William Warren

London based product and furniture designer

First tidy your room

  • The corrected building as legacyThe corrected building as legacy

« Previous     Next »

In September 2007, William Warren was asked by CABE to submit a proposal for a series of large installations that were to form the centrepieces to a nationwide festival of architecture and climate change. CABE is the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment.

Although William did not receive the final commission he did manage to get shortlisted down to the final two. Below are some details from his submission.



Enigmatic, photographic, memorable and magical. A symbol for a festival of sustainability within the built environment. A destination for local people and a press magnet.


The centrepieces must communicate to two different groups: The first is professionals involved in planning, designing, developing, delivering and managing the built environment of the cities. The second is the public living and working in these cities.

For the city experts and decision makers the centrepiece must lead by example by being appropriate, useful and loved.

For the general public the centrepiece must get people talking, raise awareness of the festival and its related topics and encourage everyone to get involved and help share the responsibilities for the issues at hand.


It is essential that the centrepiece is as environmentally sound as possible in materials and construction.

It must also have a secondary life, leaving a useful legacy rather than an ageing monument or worse still, landfill.


On may the 31st2008, five larger than life doll’s houses will appear in city centres around Great Britain. They will all be identical but left in different untidy positions as if discarded by an unruly child.

The doll’s houses will be open to visit and explore. Their massive scale and the reference to toys encourages adults to play like children and helps children to think about grown up issues.

The structures’ uncomfortable angles and untidy state reinforce the notion that ‘We need to sort this out’. Showing people a mistreated archetypal English home allows them to recognise the potential for change and generates the drive to begin the process. It looks simple to go from wreck to a ‘Dream House’.

The idea is light-hearted and encourages interest and involvement, yet on a scale that suggests a serious issue is at hand.


The structures will show a building ‘wonder material’ to great advantage. A material that builds strong enough to be moved around or turned upside down and can be used to such playful effect. As a building material it is environmentally sound, cheap, light, easy to work, versatile, strong and healthy. It is wood.


The building system for the Doll’s houses has been developed in Europe and many structures have been built there. It is however a relatively new technique in the United Kingdom and fewer than fifty buildings have been completed here. The method has very high sustainable credentials and due to the nature of prefabricated wall panels, the structure can be erected very quickly with high levels of accuracy. All five of the centrepieces will be identical in production.


The seemingly random positions will all have interesting architectural spaces that can be used for different events like discussion, play and presentation. Due to the dramatic venue, the topic will naturally begin with ‘How do we sort this mess out?’.

It will be left up to each city to decide what should be done with their doll’s house. Questions like ‘Where does it go and why?’, ‘How do we insulate it?’ and ‘How do we keep the materials, use and character relevant to us?’ will have to be resolved, giving everyone involved first hand experience.


The subject of sustainability is massive and complex. Its seemingly contradictory themes can lead to confusion and this distances people. I believe the solution to many environmental issues is much easier to grasp. It is about using common sense and good manners in our immediate environments. We must acknowledge the responsibilities of our actions and help shoulder some of the weight of the issue, starting in our own homes and streets.


When the festival is over the doll’s houses will be ‘tidied up’ and moved to the chosen locations within each city, where they can be glazed, insulated and put to good use (for example, as a centre for sound ecological city planning for the future).

The experience for the public, as a collective part in a process of correction, is a far more powerful teaching aid than words alone. Even if the exercise is theatrical, the result is a long-term environmentally sound building of which everyone can feel ownership.

Leave a Reply