Rozalina Hristova

Architecture with Urban Planning RIBA Part 2 MArch (Hons)

THE SOCIAL GLUE: A self-build system for affordable housing, using home-grown timber and community engagement.


Learning a craft, working with a material, and engaging provide us with a sense of reconnection. Our engagement in the creation of something, no matter how minor, embodies that object with our own distinct mark, even in a world when tangible connections are so transient. As we get more involved in the building process, we will have a better understanding of our buildings. We would learn more about where the materials originate from, how they are sourced, how they are mended, and how to make them last. We will make better decisions and act more responsibly as a result of gaining this knowledge. 

Self-build homes can offer new ways to create affordable housing, ensuring dwellings are fitted to individual needs and revitalizing previously abandoned lands to bring new life to communities. In the context of Blairgowrie and Rattray, trying to weave a process like self-building within an existing community is significantly different from a standard housing development.

To what extent bringing people together and creating opportunities to use locally sourced materials would produce more affordable, better, and greener homes? When people come together and work together it happens – building together is that social glue that helps build a community.

House Morphosis

This is an exploded axonometric line drawing which shows the building process and components of the developed self-build system. On the left is shown the load-bearing structure. On the top of the image is shown the roof structure. On the right of the sheet is shown the wall structure. On the bottom of the sheet is shown the floor structure.

The proposed self-build system is not an urban design argument about making something that fits with the current character of Blairgowrie and Rattray. The key characteristic of the developed system is that it implies something, which is not defined by its site. It is specific to its place because it relies on local materials.

A modular system

The most optimal dimensional approach for a component-based system, according to the design studies, is to presume a 600mm dimensional grid across both horizontal and vertical axes. This will mean that standard materials can be used with little waste and that standard window and door components can be used with sufficient adaptability and flexibility.

Developing undevelopable sites

In the center of the image there is a plan drawing highlighting Blairgowrie. 5,10 and 15 minutes walking distances are shown in pink circles. Sites of interest are highlighted in pink. On both left and right sides of the image, there is a brief description of each site of interest with highlighted opportunities for development.

Locating people within walking distances of the amenities they would need. Introducing more people in the area to use the local resources has impact on the neighbourhood. Making the town centre living achievable and affordable by using sites which are considered undevelopable. The self-build system is about retaining the biodiverse character of those existing sites.

Stitching Blairgowrie's fabric

he image highlights the main site of interest which is used for exploring the self-build system. The site is highlighted in green, contours are also shown to give an impression of the big slope of the site. The proposed house types are shown in grey and red, and follow the contour lines. On the top of the image the river is highlighted and the floodzone is also shown. A few roads are highlighted as shared surfaces.

The main point of interest for exploring the implementation of the proposed self-build system lays on the ‘green strip’ running on the edge of the industrial area of Blairgowrie. This ‘strip’ becomes an area of stitching. It is about making connections between the residential area of the higher ground and the lower ‘patch’. The universal system responds to the specific features of the site’s environment by introducing family housing and live/work spaces, which capitalize on proximity to access, schools and green spaces.