The Product that Coworking could be.

A speculative proposal to integrate urban and rural innovation through communities such as Maker Wharf and Latimer Minster

Phil Pawlett Jackson
27 min readAug 6, 2019

I’m grateful to Nat Wei for the privilege of a thrilling season contributing to a pilot MakerWharf in Bethnal Green ~ as part of the Community Management Team and as Chair of the Design Group. This paper was my assessment of the architectural and productive potential of the wider MakerLife vision, as I understood it.

MakerWharf is a plausible and attractive model for integrating the means of production and the provision of accommodation at the intermediate scale. While technology everywhere accelerates abstract equipment for the individual in the infinite network, it is those complex medium-sized contexts of rich resilient relationships which are, for me, the most urgent and most interesting problem to solve for right now.

If anyone is interested to continue the conversation about co-creating co-working co-living schemes, do get in touch.


We live in a time of rapid and paradigmatic change in the shape of the economy, cities and employment. Digital technologies are creating new opportunities, relationships and social solutions, while also opening up new catalysts for vast and divisive and systemic social inequality.

Within this paper I intend to sketch a diagnosis of the systems in play, then a diagram of MakerWharf and LatimerMinster in their present essences, and then to enquire into the exciting challenge of scaling MakerWharf, retaining its DNA of relational apprenticeship-led space-hacking, first through partnership ‘MakerTown’ and then as an emergent network ‘MakerLife’.

The straining of society’s stability and security that surfaces in techlash unrest reflects some deeper dysfunctions that have only been tinkered with since the first industrial revolution. Monopolies of privilege, wealth concentration, contempt for the dignity of the human person are facilitated by all forms of technology, the frictionless digital environment simply makes those processes infinitely quicker and legally more opaque.

Dysfunctional individualistic philosophies which undergird the consumer economy, also prop up the politics of monopolies and have led to the decay of all former safety nets which assumed social participation in local gift economies. The monopolies of Land, Talent and Capital grow, seemingly unfetterable by previous forms of corrective legislation or subsidy, because the building blocks of society, consisting of basic sympathy and generosity are being forgotten.

The housing crises — in affordability and quality; the skill shortages — of deskilled and under-remunerated key work; the rural-urban disparity — which catalyses extreme urbanisation; and the strained civic institutions, like education and public health ~ these are all symptoms, rather than the substance, of systemic injustice. They are waiting for a plausible systemic corrective, a jubilee, rather than tweaks in their subject-specific funding gaps.

MakerWharf seeks to demonstrate the elements of a counterculture, a year of Jubilee debt-cancellation in miniature, that suggests and enables a scalable alternative and which, in so scaling, provides a versatile, open-source trellis or skeleton for new social innovators to incubate ideas and to, likewise, rapidly scale.

The MakerWharf — MakerTown — MakerLife skeleton is joined-up rural-urban space-hacking for training + manufacture + accommodation, onto which accessory businesses and social ventures can be grown, for example, solar power, data networks, building services, alternative academies and agriculture, etc.

The key and initial manoeuvre in this is to work-around the hegemonic financialisation of the Land and to restore it as a sacred commons. To this end, the Church is a sleeping giant needing to be roused to realise it is stewarding a strategic platform at the centre of every city and village in Britain, a platform to reverse the misdirection of wealth in each of those places. Beginning with sympathetic churches, the infectiously joyful hacking of ecclesiastic space can spill out to under-utilised spare bedrooms, carparks, farmyards, driveways, backgardens, multistoreys. By taking out the issue of land, rebalancing accommodation costs via improvised and intensified space-use, the latent overflow can be invested in people, and people produce value, they make things, products, ideas.

The second key monopoly then is Talent, redistributing human gifting from the stranglehold of the City, whose milk-round creams off potential social entrepreneurs into lower-risk options for graduates. Reconnecting an elite with a disenfranchised majority is difficult. There are parallel labour issues/opportunities emerging in the new digital economy in the struggle to imagine vocational options for a growing pool of obsolete professionals, taxi-drivers to hotel staff. Reinventing work, redeeming labour, has been done by Victorian social reformers. The church has this tradition, and retains the skillset of holistic apprenticeship through discipling, and of horizontal knowledge dissemination by wisdom teaching. Against the rise of the robots, economic powerhouses nurtured in churches will cultivate and scale person-centred communities of new labour, discipling NEETs, graduates, the old and the young in the forms of manual dexterity, creative intelligence and social intelligence which bring humans to flourish and not as mere machine extensions or remunerated mortgagees.

