The contours of what constitutes work have become vague, as the 20th century archetype of a permanently employed “company man” is being gradually displaced with the flexible worker. Temporary, sub-contracted, part-time, project-based or other forms of indefinite employment are becoming commonplace across large parts of population. This has granted the workers with new freedoms and lifestyle choices, but also subjected them to risks of socioeconomic marginalization.
As the numbers of self-employed workers steadily rise, the production and organization of the built environment is still governed by the logic of 9-5 employment, daily commute, and a functional division of permitted building uses, separating building program for residential or commercial purposes. As a result, there is a discrepancy between the ways of living and working generated by the current political and economic conditions, and those supported by the current legal and spatial infrastructures.
It seems that the growth of flexible employment is merely an indication of “things to come” for many. If so, what spatial implications arise when other jobs become detached from stable employment frameworks, thus forcing workers into individual entrepreneurship? Can architecture take part rearticulating the tension between freelance and permanence; between new lifestyle choices and the insecurities implied by the availability of those choices? If it is true that increasingly often we work from home and live at work, then what kind of dwelling types are needed for such lifestyles?
The place of interest for this project is London – a global epicentre of finance, talent, as well as inequality and fierce competition. It is a city where extreme wealth accumulation produces a mix of opportunity and risks of marginalization. London has been the cradle of neoliberalism, and today it is the epitome of one of the most deregulated labour markets in Europe. The project is sited in the Greenwich Peninsula, large part of which is currently undergoing a process of deindustrialization. As gas reservoirs, warehouses and piers are giving place to downtown office complexes, supermarkets and housing developments, the area holds a potential of being one of the next development megasites in London.
The project’s endgame is a housing estate that will accommodate the transient lifestyles of independent workers. Domestic and working environments are mutated into workhomes; hundreds of units generate an economy of scale where mutual business transactions and in-house business provision become viable. Rather than a distinctive piece of architecture, the project is aimed to embrace cheapness and reproducibility, striving to become a spatial product.