BR – 6/12 – Updated field of interest

Updated field of interest, sorry it’s quite long!

My attitude towards the London 2012 Olympics (current construction phase, during Olympic games and the so called Olympic Legacy)

 The London 2012 Olympics has been driven by a group of individuals (mainly business men and women, bankers, lawyers, industrialists and politicians [see board of Olympic Park Legacy Company]) who perceive the Olympics arrival in London as a prime strategic investment. This investment is considered as purely capital-based investment that is being funded through public money and is also based upon very large debts. The London bid was won in 2005, before the current economic state of severe recession. The bid was based upon ideas that are deeply rooted in the highly unsustainable capitalist attitude of perpetual growth; that by pouring more money into East London it was going to improve the area for the ‘greater good’. This top down capitalist approach has resulted in the acquisition of a vast amount of land in East London and is seen as a way of improving a ‘run-down’ area. So, is removing football pitches; places where community spirit and inclusivity still exists really the best way to do that? Is removing Manor Allotments an area where generations of families have been growing vegetables for almost a hundred years and replacing it with an enormous media centre really encouraging people to be sustainable? Is compulsory purchasing some of the last remaining specialist industries in the country really helping the British economy? Is displacing the travelling community, one of most marginalised ethnic groups in the city being inclusive?

All of these steps that have been taken in view of the ‘prime strategic investment’ cannot be reversed. Sinclair appropriately describes the Olympics as an “engine of regeneration”. This regeneration is through large scale single ownership and a very narrow vision of the future. My project will suggest that regeneration should be used in its true sense; to allow for and embrace multiple regenerations – a re-writing of political and economic codes. These can be at a very micro scale and/or temporal (the regeneration might happen every hour or every ten years).

Hackney Wick

 Hackney Wick is home to a very transient population. It has the largest number of artists per metre squared in the world. There are travellers sites, light industry workers, local residents and construction workers for the Olympics (some who rent space temporarily in Hackney Wick).  This social complexity is rare and Hackney Wick is a place where those who don’t fit into narrow stereotypes can co-exist. Many of the people who live and or work here are twisting, subverting and subverting traditional work codes. There are very few people who work nine-til-five, 5 days a week. Work patterns are much more sporadic and non-conventional. There are shared yards, collective action, shared ownership, no dominant land owners (except ODA), perceived value is alternate to the city – the time to be creative and dedicate large amounts of time for ‘love’ and not necessarily just for money is seen throughout the area. The evident set of values found in Hackney Wick does not necessarily rely upon neo-liberal capitalist economic codes of perpetual growth. Could Hackney Wick continue to be a place where commerce is not the main priority?

Allsop describes the art of the East End has often been about “making the most ingenious use of spaces and things others had deemed worthless or left behind.” In this spirit of ingenuity and the ability to see value (not purely economic) in things ‘left behind’ my project will exploit the current non-traditional work codes that exist in the Wick and take time to rethink our reliance upon continual growth (and improvement) and instead embrace a steady state that makes time for pastimes. The current economic crisis will require a re-drafting of the role of work and therefore the reassertion of leisure time and therefore pastimes. Many businesses are asking staff to only work 3-4 days a week. This already evident shift in work patterns could be amplified by placing the importance on leisure time. Andrew Abbott has written a very interesting essay titled ‘ Recreation or Life Outside Work’ and organised a Festival of Pastimes in Leeds in 2008 “celebrating spare-time, self-organised and amateur activity.” I will draw upon his premise of focusing upon hobbies and pastimes which seems highly relevant in the current economic state. When perhaps we should question our current socially coded mindset of getting up early to make sure you’re not late for work, so you don’t lose your job, so you can afford your mortgage, make sure you work really hard when your there to try and get a promotion, so you can earn more money, so you can buy the things that you think you deserve and then feeling so tired when you get back from work that you can’t enjoy the things (or people). This situation relies upon continual improvement and growth (profit) and is highly unsustainable both economically and psychologically.

There is something to be said for just ‘being’ and Abbots describes amateurs as having a “lack of concern with the conventional ideas of progress…..[this] affords the amateur a degree of autonomy whereby they create their own set of criteria by which to judge the successes of their engagement. The amateur creates their own playing field and set of rules to enjoy the game.” The amateur could be perhaps be said to be a ‘re-coder’. Pastimes are mainly people-led and therefore a collective in which, to use Bauman’s ethics, people adopt “a moral stance… [and] assume responsibility for the Other”. This inclusion of the ‘other’ and the consequent acceptance of diversity and unpredictability is essential to the understanding of the way in which architects can affect people’s “political and phenomenal lives” and therefore their relationship with space. The interaction between ethics and space produces the code by which we measure our success; an assumption of responsibility for an ‘other’ becomes the guiding principle by which spatial decisions are made. I am interested in how Hackney Wick could further embrace amateurism (French amateur – ‘lover of’) through the creation of space where play and ‘free time’ is embraced and therefore allowing for the creation of a new set of relations. Perhaps, a Wick Ministry of Pastimes.

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