Least straightforward is the potential to address the monopoly of Capital. However, as tech offers the potential to democratise production and consumption and to decentralise forums of commodity exchange, there emerges a need for physical hubs for exchange and sharing, localised clusters from out of the granular, more atomised peer-to-peer network. Church infrastructure offers such intermediate scale marketplaces for trading such Bitcoins with Brixton pounds, as we move from quantitatively eased liquidity rendered unto Caesar to a barter in units of solar energy.

The sum of these disruptions, by MakerWharf cells individually, by MakerTown relationships cooperatively, and by the wider MakerLife network in its emergent complexity, is a total systemic alternative, on the surface a fellowship of fabrication, but the laser cutters and electric vehicles are but tools in the more comprehensive work of promoting flourishing face-to-face human communities.


MakerWharf, started 2014, now on three sites, is an archetypal bootstrapped co-working space but with unique emphases on social return in the form of apprentice-training, providing access to local employment in mid-skilled roles in the tech sector.

Acting as agent rather than sub-letter, and touching the building relatively lightly, MakerWharf’s role is a functional guardianship partnership that seeks to strategically space-hack an under-utilised church building. The ‘loose-fit’ pop-up arrangement which can be rapidly installed, adapted and reconfigured results in a uniquely flexible and porous intersection of the tech and local communities, as it retains more conventional church use at evenings at weekends. Loose fit means to locate an intermediate concept for architectural interventions somewhere in between single-purpose-bespoke ‘tight-fit’ and the infinitely generic no fit at all)

Aspects of smart/fob security access, collapsible furniture, etc, when further iterated, offers a high-impact kit-of-parts that could be scaled across many more, even sensitive, church hall/sanctuary locations.

Access to 3d printing and other toys, partnership with like-minded new-industry professionals, strategic location are typical value propositions of co-working spaces like ImpactHub, GoogleCampus, SecondHome, TheCollective. Space-hacking to provide a similar facility offers not only to under-cut these, but creates a unique and more relational chance to rewardingly, meaningfully, beatitudinally, give back.

However, MakerWharf is limited by offering only a node, even with teleconferencing to sister co-working sites, it is a one-dimensional pitch in a crowded marketplace and in its desire to sacrificially reach a more vulnerable locale, and do good, it will run up against significant external forces, such as the housing market, which dictate the rules to much of the paradigm of elite and exploitative tech-sector norms.


“Latimer Minster is a church with a passionate desire to be a greater resource to the wider church in the nation and beyond by reaching, raising and releasing this generation locally, regionally and across the world.”

“It exists in the traditions of Minsters as were founded early in British Christianity, derived from monasteries, fusing the institutionally mindedness of the Romans, with the organic dynamism of the Celts. Like these, Latimer Minster intends to be a resourcing hub to respond to the spiritual needs of neighbourhoods, establishing and reviving churches, bringing together those parts of life which are often pulled apart — worship, prayer, the mind, business, community and the land.”

LatimerMinster presents as a valiant project to subvert modernity’s excess from beyond the city gates, drawing on the Anabaptist politics of the Amish, Catholic Social Teaching on land, and Wendall Berry on agriculture.

Quantifying what ‘resource’ Latimer Minster holds for the residents, groups, businesses and charities of London or Oxford, seems to focus on their qualities of rural space, real work, and strategic location.

Rural space exists as a counterpoint in my theology of the city, where the project of urbanity is morally mixed (a perpetual oscillation between depravity and grace, building possible Babels and possible Zions), and where the city tends towards a belief in its own hype, the rural offers the wide-open-space to: temper the voracious, humble the proud, refresh the weary, shelter the harried..

So, Latimer Minster is rural, but more, it is the real rural of the working countryside, rather than the recreational rural of the dormitory para-urban periphery. The project aims to make a viable place, to restore the built fabric of Stampwell Farm, to water the roots of a relational network, revive an active rural economy ~ these are slow sacrificial acts, engaged at a 1:1 scale. In this work of physical labour, Latimer Minster represents a ‘resource’ in the therapeutic and economic vein of Emmaus, furniture-restoring homeless communities, redeeming work to work redemption.

