Typical of much of the contemporary city is the fragmentation of its physical and social fabric to the detriment of visual coherence and functional vitality, community life and identity. At the Beecholme Estate in Clapton such flaws may not prevent, but also do little to sponsor, any form of vibrant community; nor do they create an enticing environment seamlessly connected with its surroundings and their communities. The challenge here is to correct these flaws by reworking and better connecting the disparate elements on the site into a coherent whole and connecting this with major surrounding elements.
A phased design strategy combines demolition, reworking the street and open space systems, and new construction. To be demolished are a series of large residential blocks that presently obstruct reconfiguration of the movement pattern into a grid of routes criss-crossing and embedding the site in its context. Besides providing vehicular access where required, this movement grid is mostly broad pedestrian routes that significantly improve the links between the site and a park to its east. From the former western boundary, the project extends out, absorbing a traffic gyratory and turning it into a peninsula of paved public space.
At the heart of the site and the movement grid, an existing green space will be reworked as a multi-purpose community focus, with adjacent Victorian workshops converted into a ‘Forum’ to serve a variety of communal uses. Behind the Forum, along the northern edge of the site, a mews of Victorian workshops – the ‘Tram Sheds’ – will continue to house thriving small businesses. Connecting this western portion of the site with the park to the east will be paved and planted pedestrian streets flanked by terraces of new housing.
As well as these physical proposals, various forms of self-governance are advocated to help implement and manage the estate and its various activities, further strengthening community ties. But even if these were not instituted, the physical design interventions alone would catalyse various forms of vibrant community life with knock-on benefits for the areas around.
Design Think Tanks
How can design improve the way we live in cities? Design Think Tanks (DTTs) at the LSA put forward proposals to help meet the targets set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Design Think Tanks are collaborative projects between students and leading architectural practices at the London School of Architecture. The UN Sustainable Development Goals address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice. They are a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.
Each year the LSA selects a shortlist of DTT topics to be studied from a long list of suggestions made by the LSA Practice Network. The study topics suggested are ones that require urgent consideration, innovative thinking and design solutions that will generate significant social and environmental progress and beneficial urban change.
Students elect to work on one of the shortlisted study topics in collaborative groups of between six and eight led by senior staff from the sponsoring practice that suggested the DTT study topic. Generally, at least one member of each study group works with the sponsoring practice. LSA Faculty work with the DTT leaders to guide students through the research and design process.
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 how we occupy our cities, as well as our relationship to work, food and travel.