Two-door City. Workhome Project shortlisted for 2021 Davidson Prize
The theme of the inaugural Davidson Prize for architectural drawing, ‘Home/Work – A New Future’, sought out thought-provoking ideas to help inform the debate about working from home. The Workhome Project’s entry, ‘Two-Door City’, was based on twenty years’ research into the architecture of home-based work and more than 100 interviews with home-based workers all over the world have led to one central finding: one-size-does-not-fit-all.
People often think on ‘tramlines’ about home-workers: that they are ambitious young male entrepreneurs. Or exploited BAME piece-workers. Or knowledge-workers working wherever they can connect their MacBook. Or artists and makers inhabiting warehouses in interesting ways. Or women interweaving work and caring responsibilities.
In reality, the home-based workforce includes all these and many more. A huge variety of architectural and urban approaches is needed to provide effective space for this working practice – along with profound and radical changes in our culture and the policy frameworks in which this culture becomes manifest.
Amongst all these possible approaches and solutions, there is a single idea which the Workhome Project believes can solve not just one, but myriad challenges that a future of working from home poses, and which acts at three levels: design, policy and culture. This solution is to be found in making a small, affordable and yet radical change to one of the most overlooked elements of our homes and buildings in these discussions – and that is the humble front door. Or, to be precise, its sibling, the second front door. Two entrances. Two doors. Two-Door City.
Two entrances, leading to separate places for home and work, allow spatial, social and acoustic separation between the two, so the two functions can carry on independently and, importantly, both be articulated on the street. This makes home-based work visible in the neighbourhood and increases the permeability of buildings and connections between public realm and building interiors, especially important for occupations that involve interactions with members of the public – from architect to hairdresser. It also builds in flexibility and adaptability over the lifetime of both building and occupants, as family or business grows or shrinks, or by providing semi-independent space for teenagers, a lodger, or a live-in carer for an elder, sick or disabled household member.
This is possible for any kind of ‘workhome’: a block of flats in which two doors may be side-by-side or on different levels in two-story maisonettes; terraced houses, where doors may be side-by-side facing the street, or one in front and one in back onto a back lane or alley; or detached and semi-detached houses where it is straightforward to have doors in different places on the perimeter. It is possible just as easily for new buildings as well as in the renovation of many existing ones.
In approaching the 2021 Davidson Prize competition, we focused on this single, universal design idea - that may be adopted, for little additional cost, in the design and policy frameworks for buildings designed for home/work. Like our idea, our drawing to communicate the two-door principle is democratic and accessible. Staying away from the single, breath-taking architectural view, it adopts multiple voices in the conversational, narrative style of the comic strip to tell the story of a simple and universal idea.