And part of Latimer Minster’s resource consists in its strategic location, offering itself as an intuitive bridging point for the confluence of Oxford/rural/London interdependent exchanges. Onto this site, an innovative team have rapidly popped-up big-top tents and caravans, creating immediate contexts for hatching and crystallising and fabricating more permanent futures.

It is not a foregone conclusion that this eccentric vulnerable fresh-expression foray of emergent Anglicanism into the wilds of rural innovation will not be snuffed out as a fleeting novelty, or that it will not be wooed by nostalgic monastery mongers (Adam), strenuously conservative housing models (CH/2013/0840/FA), or by prematurely resolved American brewery models of masterplanning (LTT), or indeed devolve to merely a better-than-average spiritual retreat with glamp hipster trappings.


Maker Town [MT] seeks to be a proof-of-concept that two such nodes as MakerWharf and LatimerMinster could form a union, a productive combination precipitating an irreducible quality of its own.

That a co-working space in London and an fibre-connected rural retreat nearby might suit each other for an occasional mutually convenient exchange of goods is self-evident. Rather, MakerTown posits the potential to punch way above their combined weights to use the more-than-the-sum-of-their-parts-ness of a radical union to be disruptive to the unjust paradigms of being-rural and being-urban, and so to catalyse systemic change in areas of housing injustice, employment exploitation, and broader aspects of spiritual malaise.

MakerTown looks to form this marriage by 1. devising new infrastructure to facilitate the interchange of goods and persons; and 2. tailoring each node to excellently serve the partnership’s whole. MakerTown unites two nodes of independent social good by weaving covenants of civic commitment, not in a merger that subsumes one or the other, but jointly forging an umbrella entity which deftly coordinates asymmetric complementary gifts and opportunities.

Unity through devising new infrastructure involves creating an umbrella of unified digital brand/identity and in that a portal for combined membership, building bridges practically and in aligning respective vision/management towards joint enterprises.

Digital unity proposes to enable membership of one entity to allow also access to the resources of the other, which should be an uncomplicated extension of MakerWharf’s existing multi-site smart/fob/app building access and teleconferencing to apply to booking resources online in a mutual portal, and then (via the guild of smart-locksmiths MakerWharf will train) to install access to the barns and pods from the same directory.

Most basically, digital unity suggests, if my architecture firm were to subscribe monthly for a desk space in Bethnal Green, this would then give me access to the CNCs in Bucks, likewise the Latimer friars instigating a brewery in the barns could book meeting spaces with distributors in Bethnal Green. (I envisage that the mediation of digital membership to seamless resource sharing would not go from zero-to-driverless overnight, nor that it should ever be completely apersonal, but rather that MakerTown’s essence is to provide a framework for negotiating uses and hosting users).

Membership, also entails some form of covenant to the gift-economy agreement, a basic outline of expectations/opportunities according to membership category (virtual/full/tent-maker), suggested sweat equity contributions, apprenticing commitments and proportional use of spaces and equipment, later on for access to pod housing, farm produce, solar currency etc.

Practical unity through physical bridges concerns the real physical geography between two sites involved in physical production, and integrating that into the links by which the respective parts function seamlessly as extensions of the other, through seamless transfer of persons and products, initially via corporate membership to external car-sharing, perhaps later by a solar fleet. These physical bridges includes anything which it is intuitive to jointly-own, for example, mobile mini-house rental on both/either sites.

Visional/Management unity. Neither MakerWharf nor LatimerMinster should become engaged in the other’s agenda to the detriment of the excellence of their own curious calling. My intuitive lead would be to resist the merger lure of giantism, and the diminishing economy pooling administrative tasks in a centralised HQ. So in this way MakerTown is a third structure, nimble in itself also, tasked only to curate conditions to support emergent collaborative projects, to make the cooperative sum of the parts a trellis between the two entities for visionary entrepreneurs in each to instigate projects bigger than either site could host alone. Singular projects that innately require the dual facilities of both expansive and central spaces, rural and urban qualities, etc. Collaborative projects might include jointly-organising rotations of apprentices based part-time on both sites, for example, or a joint events and excursions constituting a pincer-movement on the suburbs..

Distinguishes diversity (digitally, practically and visionally) through tailoring each node to amplify complementary specialisation, as finely tuned tools, embarking on ludicrously bold projects in the confidence of access to the complementary facilities of the other. And so demonstrating the impossible possible by an intrinsically dual facility, covenanted in love, becomes the USP. Individual projects, considered below, might ambitiously expand building out MakerWharfs, dependently on the sympathetic affordable bespoke production facilities available at a rural location; while Latimer Minster could ambitiously build a cathedral with central London design talent, or fabricate product lines and farm produce, tailored for distribution to such city centres.

