Urban Works

This year, we will explore ways in which conditions of work and inhabitation can be re-established as an integral and synergetic part of urban life. We will look at diverse modes of spatial and social behaviour to be able to develop skills, intuition and judgement, for a vigorous, yet crafted culture of place. The way of designing is hereby directly related to what we do.

Our context, East London and the Thames Gateway, is part of some of the largest urban restructuring processes in Europe. The urban region bears ongoing traces of ship yards, containerisation, industry, global financial markets, housing, dereliction and speculation.

Located within East London’s Lea Valley, the particular site of interest is an industrial island within a topographical and urban archipelago. Streams of water and transportation, as well as highly deprived communities form a demanding context. Subject to a particular grain of industrial buildings and intricate yards, the site is in parts a conservation area, a conglomeration of used and disused spaces. Tracing the site and acknowledging an ongoing re-industrialisation process opens the scope for diverse scenarios.

To gain inspiration and a measure of urbanism, we will research particular conditions of cityness in Shoreditch/ London, Venice and the Netherlands.

The site and its context, as well as guiding research will set the tone for distinct strategic interventions in a range of scales, from urban through to building qualities and their immanent details. Using urban design methodology, the projects will focus on sited buildings, by invigorating existing and imagining new, to create schemes that are both, sustainable and enjoyable.

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Sugar House Lane Site


"While it is natural and necessary for architects to concentrate on the building itself, the bright light of this often eclipses the surrounding world, darkening the very horizon that grants the building its standing. Anyone who stops to think about it knows perfectly well that individual settings are always interconnected with and dependent on a horizon that transcends them, sewn into a fabric of rooms, buildings, streets, towns and nature..."

David Leatherbarrow in Uncommon Ground, 2002


Venice - Study Trip November 2008

The city unfolds itself in a different light, every day. Just capturing a moment, we critically explored this rich urban fabric.

We walked and traced glass in Murano, from sand to sale and deposit. The Architecture Biennale brought the world to Venice and we walked again. Richard Sennett‘s text Fear of Touching from his book Flesh and Stone set the tone for a workshop in the Jewish Ghetto. We recorded spatial means of segregation, to learn and understand.



Venice, Rory O'Sullivan

The Netherlands - Study Trip Jannuary 2009

Below the sea and man-made, the Netherlands offered some contemporary examples of understanding scales and toporgraphies. On the urban scale we visited harbour developents in Rotterdam and Amsterdam, like Borneo Sporenburg. On the building scale we looked at cultural spaces, such as the Kunsthal and the Villa VPRO.



Kunsthal Rotterdam, Image Richard Stevenson

Collaborative Site Model - Jannuary 2009

On one hand, the 1:500 model allowed the students to understand and explore the existing site in three dimensions. This included topographical changes, water edges, buildings and other elements of the existing city scape.
On the other hand it allowed the testing and development of student's individual proposals. As series of 1:500 model workshops kick-started the design process. They allowed judgement and set the tone for final interventions.




Sugar House Lane - Site Model 1:500

Darren Lee

The scheme connects existing residential communities across the Lea Valley. By breaking down the existing warehouse typology on Sugar House Lane, the project seeks to introduce a community market and urban housing for families. A co-operative management group maintains a framework to re-intesify streets. For example, it allows non-core supermarket functions to form smaller shops to invigorate street frontages and social networks.
An interplay of open and wide spaces is used to guide movements and create a diverse street experience.


Cafe in Shoreditch - Movement Study, Darren Lee

Community Market and Housing, Darren Lee

Eleanor Boardman

By strengthening the historical significance of the existing ‘yards of note’ on Sugar House Lane, the project seeks to use these rigid constraints to introduce new urban blocks. A new focal point is created by the introduction of a centre for performance, scenery construction and theatre production offices. These are connected by a network of pedestrian routes intended to open up access across the site.
The different uses overlap in a central space and allow the building to perform along diverse temporal modes.

Christopher Chapman

A sensitive densification of neglected industrial spaces, the project bridges the gap between existing residential communities across the Lea Valley. By working with the constraints present in the conservation area of Sugar House Lane, focal points are created, surrounded by residential units. These private housing units subsidise new work spaces within the existing warehouses, managed by a community cooperative, the Sugar House Lane Action Group.
The building intervention creates three new courtyards, each dedicated to different communal qualities along the watefront.

Workshops and Housing, Christopher Chapman

Jane Clossick

Responding to the changing economic and social needs of the site, the project is a hotel which serves the Olympics, sited on both sides of the canal to the east of the site. Through minor alterations, the hotel can become an urban block, with housing on the upper storeys, and public spaces at ground level. Further apartments integrate with existing housing on the opposite bank, and the water becomes a habitable space, traversed by a bridge, with a serviced wall enabling urban residential boat moorings.

Before, during and after the 2012 Olympics - A Hotel and Transformation, Jane Clossick

Convertible Hotel, Jane Clossick

Rob Houmoller

A flower farm using horticultural therapy to treat patients with mental health issues, the project links together apparently disparate elements to make a coherent whole. At a city scale, the project is composed of a rooftop network of greenhouses, maximising productive green space in East London. These provide flowers for sale in London flower markets, and are a place for those living at the mental health centre to occupy their time productively, and gain work experience in a calm and safe environment.
The temporal play of flower's shadows and light reflects into each individual accommodation, a subtle resonance of ongoing life.

Flower Farm and Mental Health Pre-Release, Rob Houmoller

James Lim

Initial studies in Shoreditch looked at a railway viaduct. Several arches form a network of spaces and functions. They are partly connected to varying degrees. It is an agglomeration of rare uses, essential for inner urban environments.
Daily use forms overlapping territories, a spatial and social synergy.

Overlapping Territories - Study in Shoreditch, James Lim

Louise Ollerearnshaw

By using boat building technology, a new marina, boat workshop and residential units provide a new hub for timber recycling and the boating community. Waste timber is collected from construction sites using the river and canal network, which is then used to repair boats and build private apartments to subsidise the continuation of the prototype scheme. The building typology is shaped along movements of boats, requirements for light and inhabitation.

Boat Community, Luise Olerearnshaw

Victoria Sharman-Cox

Process based, this project begins by introducing a new industry to the site, making a timber building component. The existing urban fabric in the conservation area can then be gradually altered, extending the scheme. The project consists of a series of spaces within which distinct manufacturing processes are employed to produce the building component, resulting in a series of individual spatial experiences. As such the project is a prototype for the diverse conditions in East London, where careful adaptation is an essential part of the urban environment.

Timber Component Industry, Vicktoria Sharman-Cox

Richard Stevenson

A dance school and performance theatre with integrated housing, the project uses internal courtyards to mediate between different scales, grains and functions. Light and vistas are used as a means of navigation along a new route which takes pedestrian traffic through the building, connecting into existing and proposed. The scheme plays with varying proximities to the waterfront, with an open and enclosed performance space opening directly to the river. Context, carefully judged build form and open space allow a variety of possible scenarios over time.



Initial study, courtyard in Shoreditch, Richard Stevenson

Dance School and Performance Theatre, Richard Stevenson
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End of Year Exhibition

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