The annual International Architecture Showcase is a diverse programme of international exhibitions and events led by London’s embassies and cultural institutes as part of the London Festival of Architecture. The 2014 event was curated as a series of residencies with ten visiting architects from Austria, Chile, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Nigeria, South Africa, Taiwan, Uganda, and Iran paired with ten UK-based practices. These collaborative teams worked together over a two week period to propose new ideas for specific sites across Poplar, East London. Full documentation of the residency and outcomes is documented in the publication Possible Futures: 7 Days in Poplar.
The project promoted collaboration and exchange by asking each team of architects to analyse a different theme – Culture, Housing, Nature, Town Centres and Transition. The teams explored how these issues were tackled in international contexts and how this might translate to solutions for four key sites across Poplar, including the Limehouse Cut in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. One of the teams, Delvendahl Martin (UK) and GAISS Architects (Latvia), used as their starting point, research carried out previously by Landscape Interface Studio (LIS) of the School of Architecture + Landscape, Kingston University and Shared Assets – “Limehouse Cut pilot project – linking place and creativity” – as inspiration to focus their work. To read the full illustrated report click here.
The initial premise of the ‘Limehouse Cut: – linking place and creativity’ project was to develop a methodology that supports local residents and creative organisations to collaborate, in order to revitalise local spaces whilst retaining community control. Too often ‘creative-led’ regeneration seems to colonise urban areas, eventually displacing longer term local residents. LIS and Shared Assets had previously identified that the next stage of their research would bring together a local steering group to develop a ‘festival of ideas’ that would enable collaborations between creative and community groups to develop projects in the area. Through the negotiated creative use of chosen sites, these projects could lead to longer term partnerships, and build the capacity and the skills of local people to develop their own initiatives and management of local spaces.
Building upon the LIS and Shared Assets research and by identifying natural spaces along the Limehouse Cut that could allow for culture and exchange, Delvendahl Martin and GAISS Architects suggested that through temporary interventions this waterway could be animated. Delvendahl Martin and GAISS also adopted our earlier suggestion of and an annual festival or ‘festival of ideas’ to enable collaborations between creative and community groups to develop projects and events. By designing platforms, stages and seating, people would be encouraged to again engage with the water through increased access to it.
“What is the culture of the cut? Is it limited to what’s there, and what’s been there before, or can you expand it, change it and project it forward?
Who cares about the cut? Who is it for? The industry borrows it as infrastructure. The new apartments look onto it as a backyard. The joggers use it as a track. What else? Can it or should it mean more to other people?
Is the cut nature or artifice? It’s man-made, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an ecology. What could this waterway contribute to the non-human commons, of animals, plants and the climate.”
Rory Hyde, Curator of Contemporary Architecture and Urbanism, V&A
Below are selections of Delvendahl Martin and GAISS Architects design, sketches and suggestions for site development – all taken from a structured newspaper publication – Possible Futures: 7 Days in Poplar – capturing the development of the architecture images, sketches and ideas over the course of the International Architecture Showcase residency.
Credits: Edited by Tom Keeley and designed by Joseph Pochodzaj, the newspaper contains contributions from the residency’s programmers, partners and advisors including Vicky Richardson, Moira Lascelles, Marcel Baettig, Rory Hyde, Eleanor Fawcett, Mark Brearley, Matthew Frith and Mark Swenarton with photography by Gemma Thorpe.