Life of Walter Segal celebrated at book launch

The life of architect Walter Segal and, in particular, one of his most renowned pieces of work, were celebrated at a panel discus- sion held to coincide with the launch of a new book.

Walters Way & Segal Close, written by journalist Alice Grahame and photographer Taran Wilkhu, tells the story of how Segal’s self- build community in Lewisham came to be. Having built a tempo- rary house in his garden for his family to live in while they renovated their home, Segal saw an increase in commissions for this type of home.

The ‘Little House in the Garden’, as it became known, was constructed with basic cladding materials and paving slabs as foundations, cost less than £900 to build and took less than two weeks to complete.

The pioneering Lewisham development comprises 20 timber- frame homes built with the same paving slab foundations and a timber frame. They were simplistically designed so they could be easily constructed in a do-it-yourself manner by the residents themselves.

It was his pioneering approach to building and creating commu- nities that was the topic of discussion at the event. The panel included Grahame and Wilkhu along with architect Jon Broome, Segal biographer John McKean, TV presenter and designer Tom Dyckhoff, RUSS founder Kareem Dayes and Segal self-builder Pauline Kennedy.

This type of build method, and self-build as a whole, was cited at the event as having the potential to go some way towards solving the current housing crisis.

“There has to be some changes,” Kennedy commented. “It’s an absolutely crucial time for people to get the movement going for self-build again and for empowering young people to provide places for themselves.”

Dayes’ Rural Urban Synthesis Society (RUSS) is currently working towards launching a similar community-led scheme, inspired by Segal’s work. However, as Broome commented, “getting the necessary political and financial support behind it is not easy.” RUSS is currently running crowdfunding campaign in order to raise the money to support its proposed scheme.

For this reason, among others, the panel emphasised the importance of people backing self-build schemes like this. Concluding the discussion Dayes said:

“As a community we need to get more organised and demand better options for housing, and this is definitely something that should be part of the mix.”