Both urban sites – Limehouse Cut and Oxford Street – approximately 1.5 kms straight lines of London’s infrastructure – canal and road way. One, a straight, broad strip of neglected industrial canal in the East End of London located in one of the most deprived areas of the UK, the other Europe’s busiest shopping street, with around half a million daily visitors and with heavy competition between foot and bus traffic it is the main east-west bus corridor through Central London.
Previously Landscape Interface Studio carried out the research project “Limehouse Cut – linking place and creativity”. The initial premise of the 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. The project document contains the research material from the first phase of the Limehouse project and formed part of the material showcased at the recent AHRC Creative Economy event held in London.
As part of the research, post-graduate students on the Landscape and Urbanism MA and Landscape Architecture (LI accredited) PgDip collected data on the canal and its neighbouring environment looking at the potential of surrounding areas, existing green infrastructure and the potential for improvements in lighting and drainage (SUDS) and the possible knock on effects of the London Super Sewer which will run underneath and follow the route of the Limehouse Cut canal.
Landscape IS_Cities Alive_Summer Charette
Now we are exploring another iconic site in London – Oxford Street, situated in the heart of London’s West End. The West End is a major national and international asset with economic activity that outpaces that of any other area of London. It generates 3% of the country’s economic output (£51.25 billion GVA in 2014), even greater than the City of London’s contribution. Comprising just a few square miles, it sits at the heart of a global city projected to expand to 10 million people over the next 15 years.
The demands placed on London’s infrastructure, especially its transport system, as a result of this growth are well documented. Improvements have recently been delivered, and more are due shortly – for example with the opening of Crossrail. These will create greater demand for, and access to, the West End. In a recent report, ‘The impact of Crossrail on visitor numbers in Central London’, Arup’s analysis indicates that Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road and Farringdon stations will deliver some 745,000 people to Central London per day in the year 2026.
Landscape IS_Cities Alive_Summer Charette is an innovative shared project proposal – to trial interdisciplinary graduate and practitioner outdoor learning in the context of ARUP Cities Alive research report, undertaken by the ARUP Foresight Group. Landscape IS_Cities Alive_Summer Charette will be collaborative across various areas of practice. The Cities Alive initiative targets rethinking green infrastructure and addresses the role of green infrastructure – trees, water, public spaces – in delivering measurable benefits to the quality of life in cities.
Landscape Interface Studio has successfully bid for funding from Kingston University’s Centre for Higher Education Research and Practice (CHERP) to support the development of a project that demonstrates LandscapeIS’ pedagogical approach. Live projects promotes learning through direct action on the ground and encourage continuous consideration in response to findings and research. Students actively engage in forming research questions, assume responsibility for investigation, experimentation, and developing projects and outcomes. They became intellectually, emotionally, and socially engaged thus enhancing their learning experience.
 Arup’s ‘Cities Alive’ report, March 2014, envisages cities of the future as integrated networks of intelligent green spaces, designed to improve the health and wellbeing of citizens. The report, undertaken by Arup’s Foresight + Research + Innovation and Landscape Architecture teams, addresses global issues such as climate change, urban population growth, resource scarcity and risk of urban flooding.
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.
Too often ‘creative-led’ regeneration seems to colonise urban areas, eventually displacing longer term local residents. We’re working with our partners at Kingston University’s Landscape Interface Studio to develop a methodology that supports local residents and creative organisations to collaborate, in order to revitalise local spaces whilst retaining community control. We have focused so far on a stretch of London’s canal system in east London, the Limehouse Cut.
You can see the full visual report of our work here.
The story so far…
The Limehouse Cut is the oldest stretch of man-made waterway in London, built to connect the Thames with the lower reaches of the River Lea. It demarcates a dead straight mile through Poplar in Tower Hamlets. Whilst first impressions may be of waterway that is neglected in comparison to the rest of London’s canal system, it forms part of a diverse neighbourhood that is rich in social and industrial history. The area is characterised by a mixture of light industrial, residential, leisure and commercial uses and is home to a range of local creative industries. To the north the Olympic Park and Lower Lea Valley have undergone substantial changes, while to the south Limehouse has seen redevelopment and gentrification.
With these first impressions as our starting point we began to delve deeper into the layers of creativity, industry, history and social connections to find out what makes this the place that it is, and how it could be re-imagined. Our research took on two intertwined strands: people and place.
Kingston University spent time uncovering the make-up of the area through desktop research and mapping including:
• Old maps charting the development of the area
• Current demographic information
• Listed buildings in the area
• Current planning applications
• Pedestrian access to the canal
• Bridges and open spaces.
