Following Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, attitudes as to who the city is for have drastically changed. Anna Minton’s Big Capital, Who is London for? (2017), tackled this four years ago, exploring how a neoliberal agenda was transforming the city. Discussion of city life today has become a flashpoint sharpened by the pandemic, which has amplified London’s structural inequalities.
Focusing on this, DTT Spatial Justice confronts present-day spatial and racial injustices in Hackney, proposing a new model of community and cultural infrastructure, built on community empowerment, mutual aid, enacted through a special strategy that makes use of existing buildings and spaces to improve representation and resources for marginalised communities in the area.
In detail, this approach comprises a range of re-appropriated spaces, mobile interventions and pop-up spaces, a furniture workshop at the Geffrye Museum, and an ‘exploded museum’ that occupies small plots across the wider vicinity dispersed from the project’s core: a centralised, community commons, located in the former Ash Grove Bus Depot.
Here, light-touch, adaptive reuse of the structure creates a community kitchen-cum-bookshop, alongside a dance studio, a makerspace workshop, space for therapy provision and modular offices for emerging groups or organisations in need of a temporary home. This space will also be home to a float – part of a proposed carnival where the float, equipped with tools for spatial interventions, facilitates change across a network of key spaces, reaching community groups and support centres for marginalised communities. The carnival celebrates these communities and also provides support in the form of fabric workshops, eviction advice, domestic violence consultation and more. The latter two are particularly pertinent to Hackney given the recent eviction of Sistah Space, a charity providing support to African heritage women and girls who’ve experienced domestic or sexual abuse.
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.