We have had an amazing response to our exhibition at the Architectural Association Gallery. Due to popular demand the exhibition was extended from two weeks to two months. This means a lot more people have had to see it. The AA Gallery team have done amazing job of making it look beautiful. The exhibition has been very well reviewed. It got on BBC Radio London, in the Guardian, Time Out, Architects Journal, Building Design, Morning Star, The Spaces, Disegnio, Dezeen and others. I hope it has made people reconsider the importance of Segal. If you haven't seen the show - it ends next week so please get to the AA Gallery, Bedford Square, London before it closes on March 24th.
Segal exhibition takes shape
It is very exciting to see this photo of the Segal exhibition being built in the AA gallery. We first suggested the idea of an exhibition over a year ago so it is brilliant to finally see it taking shape. Thank you to Lee Regan and Sebastian Craig and Vanessa Norwood of the AA Gallery for producing this show.
The structure seen here is going to be a section of a Segal house showing the key features of a Segal self-build building. The exhibition will also have never-before-seen Segal furniture, archive films, photos and drawings. The Turner-prize winning designers Assemble are also showing a Segal-inspired piece.
It has all been put together with the help of John Segal (Walter Segal's son), and architect Jon Broome, who worked with Segal. It is sponsored by Architype, an architecture firm set up by Jon Broome and Bob Hayes who both worked with Segal and continue his work.
So if you are a Segal fan make sure you get to see it. Entry is free.
It is on from 16th Jan-13th Feb.
The AA gallery is the gallery of the Architectural Association school of Architecture, 38 Bedford Square, WC1B 3ES
Segal exhibition - Jan 2016
It's been rather quiet on the Celebrate Segal front but we are now gearing up for our next event - the Walter Segal exhibition. The show exhibition will be at the Architecture Association Gallery (Bedford Square, London. It opens on January 16th and runs for three weeks. The focus will be on the Lewisham self-build period of the 1980s. The show will contain lots of previously unseen Segal material including drawings and photos from the archive of Segal's family. There will be a section of a house - to give visitors a real Walter Segal experience. There will also be a chance to see films about Segal and the self-builders. The exhibition is being co-curated by Jon Broome, who was Segal's assistant on the Lewisham projects. The exhibition has not been publicised yet - you are the first to hear about it! We will be posting more information as the project develops.
Learning about Walter's work
Earlier this week I had the privilege to visit Walter Segal's son at his home. The purpose of the visit was to plan the content of the forthcoming Segal exhibition. The show will be in the gallery Architectural Association, the school of architecture where Walter taught, in January 2016.
We had asked to view material relating to the self-build period as that is the main focus of the exhibition. It was fascinating to see Segal's own particular style of drawing.
It was also a chance to learn about the furniture that Segal designed to go in his houses. Segal was an accomplished Egyptologist, having worked as a tomb surveyor in Egypt and writing extensivelt about ancient Egyptian stool, chairs and thrones. This interest is reflected in his early furniture designs. he wanted to show that it was possible to make furniture with very little wood, as the ancient Egyptians had done. His early chair was made from sticks that were offcuts from the Mosquito aircraft - one of the few planes to be made form wood. It also had a recessed back - another detail from ancient Egypt. His later furniture was more utilitarian-looking, as shown in the photo above.
It is likely there will be some Segal furniture in the exhibition, giving the public a change to gain more of an insight into this remarkable designer.
The little house in the garden
Last night I received an email from a neighbour saying that the temporary house that Walter Segal built in the garden of his Highgate home was due to be demolished that day. This seemed like sad news. It was the first self-build style house he built in the UK, in 1962, and is the prototype for the subsequent self-build housing schemes in Lewisham and other parts of the UK. John Segal, Walter's son, remembers studying for his A levels in the building which his father put up as a temporary home while the main house was being rebuilt. I was aware that the Twentieth Century Society and English Heritage had both tried to get the building listed. But when the main house was sold recently with planning permission to demolish the summerhouse I knew that its days were numbered. A few months ago, knowing that the "little house in the garden" (as Walter called it) would soon be taken down, I emailed the owners asking for permission to visit and take photos and film. I got no reply and assumed my email had got buried - as often happens.
So hearing that demolition was imminent, or maybe had already happened, and never having visited, I decided to go on an early morning adventure up the Northern Line to investigate. I knew I'd arrived at the right place when I saw a huge skip, and a builder appeared holding a piece of wood wool. I asked If I could pop in to take a photo and was invited into the garden to speak to the site manager. On the grass were piles of boards and behind that the wooden frame of an identifiably Segal house. I was told firmly that photography was not allowed. They had had some bother from the Twentieth Century Society trying to stop the demolition and didn't want any more negative publicity. Perhaps the site manager, after I explained my interest in Segal and told him all about RUSS, thought that that I might D-Loc myself to one of the timber posts or throw myself under the floorboards in protest. Besides he said, a professional photographer had already been in to document the process.
I left feeling rather despondent but without making a fuss. When enthusiasts visit the Lewisham Segal sites they always get a warm welcome - but that's Lewisham, and a self-build community and this is Highgate, and one building in someone's private garden.
I'm glad I got to see the little house in the garden - even if it was in pieces. "Demolition" doesn't describe what was going on. There was no wrecking ball or explosives - just two people carefully disassembling the structure. It was exciting to see the skeleton. There was no St Andrew's Cross (the essential structural timber cross that kept future Segal buildings together). The timber uprights were much more slender than the Douglas fir used later.
And although there are some who might be sad to see it come down It was clear that the timber was rotten and the temporarily building had reached the end of its useful life. The good news is that it is going to be replaced with something the same size and in a similar style.
I was lucky enough to attend a wonderful evening event at Goldsmiths, University of London, on 19th March 2015 on Walter Segal and self-build movement. It was organised by Michaela Benson, a senior lecturer in the sociology at Goldsmiths. The evening began with a screening of a documentry made in 1982 by the BBC's Community Programme Unit as part of the Open Door series. The House that Mum and Dad Built followed the building of Segal Close in Lewisham, one of the self-build projects led by Walter Segal. It contained an interview with Segal himself, with self-builders, and council personnel who enabled the project to happen. One of the strong messages from the film was that with the right design, support and determination people without special technical knowledge or ability can build their own houses. After the film testimonies from those involved revealed how lives were changed for the better by the process of building and how a strong community was formed by the collective effort involved. Another theme was the relevance of projects like Segal Close today. There is a growing interest in the potential of self-build to help with the UK's shortage of affordable housing. Groups like RUSS have emerged as the current advocates of Segal self-build, campaigning to develop similar housing projects today.
I am hoping to post a link to the film shortly.
I became interested in Walter Segal while looking for somewhere to live in south London. Exploring the neighbourhood of Forest Hill I noticed a small enclave of unusual looking houses. The road was unlike anything I had seen in London before - quiet and filled with trees and birdsong. The houses were box-like and covered in panels of different shades of cream and beige. Shortly after I became the proud owner of one of these homes and set myself the mission of finding out how these unusual dwellings came about. This blog will document my learning about
This blog is about the life and work of architect Walter Segal. I am a fan of Segal and the current administrator of this website. I life in one of the Segal Self-build houses in Lewisham and want more people to know about and be inspired by this unusual architect.