PoohTown by Nick Elias, Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. Tutors: CJ Lim / Bernd Felsinger
In AA Milne’s ‘Winnie the Pooh’ a happy world is constructed fictitiously from an unhappy, real, Christopher Robin. It was published in the 1920s, a time when industry took off in Slough which quickly became a place of unhappiness and social exclusion. For the project, 1920s Slough is revisited to capitalise on the economy of ‘happiness’ as an alternative industry using Winnie the Pooh as a metaphorical protagonist.
Like many towns, Slough aches to be peaceful, happy and socially inclusive. It has long since been perceived as home to much deprivation. PoohTown aims to re-evaluate covert responses to socio-political exclusion by proposing ‘happy’ architectures where residents can live, work and play in a sustainable economic network. It also philosophises over the potential of today’s cities to prescribe policies of happiness alongside familiar amenities; a concept worryingly absent in today’s city planning. Empirical research showed that most people are happiest playing an idealised, fictional, representation of themselves – from wearing make-up to proving their organic credentials at the farmers’ market. Guests to PoohTown indulge in this tendency and become the fictional, happy, Christopher Robin by visiting Pooh and friends (each representatives of a specific ‘happiness’) on a proposed pilgrimage.
This speculative proposal is a device to explore the potential of a happy-ever-after.
PoohTown has taught me to design by applying knowledge rather than relying on transient technical knowhow. It has exposed transferable methods and reasoning, allowing me to work from a more personal, anthropological and emotional viewpoint. It questions what humans want and made it possible to test the purpose of architecture in a changing world. It is a more sustainable to design infrastructure for an emotional state; if it make us content, we may ask less from the Earth.