Cultural regeneration – Hackney Wick and Fish Island, London

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Hand illustrated maps of Hackney Wick and Fish Island 2012 as seen in ‘The Wick Newspaper Issue#2′ – more here

Agile City is a project based in the north of Glasgow in Scotland, in an area undergoing significant regeneration with arts and culture at its core. Working within this context we’re interested in looking towards other examples to deepen our understanding of how buildings, areas and cities can be reimagined through creative and cultural activity. We have written a series of 5 posts that explore this theme including; NDSM in Amsterdam; L’île de Nantes in France; Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam; and Le Quartier des Spectacles in Montreal. Here we look at Hackney Wick and Fish Island in London..

The hosting of a major sporting event such as the World Cup or the Olympics can drive massive change in the landscape of cities. Given the urban, economic and, above all, social consequence that the construction big infrastructure has on a neighbourhood, it has to be carefully considered. Developing an Olympic stadium, driving a high level of traffic for a short period of time, can have irreversible negative consequences on a place (Hello, Brasil).

For the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic games, the largest regeneration site in Europe was seen as an opportunity to rejuvenate London’s Lower Lea Valley.

Aware of the potential consequences of the construction of the Queen Elisabeth Olympic park in this area, the Mayor of London piloted the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC). This organisation is responsible the physical legacy of the Games – the long-term planning, development, management and maintenance of the Park and its impact on the surrounding area after the Games. It delivered an important number of Olympic fringe projects in the Lower Lea Valley and East London.

Hackney Wick and Fish Island (HWFI) was previously industrial area and has become home to the densest concentration of artists in Europe. The emergence of a creative neighborhood such as Hackney Wick has been driven by the on-going pursuit of affordability, as well as the need for self-regulated workspace. Thus, this fragile ecology was more at risk of suffering the consequence of the Olympic regeneration masterplan: whether by eviction or the increase in property prices and rent.

In order to sustain and develop this environment of creative production, the London Legacy Development Corporation commissioned a study – realised by Richard Brown – in order to understand the ecosystem of these creative factories. “It is therefore crucial to understand the social and spatial factors at play in these creative factories.” He analyses the internal architecture of the premises, the importance of the yards and common areas, and the different practices of the tenants, as well as their relationship to the space: shared studio or live/work space…

Considering the findings from his study the work The LLDC has focused on was:

“preserving and enhancing the character of the area, giving it a robustness and resilience to survive the forces of gentrification. Strengthening links between local artists, businesses and community groups and providing places of exchanges”

Practically, the local makers were commissioned to use their skills in public realm interventions such as the construction and improvement of bridges, playable spaces and roadways to help establish signs of the existing creative activity in the area. This resulted in projects that helped improve the neighbourhood, linking grass-roots initiatives with strategic development, while contributing to the wider aims of the Olympic Games.

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The crucial role of the Peanuts Factory shared Yard in how the block operates as seen here

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Interior of a Live/Work space in The Peanuts Factory – as seen here

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A12 underpass: Use of two underpass spaces on either side of the canal to host a series of events. Provision of lighting, power, water and surfacing.

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Site of 2011: Folly for a Flyover by Assemble. The Folly hosted an extensive programme of cinema, performance and play, night and day during 9 weeks. The success of the project persuaded the London Legacy Development Corporation to invest in permanent infrastructure which has allowed the site to continue as a public space. Photo by Assemble.                                                                                              Assemble recently won the prestigious Turner Prize for their work in Liverpool. Read about it here.

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The White Building: Refurbishment of a historic canal-side industrial building into a public accessible cultural hub. Building links between the creative community and local residents and raising the public profile of the area. Read about it here

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The View Tube, situated near the Olympic Stadium and the Aquatics Centre, offers with the Greenway, views of the Olympic site which is currently being transformed into Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – a new piece of the city with state-of-the-art venues, public parklands and a year round programme of events. LLDC 

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Greenway cycle and footpath, which connects Hackney Wick to Pudding Mill Lane in Stratford, was visited by thousands of people during the build up to the Games. LLDC