• Noise mapping
• Features in literature or film
We also started to look at underused plots of land and open spaces that had the potential to be utilised for new activities.
While this place-based research was taking place we started talking to local people. We interviewed some local businesses, community groups and organisations, listening to their concerns, hopes and ideas. These open conversations with local groups opened up some unexpected and interesting avenues. Meeting with local agencies, who have influence over local agendas opened up discussions about existing projects already underway in the area and allowed us to gauge enthusiasm for our ideas.
Social and functional analysis by Patrick Abercrombie 1943
An important part of the process has been bringing people and place together and so we invited people for an afternoon of storytelling on the narrowboat Lapwing, along the Limehouse Cut. The focus was to inspire them to share their stories and memories of the area, the effects of changes in canalside development, and their impressions of how it is today. With a range of different participants, it was interesting to see discussions between local residents, cyclists, housing developers, architects, boaters and canoeists and to hear their opinions.
As a result of our initial work we believe that there is great potential to bring together the different resources that already exist in the area to create new activities on underused and under-managed sites, including the canal itself. Such an approach would ensure a longer term legacy of bringing new uses to spaces that are currently under-managed, improving the local environment, enriching the local community, and fostering new relationships between local creative organisations, residents and agencies.
How do you develop a methodology for affecting positive local change and reimagine underused and undermanaged spaces in ways that involve and benefit local residents? We are endeavouring to mobilise existing resources and build the relationships that will enable sustainable, creative and collaborative community control and revitalisation of local spaces. We see this as an alternative to the colonisation of urban areas by a ‘creative-led’ regeneration that too often seems to exist in isolation from local residents before eventually displacing them. We want to ask the difficult questions, harness local knowledge and history and help to generate a shared vision.
We have reached a point where we need to move onto the next steps of developing the project. We have seen that despite its neglected appearance local people have a deep connection to the Limehouse Cut, but there is a need for support and inspiration if they are to going to get involved in reimagining its future or managing local open spaces. We would like to bring together a local steering group to develop a programme that would enable collaborations between creative and community groups to develop projects in the area. Through the negotiated creative use of chosen sites, we hope that 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.
Beyond Limehouse we are keen to test these methodologies elsewhere, to explore the potential for bring local people and creative organisations together in new ways to reimagine difficult urban spaces and collaborate in their management.
This research was made possible by funding from Creative Works London.
Research to date has been captured in a discussion document – see full text version above – which is now being used as the basis for further conversations with key stakeholders. The project was also selected to be part of the AHRC Creative Economy Showcase exhibition which took place in London earlier this spring.
Limehouse Cut — Linking place and creativity. Can the creative industries support the process of regeneration, providing infrastructure for London’s creative economy, whilst retaining distinctive qualities of place? This project’s methodology addresses challenges of creatively engaging people in underused ex-industrial sites, paying attention to the history and identity of place, its environment and character.
Introducing an interview filmed at the AHRC Creative Economy Showcase at Kings Place Conference Centre on Wednesday 12th March 2014. Here Assoc. Prof Pat Brown talks about the project highlighting recent research based on the Limehouse Cut canal in London.
The interactive stand, designed by Alexandru Malaescu, featured aerial mapping of The Cut and a long section of the whole of the norther edge of the canal. Digital documentation of research material gathered by both Landscape Interface Studio and our project collaborators Shared Assets was available on iPads plus footage taken during the recent Limhouse Cut Floating Workshops.
Professor Rick Rylance, Chief Executive of the AHRC, opened the event, “It’s becoming increasingly clear that the arts and humanities play a crucial role in our hugely successful Creative Economy which harnesses innovation, digital technologies and creativity. This event gives us the opportunity to celebrate the success of AHRC projects but also to spotlight the importance of collaborative and partnership working. The UK is blessed with outstanding arts and humanities researchers, but is also blessed with a wonderful cultural infrastructure, marvellous museums’ galleries and other institutions, and adventurous and resourceful creative businesses. It is the combination that brings the energy and excitement.”
Professor Rick Rylance, Chief Executive of the AHRC visits the Landscape Interface Studio stand
Landscape Interface Studio (LIS), Kingston University has been selected by the Arts and Humanities Research Council to develop and present an exhibition of their recent collaborative project, “Limehouse Cut – linking place and creativity” at the upcoming AHRC Creative Economy Showcase 2014 which will take place at King’s Place, London on March 12th 2014.
