Inside 1 Walters Way, one of two self-build London housing developments that bear Segal's name Photography: Taran Wilkhu
Inside 1 Walters Way, on one of two self-build London housing developments that bear Segal’s name. Photography: Taran Wilkhu

German architect Walter Segal’s pioneering approach to self-build construction helped lay the foundations for a new generation of alternative housing projects in the UK today.

The architect, who moved to England in the 1930s, is synonymous with a revolutionary system he developed in the 1960s for building low-cost, timber-framed houses that could be erected by people with little or no construction experience.

‘Walter Segal empowered ordinary people to build their own houses,’ says Alice Grahame, curator of Walter’s Way: The Self-Build Revolution, which opens at the Architectural Association tomorrow.

3 Segal Close. Photography: Taran Wilkhu
3 Segal Close. Photography: Taran Wilkhu

‘He designed affordable, adaptable homes that people really enjoyed living in and which promoted a feeling of community.’

In the 1980s, he teamed up with Lewisham Council in south London to establish self-build social housing estates on pockets of land deemed too small or awkward for standard schemes. Residents of Walter’s Way – where Grahame lives – and Segal Close were able to customise the design of their houses to suit their needs, and worked together to build them using standard materials.

‘The powerful thing about Segal is that he blurs the line between expert and layperson,’ says Louis Schulz of Turner Prize-winning practice Assemble, which has designed a new interpretation of the architect’s technique for the show.

Walter Segal’s principles and methods have influenced a slew of contemporary architects seeking alternatives to the overpriced and poor-quality housing stock that dominates the market. These eight projects – some of which are on show at the Architectural Association – have Segal in their DNA.


Walter’s Way: the self-build revolution runs until 13 February 2016.



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