Before the London 2012 Olympic Games a competition was launched to find ‘meanwhile’ uses for three prominent brownfield sites in the Royal Docks and Canning Town. Ash Sakula’s winning competition entry, the Canning Town Caravanserai, is located on a site opposite Canning Town station in one of the most ethnically diverse and most deprived wards in London. Over five years their temporary and low-budget project became an urban oasis, a living manifesto for a new generation of urban public space that integrated forums, facilities, workshops and workspaces, all collaboratively produced by hosts and guests.
Canning Town’s project is centred on an adaptable, open courtyard, surrounded on all sides by market stalls and production spaces. They re-invented the traditional hub of the Caravanserai which is an oasis-like meeting and trading post. Hundreds were built along the Silk Road across Asia, Africa and Europe, offering travellers a hub to rest, drink, eat, entertain and develop business opportunities. They became places of exchange for ideas, culture and knowledge.