What is RARA? - Communal creativity
’‘Welcome to the era of total freedom, the antithesis of the 9-5. A platform to individual design practice with a collaborative atmosphere."
‘An alternative - perhaps even more useful RIBA’
‘An enabling experiment rather than a business’
The Redundant Architects Recreation Association was born from London Met school of Architecture’s ‘Free unit’ where participants develop their own brief and initiate real world projects. Amidst the turmoil of the 2008 financial crisis, the vision was to create a space of total creative freedom with a collaborative atmosphere. Founded by Sam Potts, Joe Swift and Dan Nation on a £2000 credit card and continually evolving with minimal resources ever since. With the advent of a new crisis in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic at both the best and worst of times for RARA - it already being in a somewhat precarious financial position - survival meant massive growth both in membership and, by finally occupying the upper floor of our Clapton home, a huge expansion in our facilities and space.
RARA now offers 25 desk spaces in a light and generous open plan studio, over half of which remains flexible communal space, a full wood workshop, ceramics facilities, digital fabrication and an impressive range of shared materials and resources.
An ever growing network of talented people from a diverse range of backgrounds and disciplines means knowledge, advice and assistance is constantly shared and collaboration frequently develops. It is this that is consistently clear; RARA is first and foremost a piece of social and educational infrastructure. While we constantly seek to improve our kit and facilities and make these as varied as possible, it is always the experience of working alongside and learning skills, ideas, theories and concepts with, and from, others that stands out as the greatest of R.A.R.A.'s assets.
Independent and in receipt of no outside funding our fees remain cheaper than any equivalent space and we maintain few limitations on access and activity. Our facilities are available 24/7 so that any making impulse, self initiated projects or side hustles can be pursued into the small hours by night owls and those who have to fit life around the ‘proper job’, the ever present struggle to guarantee our landlords get richer by the month.
While we believe our membership fees, particularly our off peak membership represents extraordinary value for money, this obviously does not mean we are in any way ‘affordable’ or accessible to large parts of society. We are therefore exploring ways to remove financial barriers entirely. We have recently initiated a weekly community art therapy group for people with insecure immigration status giving those who struggle to access even the most basic of services a therapeutic space for creative expression, community and hands-on learning. We are now looking to develop relationships with established local community groups to explore what else may be possible. A new residency programme also aims to give recent graduates the breathing space to continue to make and experiment while also getting support, advice, contacts and paid work as they navigate the precarity and all too often exploitative relationships of a fledgling freelance career.
Originally R.A.R.A. served to give redundant architects a reason to leave the house, do something creative, brew and drink beer, today it gives anyone the chance to experiment with materials, tools, processes and ideas and break free from the alienation of the 9 to 5.
Sadly Sam has since passed away, he was a great man and a dear friend whose optimistic and energetic outlook will not be forgotten. You can read more about his thoughts on RARA on the links below.
A tribute to him on the Architect’s Journal website read: “His all too short life has meant architecture has lost one of its shining young stars.
“In RARA, Potts has left architecture with something that really captures the zeitgeist of the emerging generation of young architects.
“Within a suburban industrial shed hidden down an unpromising back road is a space that allows creativity to flourish without constraint, and most importantly creates a place for a community of like-minded people to meet, watch films, drink ale and make things beautifully.