The AHRC Creative Economy Showcase will be targeted at policy-makers, business leaders in the creative industries and other sectors, knowledge exchange practitioners and Directors of research in universities, senior representatives from AHRC’s partner organisations in the Creative Economy, representatives from the AHRC’s investments in the Creative Economy and other stakeholders. The showcase will highlight the outcomes and innovations from AHRC’s activities in this area, provide opportunities to debate and influence current top level thinking in the sector, and facilitate networking. The Showcase Event will:
- highlight the vital relationship between the arts and humanities research base and the UK’s Creative Economy
- raise the profile of the creative and cultural sector, its contribution to growth and innovation, within the UK economy
- highlight innovation and best practice in knowledge exchange and partnership working in the arts and humanities
- showcase the AHRC’s wide range of activities in the Creative Economy
The UK’s Creative Economy – embracing the creative industries and the cultural sector – is a dynamic and vital part of our economy. It accounts for more than 5% of UK Gross Value Added (higher than Financial Services, Advanced Manufacturing and Construction), nearly 10% of the economy, and is estimated to be growing at a higher rate than any other sector.
LIS developed their Limehouse Cut project with London based SME Shared Assets and this showcase event is a perfect opportunity to reveal project content and methodology. It will also help to expose the potential of landscape design and knowledge for community asset development and supports place-making in the wider realm of the creative economy. The exhibition will:
- Consider whether there is a role for creative organisations to explore and support place-making and how the methodology developed might be applied to other situations.
- Explore what tools and strategies need to be in place to enable the creative arts to act as a catalyst for place-making.
- Demonstrate the power of design to support the growth of the creative economy whilst encouraging knowledge exchange between higher education and creative organisations.
LIS and Shared Asset’s collaboration has been highly successful not only attracting initial research funding via Creativeworks London’s voucher scheme but has also attracting further funding in the form of sponsorship from The Culture Capital Exchange for the “Limehouse Cut Floating Workshop” held last October forming part of The Culture Capital Exchange’s annual ‘Inside Out Festival′. This further support from the AHRC recognises the important contribution of landscape design – not only to urban design but to the wider cultural debate regarding the relationship between the arts and humanities research base and the UK’s Creative Economy.
For further details of The AHRC Creative Economy Showcase 2014
As part of ongoing research based on the Limehouse Cut in East London, a group of post-graduate students on the Landscape and Urbanism MA and Landscape Architecture (LI accredited) PgDip courses have been collecting data on the canal and its neighbouring environment. These images were taken by Ales Seitl.
The images represent the canal – its surfaces and surroundings – at different times of day, different weather conditions, reflecting the changing flora and fauna, seasons and moods. Ales’ written response to the canal –
“Limehouse Cut – it feels like a barrier and opportunity at the same time. Some of the pictures capture the notional gap and emptiness between the canal life and the lives of locals as well as the separation between both banks. They need to give a big hug to each other. With a gallery of rich textures, reflections and some traces of past days smelling of oil, coal, varnish, water and sweat you can occasionally find these layers hidden below other layers, magically appearing in evening sun. ” Text: Ales Seitl – Landscape and Urbanism MA
Parts of the canal structures are visible and in use and lend themselves to further detailed investigations.
This recent studio workshop formed part of a MA Landscape + Urbanism taught module led by Pat Brown and Honoré van Rijswijk . Here students were asked to develop their responses to the Limehouse Cut Canal in East London following the recent “Limehouse Cut Floating Workshop” – part of the ‘Inside Out Festival 2013′.
Also present were Shared Assets who are working with Landscape Interface Studio, Kingston University on their collaborative project – ‘Localities + the Creative Industries: The Right Place at the Right Time’ funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The project is located around the Limehouse Cut Canal Link and it focused on understanding connections to ‘place’ and how local communities can become more involved in re-imagining, recreating and managing their local neighbourhood and landscape. At present the final project report and outputs are being developed and student proposals will progress in parallel.
Honoré van Rijswijk is the founder of Frontwork. He has over fifteen years experience in major urban regeneration and development projects in the UK and abroad. This includes masterplanning of new neighbourhoods, commercial and mixed-use developments, public realm design, major transportation initiatives and the development of city and regional strategies.
He is currently working in an international urban design research project ‘Small Urbanism’, exploring the future role of urban design within the changing economic climate. He is also a member of the Academy of Urbanism an active and diverse group of thinkers, decision-makers and practitioners involved in the social, cultural, economic, political and physical development of our villages, towns and cities.