Chateau Duffy


MakerTown gives purpose to a dual site vision, but with the hope to be more than the sum of its parts, in an unusual relationship of love seeking the others best. Reflecting both a philosophical love for the city, and history of birthing things in rural places, towards an eschatological garden-city — a mysterious union that allows neither to descend into self-serving self-relation. By way of example, one language of exchange, a commodity that can be traded in this dual approach is large/small scale modelling and manufacture. A transferrable set of skills applies in the laser cutting of rapid prototyping as also in the heavyweight routing of the final inhabitable product. I would suggest this could be exemplified in two respective projects: building a cathedral at LatimerMinster and multiplying MakerWharf’s kit-of-parts offer to include improvised solutions to the housing crisis in London around MakerWharfs. These are two suprahuman visions that neither can do alone.

Three projects in my experience illustrate forays into the Rural-Urban pairing:

Architectural AssociationHooke Park, Dorset

Hi-spec robotic wood working laboratory is partnered with the innovative AA School in London for courses in timber futures, very large prototyping and manufacture. The site at Hooke Park, nestled in managed woodland, is a gallery of structures designed and built by students and volunteers in an emerging campus of live-in experiments.

Providence HouseEast Shallowford Farm, Devon (2)

Providence House is a happy youth club in Clapham Junction which is now several generations in, and runs, for example, a carpentry course, taught by an alumnus of the club. Founded by Elizabeth Braund, who was from a similar school of theological passion for kids and the outdoors as Octavia Hill, she forged an enduring link with a farm in Devon, where city kids could experience a world beyond the city. Building accommodation on the farm is being explored, not in any revolutionary mode of fabrication, but it could be..

MatroyshkahausChateau Duffy (2)

Social-enterprise-incubator Matroyshkahaus has born the fruit of The Transformational Index, Sweet Notions and other schemes and they happened upon the opportunity to create their own away-day formula for its wider network of mischief makers. Among their network is Duffy London who had acquired a ruined gite in France. Teams travelling seasonally to work on the site engage an incomparable chance to learn, bond, restore, envision and invest sweat equity in a mutually owned holiday facility.


The nature of the collaborations and mutual projects that a rural-urban MakerTown facilitates will be as varied as the individuals drawn to get amongst the fellowship, however, my pitch for a pilot would be to set up CNC routers in one of the barns at LatimerMinster, and immediately bespoke parts for other repairs could begin to be fabricated, commercial rates could be hired out, training courses could be begun. The availability of access to heavy weight machine-tooling combined with accommodation on site, presents a USP, much like Hooke Park to its more academic market. Small architectural practices nested in MakerWharfs in London, would be given a playground for constant testing to the boundaries of the possible, and a ready stream of demands for fabricating minor architectural schemes.

But the goal would be developing a comprehensive design language and an up-skilled workforce, able easily to turn this craft to a chapel which could expand by stages to a cathedral for the Minster of unprecedented beauty and complexity, craft and personality.

Can we CNC a Cathedral? And why? What would it look like? What would its social excellence consist in? What fruit would such an undertaking bear?

David Best — Temple in Derry

A key precedent for this would be David Best’s Temple in Derry (1, 2, 3) built to be burnt, as a counterpoint to the Catholic-Protest bonfire traditions, this is a monument of reconciliation. Notably, within the process of construction he trained 20 apprentices in the processes of digital manufacture.

Studio Weave — Freya and Robin’s Hut

In a similar mode of construction, but permanent, StudioWeave’s routed ply shelters for ‘Freya and Robin’s Hut’ : rugged instant expressive magic being fabricated.

Aaron Ho — In God We Build

And, more conceptually, Aaron Ho’s exemplary and prophetic RCA graduation project which combines this mode of manufacture with the economics of church land and housing justice, based on a model that begins with machine facilitation and doubles up sanctuary space with productive workshopping.


The facility to machine-make stuff in-house, affordably, offers a chance to rapidly and progressively iterate the kit-of-parts that is MakerWharf, as it looks to scale to further sites. (Note, this is even before we seek the complex and diverse scaling of MakerLife.) Refining and tailoring the sorts of furniture that makes co-working excellent needs to be resolved, and having a hyperactive hive of such makers within the family would be invaluable in honing the process.

