Wunderkammer in Conversation with CAUKIN

WK: “ CAUKIN is a design and build social enterprise that focuses on collaborative projects that create a social, environmental or economic impact. Assuming that, collaboration and the active involvement of local communities is the fundamental ingredient for the success of your projects, what are the other principles of your architecture?”

CAUKIN: “Our main aim is to come up with a design which overcomes the below limitations, whilst still remaining beautiful and inspiring. We believe in principles as every human being should have the opportunity and tools to shape the spaces they inhabit and that we should all benefit from the quality of life that is achieved through informed design.
Democratic education, quality design, accessible for all is our philosophy.
Through well informed design, in fact, we hope to add value to the buildings which are informed by the surrounding context (landscapes and buildings) but deal with the climates they are situated in more successfully by achieving for examples better ventilation, more light, more internal comfort.
Our project are strongly influenced by:
- Budget: As with any charitable project, every penny counts! Typically all of the funds going towards the materials budget has been fundraised by the charity partner.
- Climate: We work in many different contexts, so must research and adapt our designs specifically to the local climate.
- Material: It is crucial that our projects and design principles can be replicated by the local communities after we leave. Therefore, we must only use materials that are locally available. This also helps to reduce the embodied energy of our buildings!
- Skill Level: Our designs must use simple and familiar construction techniques, ensuring they can be assembled with limited skill and equipment. Any specialised techniques would prevent the local communities from being able to implement these ideas on their own buildings.
- Time: Due to both seasonal weather and our international participants, we usually keep our projects to an 8 weeks timeframe. To complete a build within this time, we must design in a way that allows multiple processes to happen on site at any one time.
- Information: When working in new countries, we often have very limited site information to design from. This means it’s important to design flexibility into our schemes so that we can easily adjust for any unforeseen site conditions when we arrive.
- Accessibility: Some of the sites we work on are very remote and extremely hard to access, let alone get materials to!"

WK: We know that you work on build projects at a range of scales, from community halls, schools and kindergartens to installations and workshops. How do you manage your projects?

CAUKIN: "On each project we work with a number of key stakeholders to ensure our projects run smoothly from initial brief making through to completion. Each stakeholder has their own set of responsibilities that contribute their skills and knowledge to the project.
As a studio, we are responsible for the overall design process and construction management. We work with each stakeholder to formulate a design that satisfies the needs of the community and tackles any challenges set out in the initial brief.
We promote our architecture through 3 key points:
  1. Design Through Collaboration: By working with communities, NGOs, corporate clients, international participants and skilled professionals, we deliver projects from conception through to handover. Collaboration is crucial to the success of our projects, with every stakeholder contributing and benefitting equally.
  2. Learn Through Building: We encourage students, local workers and young practitioners to be active co-creators in a vibrant learning community. Through the process of onsite construction we facilitate an exchange of knowledge which creates innovative design and build solutions.
  3. Experience Through Immersion: By living, working and building with the communities that we partner with, we establish lifelong relationships and cultural exchanges. This shared experience builds trust which enables us to gain valuable end user engagement."

WK: "Your work practice aims to tackle social, environmental and economical problems through beautiful, well-crafted design in developing countries, have you ever had the opportunity to implement this philosophy even in more developed countries? Can you achieve these goals for examples in Europe? and if not why?"

WK: "What does this virus represent for you in your working life? Is your way of working already changing? What will happen when we will come back to "normal"? Will we treasure the reflections gained from this experience?"

WK: "We could say that for young architects your studio and your projects seems to be a dream for anyone. How did it start?"