’ is evidenced in their completed work in projects such as ‘EAST QUAY’ arts centre which is part of wider ambition to positively affect the social, economic and cultural landscape in which the building sits. Equivalently, their work at Westonbirt, the National Arboretum demonstrates how marginalised groups can be included in the design and construction process, with a further aim of demonstrating how local home grown timber can be used in innovative ways in architecture. This is an expertise they have developed over many years, from working at Hooke Park with the Architectural Association on a number of pioneering projects such as the Assembly Workshop, to managing their own woodland for research purposes. Their work also includes projects that push material boundaries. Timber is mentioned above with reference to Westonbirt Arboretum and Hooke Park, their timber projects also include ‘Moonshine’ and many of the experimental projects in their own woodland such as Ghost Barn and Trailer. They have also worked extensively with earth, hemp and stone.

Area of expertise

My research has two mains strands: making, and social impact. It builds on knowledge concerning participatory making to demonstrate how making can empower. I shift emphasis onto the creative and design processes that give rise to an architectural project where design has a non-binary relationship with making, and to ask what the productive processes that bring architectural artefacts into being are, and how the generative currents of the materials in which they are made are reconciled and harnessed by the sensory awareness of practitioners. My research also concerns how, instead of being negative events, uncertainty and contingent occurrences that arise when making is prioritised as a design methodology can be harnessed as vehicles for increased levels of autonomy, self-reliance and self-determination in people working within groups on making related projects with varying levels of skill. The desire for certainty implicit in construction drawings cannot accommodate the reality of the uncertainty and contingency of construction or indeed the opportunities offered by uncertain and contingent events that arise during making. 

My research also examines how and where 'making' can sit within different models of architectural design and production, what structures are used to frame the relationship between design and making, what differing models information are needed that go beyond the conclusive 'instructions' provided under traditional contracts and, ultimately, what manner of empowerment by these various models is offered. In a field where contingent events are feared and structures put in place to eliminate them, my research shows the benefits of negotiating headlong with contingent events, and shows how contingencies can be harnessed to offer an agency to less-skilled designers and makers and provide a different – less conclusive - manner of artefact from that which conventional design/make methodologies allow. My research shows how to embed making within the design process, rather than quantifying it in advance in a set of contract documents that transfers responsibility for production onto a third party who has no design responsibility. If making is a methodology that can be used to inform the design process, my ongoing research explores the opportunities for design - and the contexts within which we design and make - if making is part of the design methodology. As a result, my research also includes what strategies need to be put in place to allow effective integration of cross-disciplinary co- designers, or even those that may not be aware that they are carrying out design, and describes the social transformations that occur in addition to the material ones. 

In addition, my current research also explores how we can design, plan and govern for social change and transition - how architecture supports and makes tangible the actions that encourage a civil society.



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