Learning from Laxton
Conserving Laxton’s Open Field farming system with the integration of a new agricultural higher education campus.
Change, the outsider and the developer are often the perceived threats to village life. In contrast, in the case of Laxton, the village has to evolve to conserve what is most important about itself: its social practices rather than its physical form.
The village of Laxton, in Nottinghamshire, is the last community to operate with the medieval Open Field farming system: the tenanting farmers collectively manage three fields divided into individual linear strips, growing the same crops on an annual rotation. The operation of the field is overseen by the Jury, who ceremonially inspect and identify the invisible field boundaries with wooden stakes. The annual Court Leet resolves field disputes in the local pub; it is the last manorial court with legal powers in the UK. Unlike other villages, Laxton’s social cohesion is strengthened by the villagers’ collective goal.
Currently owned by The Crown Estate, the village is set to be sold off in Spring 2018 but with a Parliamentary Undertaking that the farming method must continue - as long as their are farmers able and willing to do so.
Learning From Laxton proposes that the Universities of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent bid jointly for the ownership of the Laxton estate. Passionate in conserving it’s working heritage, the universities can offer the village farming, social and financial infrastructure to protect, expand and learn from Laxton.
The New East Field (the new campus) is based upon the principles of the Open Field: co-operation, permissible encroachment, boundaries and common areas. The design embraces the inefficient layout of the strip to maximise social farming and educational benefit. The quirks of the village are embraced, for example, the ability ‘To put smoke up a chimney in Laxton’ ensures the individual’s bargaining rights to hay.
The proposed linear building typology is a radical extension to the village vernacular, occupying a publically accessible route through the field. The field becomes the classroom - an opportunity for students to learn the ways of the land, whilst experimenting, under the mentorship of the tenanting Laxton farmers. This educational relationship can assist young farmers onto the ‘farming ladder’ with the Laxton farmsteads (strips) as ‘starter farms’. The campus provides communal infrastructure for the villagers, farmers and students alike. A feasting hall for The Harvest Festival and a new space for the Court Leet and Winter Graduation, where the students receive their ‘Rights to the Field’, creates the social hub of the expanded community.
School of Architecture
MA Architecture, 2018
- BA Architecture, University of Westminster, 2014
- Part 1 Architectural Assistant, Building Design Partnership, London, 2014 - 2016, 2017