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Co-op Self Build

Bristol, England.

Type: Concept for the reuse of an existing redundant building

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What was the brief?

This concept proposal looked at finding a new use of the derelict (now demolished) old royal mail sorting office next to Temple Meads train station in Bristol. As a building which stands as a monument to everyone entering the city via train, we decided to investigate an alternative future for the building other than demolition. We concluded that what would be fitting with the ethos of Bristol and the push for sustainability within the city would be to create a self-sufficient community tied with a self-build scheme within the existing building shell.

What did we do?

We began by analysing the site to assess what worked well, what was advantageous to the site and what required work. We realised that the site was quite isolated from the remainder of the city and decided that we wanted to encourage people to come to the site and discover the possibilities of sustainable development so incorporated an exhibition and restaurant spaces for residents to run and work within creating a self-sufficient site in job opportunities as well as dwellings.

We looked at the existing structure and found that by demolishing a small section of the building and removing the central core to the existing floor plan we were left with an exciting opportunity to bring light into an otherwise dark space and also create a green core for the community to engage.


With some clever spatial organisation we developed a design which provided public spaces on the ground and first floor elements which could be explored and utilised for business and market space. This separated the upper floors for residential purpose only with the rear of the building being utilised for allotment spaces for residents. The west of the building supports an aquaponics factory with the ability to produce a variety of fruits and vegetables all year round.


We then looked to creating green walls around the building where we wanted to dampen the acoustic reverberation of the trainlines and added tree lines around the building to further reduce acoustic pollution and to create a small micro-climates around the site.

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The dwellings?

A crucial aspect of the design for us was the residents ability to self-build their own designs on the upper levels of the building. This was a reaction to the affordability of dwellings within a city centre. We divided the upper floors into plots, large enough to create a home with either 1, 2 or 3 bedrooms. Each plot was designed with service spaces within the floor with outlets ready for connection and an area with planting beds ready to create raised gardens for all of the residents. We envisaged that this would create an individual street scape and allow the residents to take pride in the building as they themselves would have constructed their community together. Each resident would have a certain amount of design freedom guided by a home builders manual with a few set rules to adhere with.

Status: Concept Design

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