Commission the Minster to be perpetually working on new and better ways to make Makery artefacts, desks, insertable mezzanine structures, meeting capsules. These build up a familiarity with the material, and a personal up-skilled family who could also turn these interior makerings into products for other partners: Permitted-Development pods for rapid accommodation in the gardens of MakerHouses, God-pods for MakerChurches (self-funding solutions for at-risk heritage churches (FCBSudios)), benches for MakerCafes or other consumer items when the network is built to unleash MakerLife.

Opendesk and WikiHouse Foundation offer some direction for this approach. And, they are also the sorts of start-up who could scale rapidly if hosted by a MakerWharf with an inbuilt team of apprentice Makers.

MakerWharf 2.0 will build on the strategic flexibility of the pop-up fold-up incarnation of the current Bethnal Green arrangement, but will look to work this out in the vast field of substantially under-utilised, but potentially more contentious, sanctuary spaces:

St Paul’s, Old Ford

St Paul’s, Old Ford is beautifully resolved in the flexibility of the programs enabled, by innovatively inserting a form into the volume of the sanctuary’s void, retaining worship, while facilitating a hub of social transformation.

Messina’s portrait of St Jerome’s pop-up workspace

See also, historically, Messina’s portrait of St Jerome’s pop-up workspace in a sanctuary context, and also Dominicanen, Maastrict although not functioning as a church, architecturally it is instructive and exquisite in its light-touch, free-standing intervention.

I’ve reviewed elsewhere, three other bold adaptions of sanctuaries which retain faith within generous civic gestures: Husk (LCM) , Host (Moot), Wren (St Nick’s) ~ Coffee, church, art, teaching and coworking mingle within sensitive architecture to profound effect.

Nakagin Capsule Tower: A previous generation’s pop up

8. MAKERTOWN: A theology of ARCHITECTURE in this paradigm

I have some concerns about the brittle and disposable nature of high-tech architectural production, which enables the rapid proliferation of consumable images, thin veneers of homeliness and refinement with an ironic post-industrial sheen. Can we create products which endure, which weather well, being rendered in the image of something resilient rather than precarious, and which wears its scars ruggedly, rather than the shattered iphone screen designed for its own obsolescence which renders all parts of it redundant. Against this, but not in an obstreperous Luddite resistance to the new, can we nurture gradients of permanence, and trajectories towards more stable forms, prioritising versatile endurance over expedient novelty, exporting transferrable forms of design (and of ways of life) which are Improvisable, Hackable, Repairable, Transportable, Expansible, Recyclable..

Walter’s Way — Walter Segal
Plugin City — Peter Cook

It concerns me also where a fashion for robotic production disguises privilege within a rhetoric of open-source. WikiHouse wants houses affordable to 100% of the population, but OpenDesk desks are still a luxury item costing thousands of pounds. Other such fruit of FabLabs, while more democratic than previous bespoke elite forms, are still less accessible than mass-manufacturing, and are often solving invented problems. There is a certain faith in the inevitability and suitability of trickle-down, a conviction that the toys and trinkets beloved of tech’s early adopters are the optimum seedbed for urgently essential products exported to a world in desperate need. Prices will fall as economies of scale accelerate, but I believe that it not enough trust the market to tailor holistically sustainable products perfectly suited to the disadvantaged fast enough. Now is the time to tweak the assumptions and check the privilege of tech’s design methodology, and set a precedent of hybrid participatory applications of technology, which feed up into the processes that shape the trajectory of tech’s priorities.

I have written elsewhere about the ways architecture embodies worldviews. It is a priority for me to be facilitating this critical conversation, providing a language for the public and the professions to express (and build) their convictions, pleasures, hopes and fears, to be empowered tell stories through the form and detail of their homes and cities. Architecture and design are value-laden, for example in ethical issues of material sourcing, and it is imperative that we be mindful of that. However, far more potent but subtle, I believe, are the assumptions about the human which architecture makes concrete, to the flourishing or detriment of legion future generations.

We can learn much from the playful optimism of the Metabolists and Archigram but we should also be wary the ambitions for plug-in pop-up future city built for individual individualists in their self-made pods. Just as also, there is much we can learn from CAT, Walter Segal or Rural Studio but we should be mindful the temptation to regress to naive or nostalgic solutions irrelevant to urgent urban problems.


