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OSA Review: CAUKIN Studio on Social Enterprise whilst Travelling around the Globe

The last Guest Lecture of 2022, organised by OxArch, 1st December 2022

Look no further if you’re an adrenaline junkie or an adventure seeker eager to pursue something wildly unconventional in your architecture journey as CAUKIN Studio may be a useful precedent. Despite the fact that this evening was freezing and grim as deadlines were closer than ever, we’re joined by a duo of handsome young architects from CAUKIN Studio. Before I elucidate what extraordinary things they have been doing, Joshua Peasley and Harrison Marshall were our aforementioned speakers. So, the studio incorporated a humanitarian approach as they literally travelled to remote and deprived nooks across 12 countries to educate and upskill locals through a wide range of small-scale projects.

As the co-founder and director of the studio, they started the talk by introducing the studio itself (I don’t know if it’s just me but it feels very much like a pitch for a project on our campus and we’re the clients), which views design as a constructive project for knowledge sharing with objectives of design through collaboration, learn through building to break down barrier such as a lack of gender diversity, and experience through immersion as they oversee construction as contractors. Now it came the awe-inspiring and jaw-dropping part as they explained that the starting point of the studio was a challenge they accepted to build a structure for a charity organisation in Cambodia in their second year in Cardiff University when other students went for internships. Fuelled by tourism motivation, they literally flew half the globe to Cambodia to work with local charity organisation to create their first Playscape for Cambodian children. We were trying to make sense of this when he explained that the Cambodian charity was the only organisation that accepted their request for such an endeavour and the body understands local materials, culture and logistics, hence making this adventure feasible and believable.

Help create learning tools for the remote and marginalised (CAUKIN Studio, 2022).

They were hooked since then and in 2017, they reached out more charity to step up the construction in complexity and scale as they completed a kindergarten and community building in Indonesia. Their approach to construction was repetitive and low-tech with low impact on site to provide learning opportunities for people of different skills. For instance, they adopted light-weight timber framing system such as timber portal frame that takes two to three days to build in-situ, and building on stilts in a contoured site using treated pine pole as foundation and cheaper wood on top as superstructure. We were presented a wide array of their key projects across the most remote corners of the world but since listing all of them out might induce sleep, I am just going to highlight their excellent and ethical practice that they went back to the previous project to evaluate its flexibility and functionality and of course to access their success. To illustrate, Joshua and Harrison returned to Nawani kindergarten they constructed before and realised that one class has been expanded to two classes with two teachers before they decided to build another classroom to accommodate the expansion.

When it comes to profitability of their projects, it makes zero sense as their main concern is a social and communal one as well as to gain life experiences. However, it could be unfeasible as fees from student workshop and money raised by charity organisations were just unsustainable. That’s why they are still looking for a sustainable business model to facilitate community enterprise against commercialism. Wishing these kind-hearted adventure junkies all the best in their endeavours towards a flourishing future for all.

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