Architecture through community driven engagement
October books was formed in 1977 in Portswood High street, Southampton. It is a non fro profit co-operative radical neighborhood independent book shop. The shop itself is independent from any political organization, and looks to promote a fair and equal society.
The book shop was featured in an article in the Guardian in June 2014, with Own Hatherley discussing “How the spirit of revolution lives on in radical bookshops “ and how it only survived that year, due to local financial contribution’s.
In January 2018 the collective decided it was time to free itself from the large rental being paid to its land lord at the time and planned for a brighter future. The co-operative then entered into a collaborative consortium with a local homeless charity ‘The Society of St James’ with a view to purchasing their own building, a former Natwest Bank. To do this they had to raise £300,000 of community funds, selling loan stock and crowd funding. By April 2018 this had been surpassed, with incredible community passion and engagement. The bank was purchased in April 2018 and Studio B.a.d where appointed to undertake a feasibility study and planning application to re imagine not only the book shop of the future, but the future of the high street!
The existing bank fronts the high street in Porstwood Southampton and the key proposal was to convert the ground floor to the new book shop and community space. The first and second floors are residential units for the homeless charity ‘The Society of St James’.
The design strategy has been to create a very simple forensic and sympathetic review of the existing former bank building. The street elevation at ground level has some key Neo Classical features that give opportunities for this to be cleaned to give a simple face to the high street. We also reused the existing concrete and steel bank vault, which now acts as the book shop stock collection and the existing cash machine steel vault is now encapsulated within the shop counter.
One of the key moves for the rear of the ground floor, has been to look at creating a street, that stitches together the various activities that will take place. Our proposal was to develop a community street, that threads through the center of the ground floor.
The concept has been conceived around social interaction, so that everyone within the community, regardless of the activities: reading, writing, talking, working, creating, interacting, resting, can feel part of the community spirit within the welcoming space’s of the street.
The book shop opened in Nov 2018, with a human chain organized to moves thousands of books from the old to new shop along the high street on a Sunday morning with 200 people, the story went viral in national and international media, featuring in both the Guardian and New York Times.