They shall inherit the Earth
GenerationsYand Z are aware of the global challenges they face. But by the time they succeed to positions of power, it could be too late to make the changes we need now. What would today’s London be like if reshaped by the generation that will inherit the city in decades to come? We asked fourth-year students at the London School of Architecture to share their proposals for transforming the lives of Londoners in the borough of Hackney. Within eight design think tanks, students and practices collaborated to reimagine everyday activities, from waste and wilderness to playfulness and pleasure.
Homelessness is a national problem, with an estimated 280,000 people homeless across the UK. It is most prevalent in our cities, where housing shortages are most acute: 25 of the 32 London boroughs are in the 30 local authorities with the highest number of homeless constituents. From the hidden homeless to the most vulnerable rough sleepers, the urban experience of a homeless person is exclusionary and dehumanising. Social interaction plays a key role in enabling people who have lost their homes to reintegrate into society. How can the city be adapted to create a more supportive environment for the homeless without creating barriers between the homeless and the city as a whole?
Eradicating Homelessness proposes a strategy that provides support for the homeless in a dispersed network of facilities throughout the city. Taking the area around Old Street roundabout as a pilot project, the starting point was to research a day in the life of a homeless person and to identify the full range of goods, services and support that help to ease existence and, potentially, reintegration into society. The team carried out a detailed audit of the city to identify sites and buildings that could be appropriated or adapted to house a wide range of amenities including accommodation, showers, storage lockers, and training and advice, as well as facilities that bring the homeless into contact with the wider community such as launderettes, food banks, charity shops and space for yoga, exercise, art and other creative pursuits.
A central core building on Old Street roundabout – an area with high footfall and already a magnet for rough sleepers who take shelter in the network of Underground subways below – acts as a central information point. This core building houses a range of functions and spaces with varying degrees of privacy. Lower levels house a café, resource library and exhibition space open to the general public and designed to encourage interaction and combat the stigma around homelessness. Upper levels include accommodation and a range of shared spaces and communal facilities. A private entrance and carefully thought-out circulation afford privacy to the building’s more vulnerable residents.
Eradicating Homelessness establishes a framework for a programme that can be implemented at a variety of scales and adapted to reflect the spaces and amenities available in any given neighbourhood. This offers the prospect of a ‘network of networks’ across the city reflecting an understanding that facilities that support the homeless can enliven and enrich the city as a whole and blurring the boundaries between those with homes and those without.
The ultimate aim is to move from a city where the homeless are turned away and sent elsewhere, to one where they are welcomed in, treated with dignity, and offered the help that individual requirements dictate.