Could You Build Your Own Home?

Walter's Way: The Self-Build Revolution, AA School of Architecture ★★★☆☆

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 33 months ago
Could You Build Your Own Home? Walter's Way: The Self-Build Revolution, AA School of Architecture 3
The 1980s self build project. Photo by John McKean.

Could you build your own house, even without any prior knowledge of carpentry or plumbing? That's what a group of Lewisham council tenants did in the 1980s, following a method devised by architect Walter Segal. Those houses are still being lived in today and, with everyone's mind turning to the housing crisis, a new exhibition looks at how it's done.

Self build isn't going to solve the desperate shortage of housing on its own but it's an interesting way to make use of small plots of land that commercial developers aren't interested in. Wandering round the exhibition — partly contained in a cross-section of a timber-framed Segal house (we'd recommend visiting for the scent of newly hewn wood alone) — it's astonishing how these ordinary families built cosy, adaptable homes over the course of about a year, armed with the help of friends and some evening classes.

It's a little heavy on architectural drawings but the layperson can still get a sense of how revolutionary the concept was and is, from archive news footage (displayed on suitably retro TV sets) and newspaper clippings. The spirit lives on today, as modern companies create their own 'flat pack' homes and a new Segal-inspired community land trust aims to build homes in Lewisham once again.

Walter's Way: The Self-Build Revolution in on at the AA School of Architecture, 36 Bedford Square WC1B 3ES, until 24 March. The exhibition is free.

Last Updated 21 January 2016

Continued below.