Standards & Exceptions: British Standards at the British Pavilion
Venice Take Away | The British Pavilion at the 13th Venice Architecture Biennale | 2012
This exploration, commissioned as part of the Venice Take Away project, compares two differing legislative frameworks, as a means to reflect upon differing distributions of risk and responsibility between State and Individual. Edinburgh UK, and Lagos Nigeria, are taken as case studies. The exhibition offers a comparative study of British Standard 8213 and Lagos State Physical Planning and Development Regulation 15, considering their effects on the architecture and urbanism of Edinburgh and Lagos. Through this comparison, the exhibition offers a critique of the rhetorically inclusive and Universalist ambition of British building regulations, suggesting that our technical standards often function as a means to generate states of exception from them.
On Contradictory Regulations: Resolving BS8213 and Edinburgh City Council Planning Policy
This piece of design-research identifies contradictory requirements between British Standard 8213 and Edinburgh City Council Planning Policies, and reflects on what designers should we make of the problem posed by such contradictory regulations. The existence of unresolved concerns within our regulatory framework might be taken as evidence that further and more integrated tiers of national and international master regulation are required, so as to make the definitive judgements required to resolve their contrary concerns; our current building standards are themselves the result of such a historical process, through which local practices and byelaws are gradually superseded by nationalised norms and standards. On the other hand, the design challenge posed by these contradictions might be seen as providing an architectural potential, as a means of evidencing and making tangible this historical struggle.
Image Credits: Liam Ross with Bronagh Sweeney & Sophia Humphries
Regulated Landscapes: 4 projects for accessible landscapes
Scottish Building Standard 4.3 regulates the geometry of stairs and ramps to provide for safe and comfortable access within and around buildings. It sets limits on the going, rise and pitch of stairs, recognizing that the more public a stair – the less familiar it is to its user – the more shallow its pitch should be. It sets limits on the length of a fl ight, noting that short flights pose a trip hazard, while long fl ights are tiring, requiring regular breaks. It limits the pitch and length of ramps, ensuring that the steeper a ramp, the more frequently it is broken. And recognising that the ground is never truly level, it establishes categories of gently-sloping ground, as well as considering the minute falls required for surface water drainage. The limits set by the standard are principally bodily indices – measurements of accepted limits to comfortable gait, to the duration and extent of acceptable exertion, and of our familiarity with, and attentiveness to, our environment. In complying with this standard, our built environment becomes both an anthropometric index, and a regulatory devise; it measures, represents, and limits, bodily movement. This also requires the regulation of the natural environment. Not being built to our measure, the natural terrain is frequently inaccessible; being variously too steep to ascend comfortably, not providing regular resting places, offering trip hazards, as well as being liable to ponding. This project – Regulated Landscapes – makes a series of proposals for accessible routes across a natural terrain. Each proposal begins by taking a specifi c clause of Scottish Building Standard 4.3, and using it as a means of measuring the accessibility of that terrain. Seeking to maximize the accessible area at the same time as minimizing the modifi cation of the terrain, each proposal explores tolerances within the regulation that allow for a close fi t between the bodily abstraction and the specific terrain. In doing so, the project enjoys the control of regulation as a means of measuring, and coming close to, the irregularity of the land.
Image Credits: Liam Ross and Vsevelod Kondratiev Popov
Dramatizing Risk: 4 Projects for easily cleanable windows
Further Reaching Required | Bartlett | 2011
Candide Vol 4 | Actar | 2011
British Standard 8213 regulates the design of windows, doors and roof lights in order to limit our exposure to risks associated with their use – entrapment, collisions and falls from height. Drawing upon a range of anthropometric data, the document specifies standard sizes for glazed lights that ensure both faces can be reached from within by 95% of the UK’s adult population, limiting the height of all domestic windows to a maximum of 1.8m. We understand standards such as BS8213 as an apparatus of government – standards and regulations posit specific freedoms for the population, by establishing standards that negate threats to those freedoms – that employs the built environment as a bio-political device. Though we recognise this as a threat to the open potency of architecture, the common-place critique of this apparatus – that it stifles our creative freedom – demonstrates the degree to which we are caught within it; to understand ourselves as subject to a trading of liberties – between creativity and safety – is to be captivated by the liberal govern-mentality. This project – Diagramming BS8213 – suspends a critique of regulation in favour of a careful study of its implications. Drawing out the standards imposed, they are seen to reveal something of the potency of building – the materiality of risk – in the process of limiting it. The project presents a series of studies that enjoy the communicativity of regulatory limits, indexing the open potential of building precisely in its being withheld.
Image Credits: Liam Ross with Vsevelod Kondratiev Popov and Victor Olivar