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.
In England alone, 8.4m people are estimated to live in ‘unaffordable, insecure or unsuitable homes’. Within Hackney, 13,000 people are currently on the waiting list for social housing. London is expected to see a six per cent rise in population by 2026, exacerbating housing need. The practice of demolishing housing blocks to make way for new development is environmentally and culturally questionable, leading to displaced communities and obliterating the social, cultural and historic value of existing estates. The challenge is to address the need for housing in a way that preserves and strengthens existing communities, social networks and heritage.
Hackney’s De Beauvoir Estate, a Modernist development designed with generous open space, is used as an exemplar for an approach that increases the number of homes on existing estates without compromising the quality of the architecture or residents’ quality of life. Existing housing blocks are extended vertically and horizontally, doubling the density while retaining the generous outdoor space. New decks provide outdoor circulation and increase the usable space of existing dwellings. The existing circulation cores are reconfigured, extended and refurbished to act as co-living rooms for each floor. The use of off-site manufacturing will reduce construction time by up to 30 per cent, keeping disruption to residents to a minimum.
The existing courtyards are retained with enhanced amenities including different types of play provision across the estate. Ground floor retail and café spaces will enrich estate life and activate the public realm. Traffic is re-routed turning De Beauvoir Road into a central pedestrian route to encourage residents and non-residents to walk and cycle through the estate.
A new skate park activates the northern edge of the site while existing garages are turned into workspaces and low-cost business spaces designed to encourage artists, creatives and small businesses who have been priced out of central Hackney to return to the area and help to create a mixed and vibrant community. The existing parkland to the southern edge of the site will be kept as natural rewilded landscape fulfilling the Modernist vision of towers within a park.
This project is envisaged as a demonstration project for councils looking to take advantage of the recent abolition of borrowing caps on councils for housing development. Hackney can now borrow money against its assets to redevelop the estate. The private homes are then rented out by the council at market rates, bringing in an annualised yield that allows Hackney to gradually repay the loan, reinvest in maintenance and upkeep and, crucially, cross-subsidise regeneration projects on other estates. The proposed regeneration of the De Beauvoir Estate would provide 1,129 new homes, 731 refurbished homes and 7 hectares of revitalised public space. Its wider impact would be to reinvigorate an ongoing programme of redevelopment and an exponential increase in councils’ capacity to maintain, upgrade and replenish their existing housing stock.