Having explored the social potential of generous coworking/fabrication practised at one independent node of MakerWharf, and then developed a whole new value proposition for the potential to form a new dual site rural-urban entity through a dyadic exchange in MakerTown, MakerLife proposes a whole other paradigm shift which distills the qualities of the MakerTown’s linear relationship and installs it the pattern for a network, a type of strand in the complex web of an emergent fellowship. In describing this, we scale up from a cell to an organ to an organ system, and the challenges of the organ system, MakerLife, are those of holistic city-making governed by priorities analogous to a church planting network.

The model of scaling, whether it is via more hands-on planting, or more hands-off partnering or franchising is a question to ask.

I’m going explore the potential of scaling through the lens of housing, as one commodity to subvert by this cooperative counter cultural constellation, but my aim is to provoke a vision of the possible social consequences if a limitless array of assets, skills, spaces are utilised, redeemed, restored within the same vision as Stampwell Farm being brought into radical but ordinary use as Latimer Minster.

It is in this joining up the basic element of Makering, with a range of accessory and hybrid applications, by non-Makers or existing structures, that the potential to address some of the larger system monopolies of land, talent and capital emerges. If, for example, a conduit for solar economic transactions is facilitated between MakerWharfs, then a world of value exchanges opens up.

Thus in scaling through MakerLife, it is not so much a multiplication in the instances of a particular outfit’s visual style or fabrication skillset or even in extending access to a pool of mutual assets, rather, it is the spreading of committed relationships, weaving healthy interdependent ties of responsibility, employer-employee, people-place, church-business, city-country, establishing this outward orientation as core DNA and then refining the equipment that makes this practice seamless. By this priority, MakerLife seeks to form a counterculture that will counter the sorts of monopoly which divide society, the sorts of philosophy which annul relationship and obscure Persons (as it is only personal persons who can relate, in this sense).

I will work through the development of a MakerLife approach to housing, which by analogy, should illustrate the idea if it were applied also to food production, or schooling, etc. Lastly, and most difficult to illustrate, I will posit ideas about the characters who might be employed to action this, their qualities and trajectories, and some questions to ask going forward.


The crisis in housing affordability in London and the South East should concern us for the way that it hits the most vulnerable hardest and represents an unjust transfer of wealth in an unsustainable way. However, as well as compassion, there is a motive of basic self-preservation that should prompt both churches and tech startups to innovate in the area of housing. Housing issues are already pricing out the rooted families and networks that constitute stable social infrastructure, while from London to Palo Alto the same the nimble and cash-poor entrepreneurs, the would-be key-workers, if they are not priced out of the city altogether, are channeled into lower-risk corporate careers simply to feed their families, and the fire-starters of a much-needed counter-culture of social technology are quenched.

Wide Path Camper

MakerWharf appropriates under-used spaces, employing rapid bespoke manufacture and apprenticeship training to create a virtuous circle of social impact. It should be intuitive that the same set of tools could be turned to creating homes in other appropriated spaces for those same entrepreneurs and apprentices. MakerLife is a platform to connect a wider sympathetic non-maker network with this core network of MakerTown fabricators, providing a secure relational infrastructure to access and redeem other under-utilised resources.

[1] Initially, an easy win, would be the affordable fabrication of microunits, tinyhouses, RVs, (like the WidePathCamper) and self-contained garden rooms designed to comply with Permitted Development law. This, combined with smart-lock adaptions would enable individual local households to derive income, build relationships and do social good through extending hospitality on driveways and in back gardens. Piloting this would also enable iterating good-practice, beta-testing future more complex possible forms of domestic symbiosis.

[2] Developing this format, further, a pattern book of BedroomHacks could be developed and promoted: rapidly manufacturable adaptions, partitions, even extensions to make possible extra rooms in existing buildings. In a similar way, SpaceMax hopes that certain opportunities to hack common council flat typologies could be multiplied by imitation throughout repetitive blocks. (1. and 2. concern individual home-owners acting to engage MakerLife as individual nodes in a simple linear exchange comparable to other Airbnb exchanges)

