An urban strategy for Tower Hamlets, East London: Small scale public spaces in Bow
MASTER THESIS_DSD URBAN ASSYMETRIES GRADUATION STUDIO_supervised by_T.Kaminer
Grater London_Tower Hamlets borough
Tower Hamlets is an area dominated by working class inhabitants since the 19th century and till today is characterized as a low- incomes’ area [immigrants, etc]. The last decades the area has become subject to new developments that raise the real estate prices and brings middle- class into it. This trend, along with the development of the Isle of Dogs into a central business district, is encouraging the gentrification forces into the area. We believe the missing connections both within the area and with the rest of the city is a major problem. Tackling the polarization and social segregation should be a main issue to focus on.
We propose two urban strategies in parallel. Both strategies deal with the issues of connectivity, introduction of new building program, housing density and revitalization of public space.
Marathon crossing Bow_Crossways estate intervention project
In the context of 2012 Olympics, the marathon route that begins from City is scheduled to pass through Tower Hamlets and end up to the Olympic village. The route -instead of taking place along High Street- will zig- zag through the existing streets, crossing the open spaces of some housing estates. These open spaces – relatively small ones, therefore we call them pocket spaces- will be redesigned as public spaces to host the event and also some public program will be located into them.
The selected pocket space is called Crossways estate. The concept of the design refers to a unification gesture in a neighbourhood that is characterised from socio-spatial fragmentation as seen from the analysis. Therefore the existing platform over the railway is extended to bridge the two sides, and create a pedestian access from one side to the other. This extended platform hosts public program under and on top of it in close realtion with the three high rise residential buildings of Crossways estate. This ‘unifying platform’ is actually a network of bridges that are also designed to host the Marathon event -the marathon route passes through Crossways estate. That has been taken into consideration during the design process.
It is of mere importance the existance of many educational institutes in the area [Bow School, London Technical College]. The new public program introduced is intended to serve the student community of the area since there seems to be no sufficient space for the students to socialize.
The closed spaces are small pavillions of 6*6 or 12*6 plan dimensions. The ground floor is redesigned as a public square with the urban furniture and planting and the closed spaces host small scale commerce as well as small pubs and cafes. Therefore, the ground floor acquires the character of a local shopping center.
design logic_concrete folds
Morphologically, unity should be emphasized. The project constitutes the platform on which the program could potentially change and transform -according to the needs and the administrative local bodies that can run it. However,temporary building structure is combined with stable concrete one that becomes the receptive body of the program. The concrete floor is folded to become the pavillion roof that hosts the lighter prefab building elements. The result is a unified structure of a continuous concrete surface that is a combination of closed and open-air public spaces.
On the upperfloor-in direct relation with the highrises’ first floor entrances- educational and artistic activities are located. The local artists’ organisation, Bow Arts Trust, is running art projects and workshops for the neighbourhood and these spaces are supposed to become part of this program. Moreover, some of the pavillions are designed as small residences and ateliers that can be rented to local artists on a small fee. Therefore, the top of the platform becomes a lively space of cultural activity that attempts to engage the inhabitants to a social and cultural interaction. Considering the multicultural character of Tower Hamlets population, this programmatic approach could result to a positive social condition, tackling segregation.
On the day of the Marathon
The structure is designed to host the Olympic Marathon as seen above, an attempt of the project to attract money and atttention in Tower Hamlets. Therefore, the athletes will run on part of the paths created that is 6.6m wide-the path width has determined the space grid. The green slopes and the open staircase that leads to the ground floor could also operate as the spectators’ space on the day of the event.