Materializing architecture for social care: Brick walls and compromises in design for later life

Sarah Nettleton, Daryl Martin, Christina Buse, Lindsay Prior

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2 Citations (Scopus)
64 Downloads (Pure)


This article reports on an ethnography of architectural projects for later life social care in the UK. Informed by recent debates in material studies and “materialities of care” we offer an analysis of a care home project that is sensitive to architectural materials that are not normally associated with care and well-being. Although the care home design project we focus on in this article was never built, we found that design discussions relating to a curved brick wall and bricks more generally were significant to its architectural “making”. The curved wall and the bricks were used by the architects to encode quality and values of care into their design. This was explicit in the design narrative that was core to a successful tender submitted by a consortium comprising architects, developers, contractors, and a care provider to a local authority who commissioned the care home. However, as the project developed, initial consensus for the design features fractured. Using a materialized analysis, we document the tussles generated by the curved wall and the bricks and argue that mundane building materials can be important to, and yet marginalized within, the relations inherent to an “architectural care assemblage.” During the design process we saw how decisions about materials are contentious and they act as a catalyst of negotiations that compromise “materialities of care.”
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-167
Number of pages15
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology
Issue number1
Early online date19 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • Sociology and Political Science


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