[3] Having built MakerTown on the basis of partnership, and MakerWharf being hosted by, for example, St Peter’s Bethnal Green, there is an approach to housing that builds on this uniquely multi-personal foundation, a much more dynamic approach considers collective hosting in a shift from peer-to-peer, to peers-to-peers ~ doing-joined-up what one peer cannot do-alone. For a precedent in this, see the work of GreenPastures [GP] who provide accommodation to the homeless through partnerships consisting a critical mass of local church engagement to undertake projects none could do alone. GreenPastures acts as advisor, convener and financial agent, it looks for churches who want to impact homelessness and who can summon a team to commit to the pastoral dimension of hosting. GreenPastures, with the church, identifies a local building in need of refurbishment (such as illustrate (right)) which they purchase with capital raised from GreenPastures social investors, and renovate the home, with formerly homeless workers to create an asset which the church then manages as a ministry, generating with it, a return for the investors. The financial gearing of this is interesting, but for our case here, it is the cooperative, local and pastoral emphases which I believe MakerLife can draw on.

[4] When this approach reaches maturity, I consider that it would hold expertise in rapid bespoke construction, innovative finance and legality, strategic locality, and the difficult social balances learnt in these previously adaptive-only forms of co-housing, to then be in a position to commission wholly new infrastructure from scratch when blank sites present themselves. I don’t want to preempt the form this would take, but two examples present instruction.

Rural Studio’s Supershed

~ Rural Studio’s Supershed + Pods deals with the interplay of the permanent and the temporal, balancing the private and public, it rationalises certain domestic commodities via communal facilities.

Spreefeld Baugruppen

~ Spreefeld Baugruppen achieves this similarly, but in multistorey one-time-build complex which incorporates a mix of independent flats, with clusterflat arrangements, with substantial communal facilities, workshops, gardens etc. Other innovators in this space like NakedHouse position propositions on a spectrum of custom/self-build approaches, seeking to harness participation to create enduring affordable places.

So MakerLife finds its effective Life in building infrastructure to strategically connect unconnected locals with other spare spaces with the networking tools in order that they can host new locals who bring new tools for creating even more new spaces. This is fundamentally different from Airbnb which mediates a linear market transaction from a thousand miles away. It is competitively different in catalysing access to all sorts of spaces Airbnb can’t reach, but more importantly it is qualitatively different in its Gift, Triangularity and Subsidiarity.

MakerLife’s proposition to housing is competitively different in linking local communities, with local hubs to open up inaccessible local spaces, for the joy.

~ For example, the cost and complexity and the risk to an even sympathetic owner of a multistorey carpark, would be prohibitive to engaging an improvised residential conversion, let alone the idea that such a hacked guardianship proposal would be a suitable place for nurturing apprentices in the new economy. But, if, like GreenPastures, the proposition is to make the space a curated co-hosted vehicle supported, as if on a tripod, by an invested web of local skillful volunteers, it becomes at once more viable, and even profitable.

~ For another example, the empty-nested retiree who is best advised, financially to sit on the 5 bed asset they own. They may well be unable to adapt the house, manage the personal risk or engage the technology to suit the likes of Airbnb which would put the space to good social and financial use. MakerLife’s network connects this sitting asset, de-risks and incentivises its engagement by offering to co-host.

The qualitative differences in this proposition:

The Gift Economy transaction is foregrounded,

Whereas in Airbnb’s model: OWNER ↔ RENTER is a simple market transaction, exploiting generosity, MakerLife’s model intends to enable: OWNER ↔ [NETWORK OF VOLUNTEERS] ↔ RENTER in a complex gift transaction, in which right grace and gratitude are in play. Like Octavia Hill’s rent-collectors-as-social-workers the market is made not only as a context for ministry, but in itself a tool for nurturing humanity.

Triangular Sharing (or Sharing Sharing)

Contrasted with the dyadic individual-individual sharing economy. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, MakerLife’s value proposition encontexts coworking in a village, holistically and pastorally attending to the mission of employment, and in this way it should outcompete those startup seedbeds abstracted from broadbase stable community backup. The forms of transaction are triangular, even trinitarian, not simply suppliers and consumers, but the complexity, mystery and trust of a gift economy.

Subsidiarity (Ref)

This proposes action at the right scale for the right action. Delegated localism where the network links are all Local. It always derives its function from a local hub so the transaction rooted locally and hosted personally. So, unlike AirBnb, where we all rent from the behemoth, the structure of relationships is more like a tree: branched, fractal and self-similar at various scales.


What is MakerLife? And, how does it spread, what needs to translate to further sites to keep unity while encouraging diversity? How could multiplying create exponential reciprocal benefits — rather than linear multiplication of a concept — creating a coherent whole. What is the end goal ambition of MakerLife taken to its logical conclusion?

