What We're Seeing: Walter’s Way – The Self-Build Revolution

Opening on the 16th January at the AA, Walter’s Way – The Self-Build Revolution presents the work of the architect Walter Segal, with the Lewisham self-builders of the 1980s.

Segal left Germany for England in the 1930s to teach at the AA. He developed the self-build method during the 1960s, which enabled ordinary people to design and build their own houses quickly and cheaply using readily available materials in standard sizes, without the need for specialist wet-trades such as bricklaying and plastering.

In the late 1970s the ‘Segal method’ was adopted by Lewisham Council for an experimental self-building housing project across four sites. This exhibition concentrates on two of the resulting streets, Walter’s Way and Segal Close, which were built under Segal’s personal guidance.

The exhibition is housed in and around a newly constructed section of a Segal house, and will include original drawings, documents and furniture designed by Segal alongside archival films and photographs.

There will also be a new interpretation of Segal’s technique by 2015 Turner Prize winners Assemble. This timber structure has been commissioned by one of our Directors, Matt Gibberd, and will be built in the garden of his home in north London.

There are currently about 200 Segal houses in the UK and there is growing interest today in self-building as a response to the UK’s shortage of affordable homes.

Segal’s legacy can be found in various low-cost, quick-build housing innovations such as WikiHouse, Y-Cube, and IKEA flat pack houses, as well as in contemporary housing projects such as RUSS, a community land trust developing a housing project in Lewisham.


Photography courtesy of Jon Broome (archive) and Taran Wilkhu (contemporary).