Pop-up Food Truck Modules
Heat/Light/Seating/Desks Pop-up in existing church

Lessons learnt and models refined through establishing MakerWharf and MakerTown create an organisation with key technological expertises in administrating coworking (facilitating popups, space-hacking and conversions, smart-lock-access, the equipment for heating, data, housing, transport, the policies for growing companies, remunerating cooperation, training) but also the value of MakerLife is found in the sum of its network infrastructure (brand and online presence, data network and infrastructure, geographic network of presences, distribution network of solar-powered fleet, shared furniture and kit-of-parts templates, block purchasing power) But more than these, I think the essence of MakerLife’s distinct value proposition is in the view of the person-in-relation, instilling this and pursuing its excellence leads to a model of person-centred-scaling.

MakerLife could extend its reach functioning as a top-down director of a national strategy for rolling out a program, partnering with government to install MakerWharfs in multiple cities, or at the other extreme it could reduce itself to an app like Uber which could instantly turn every garage garden and porch into an extension of an uncontrolled spread of MakerLifing. Somewhere in between, there is an intermediate scaled third way, which grows organically, even exponentially, but always relationally. Possible models for this scaling: Planting, Partnering, Licensing

1. Planting involves developing a core group which is then sent as a cell, a delegation of Makers and hosts to a blank site, an empty warehouse, a ruined farm, if they feel called to that place, to be funded to develop a new MakerLife branch, an instrument tailored to that opportunity. Scaling like Zumba or YWAM, trainers, training trainers.

2. Partnership, in the way that an existing community, like St Peters Bethnal Green becomes a hub. MakerWharf acts as agent, conducting a market transaction, the space is paid for, but the wider community vision is a partnership, employment from their area, accommodation in their area. Churches present as suited, because they necessarily have spaces, but much more importantly, they have relationships, they are relationships. I would be similarly interested to particularly look at taking the MakerTown model to other dual-site social ventures, who are already interacting an economy between two projects, and so to see if that partnership qua partnership would profit from being woven into MakerLife.

So, for example [Kahaila (1) ↔ LuminaryBakery], or [LondonReclaimedLumberJack] or [HiveGrowhampton], or, as above, Providence House with East Shallowford Farm. If they could be gifted the kit of parts which makes a MakerTown, that could be a springboard for that existing partnership to grow into its own web of MakerLife, in a de-centralised way.

3. Licensing agreement Other lone co-working spaces or fabricators could enfranchise as MakerWharfs, becoming part of a centralised network, have access to data, rural benefits, and Makers. In this way the registered random coffeeshops could become outlets for produce, registered random farms could become hosts and producers,


This is a brief endnote, perhaps to illustrate another day, to speculate that I feel there is something in the threefold office [Prophet, Priest, King, or elsewhere Truth-Tellers, Carers, Adventurers] which might shape three aspects of character which holistic apprenticeship in Maker-Lifing would seek to inspire.

  1. Maker Prophets — artisans, storytellers, future-casters, technicians, speaking beyond themselves;
  2. Maker Priests — hosts, harbours, pastors, carers counsellors, Holistic Care, Community Organiser;
  3. Maker Kings — administrators, investors, entrepreneurs ~ all three are leading, all three are discipling.


This is a brief endnote, perhaps to illustrate another day, to speculate that something of an orientation of UP-IN-OUT might be brought to bear on MakerLife.

The MakerLife network is constituted of cells, organs and organ systems, a fractal of different scales, but each looks Upward for for inspiration and resource, looks Inward to strengthen the fellowship, and looks Outward to relentlessly give itself away. Perhaps this is either vague or tautological counsel, (inspired for the joy of puns involving MakeUp, MakeIn and MakeOut) — but I observe that through the process scaling enterprises, their emphases distort and the responsibility to, for example, be charitable, is delegated to certain branches or individuals ~ as if it were enough to have a CSR box ticked.

I like the idea that you could cut MakerLife at any scale at it would bleed these three emphases, whether you hacked the app, interrogated an apprentice at random or dismantled the building, there in the pieces you would find a pulse of Love for God, Love for the Network and Love for the World.



Phil Pawlett Jackson

Illustration, Copywriting, & PM for Digital Product and Architecture for Social Good. Keen to learn & collaborate on projects & mischief