SB_Scenario and Programme – A rough attitude….

Here are some initial thoughts on the development of a scenario and programme…I’ll be working on the drawings for the rest of this week, which will add to the development of these ideas. Any comments welcome / encouraged! A PDF of the text below is available here >Scenario and Programme – Attitude _SB_12-01-11

1.0               INTERVENTION

2.0               TRANSFORMATION

3.0               ROLE OF ARCHITECTURE

4.0               LEGACY

5.0               POTENTIAL HYPOTHESIS

6.0               THEMES

1.0          INTERVENTION

The condition that I was looking at in my intervention was that of temporary land use – I’d like to find a phrase that more eloquently sums up what I mean by this; perhaps ‘contingent use’ is more appropriate. Essentially, I am interested in how the use of a particular piece of land is affected by the ‘resonance’ of things near it; their past and futures, as well as its own.

With (an eventual resort to) playful exploration of the spatial agency of Ice cream Vans, the Factory, Makers and Drivers, I wanted really to look at the transformative condition of the Wick…


In economics, reading ‘growth’ as ‘transformation’[1] leads to a more developed understanding of motivation for an activity, in relation to time. Businesses, organisations, agencies seek to transform themselves through their activities, ultimately becoming more resilient through diversity and adaptability – an agility, or ‘softness’ in operation.

Transformation is often what we mean by ‘personal growth’ – we too seek to become more resilient to the world and accepting of it through learning, gaining new skills and building new personal networks.


The role of architecture is fundamental to ‘transformation’ – building is a conscious act, singularly a summary, assessment and statement of intent. The farmer that builds a classroom to signify his intent to diversify his business into education[2]; the artist that moves to the ‘Wick for solitude and ‘space’. The first act of any cohesive immigrant group is often the construction of a religious or community building[3], a visible gesture announcing arrival; solidarity; resilience; identity.

Departed structures leave traces on the fabric of others, whilst the prevalence of workshops and scrap-yards value re-invention over replacement, perpetuating architecture centred on the event – that of transformation.

4.0          LEGACY

Legacy, then, becomes an obvious theme. The ‘Wick holds evidence, physical or psycho-geographical, of its past uses and presences, whilst the Olympic park looms ominously over its future. It is due to transform.

From the rural-urban shift – following the infrastructural trauma of rail and canal – through the crystalline growth of slums following rapid industrialization, wartime bomb-damage, post-war housebuilding, late 20th Century demolition, and on to the regenerative (degenerative?) engulf of the Olympic development with its affect on property value and ensuing colonisation by artists – Hackney, and specifically Hackney Wick, is a place of transformation and resilience. So, in any act or intervention, what remains as time moves on? Who says what stays? Who values the process, as well as the product? And how have people and place become more resilient through the experience?


Transformation and Legacy can be read in two distinct ways in relation to our particular site and its resonant / contingent context;

1/ The obvious comment can be made concerning the highly contentious Olympic Legacy. In transformation from ‘games mode’ to ‘legacy mode’ the Olympic park will undergo the removal or relocation of large quantities of physical material. This reconfigured park – and direct re-use of removed material – has been addressed by Johnathan Walker, of the University of Westminster, in his project ‘The Bladders’[4]. A critique of this project might reveal a narrow focus on the park itself, ignoring the wastefulness of the construction industry as a whole and the sites own geographic contingency. Is this wastefulness economically driven? Or socially? Do we just not know how to use things, craftsman-like, elegantly and inventively? What, then, is the potential for Hackney Wick to serve London as a whole as a ‘clearing’ house for unused construction material? One man’s waste is another man’s treasure….

Olympic material could be used as a catalyst to kick start an assemblage of individuals (metal-workers, scrap-dealers, artists, architects…) into action, with the act of ‘making’ offering a deeper connection between ourselves and our world. Essentially part, or all, of the Wick could be considered as London’s ‘reclamation’ yard, in multiple senses of the word.

2/ History offers a reading of the Wick’s inhabitation in the not so distant past. Water has been a theme, and is a useful metaphor for transformation[5]. ‘Washing clean’ is an attractive proposition in our lives at a number of levels, from the morning shower through to religious ritual. Bathing has served both a functional and social purpose in the ‘Wick area; the natural pools of the Marshes offered a free resource for washing and bathing to local inhabitants in the decades preceding the industrial revolution, until a combination of disease and industrial pollution necessitated the introduction of infrastructure; the Public Baths and Wash-houses Act of 1846 enclosed a once openly public activity. Whilst the Olympic Park celebrates water and the historic contribution of the Lea Valley to the City of London, it does not return the waterways to subjective usage. As such, it does not truly celebrate water as a transformative force in our society.

Transformation requires an input or catalyst; it requires energy. The Energy Centre for the Olympic site is perhaps over specified for ‘legacy mode’ – or perhaps just represents a valuable resource inappropriately applied. Whilst in is intended that heat from the CCHP system will continue to heat the Aquatics Centre, this is exclusive in that the pool remains a facility for elite athletes rather than the general public. Perhaps energy is more appropriately diverted to the nearer ‘Wick? This place could once again become a place of social necessity – bathing; washing. Laundry could serve the transient community, creating a forum that people attend initially through necessity and later for connection. What does bathing mean for the communities established in and around the area? How does access to water empower and transform us? This hypothesis proposes the establishment of a ‘mission’ for a ‘community’ (itself a transformation, perhaps incorporating members from different ‘tribes’ and acknowledging that people can belong to multiple communities) facing an imminent energy-poor future.

6.0          THEMES

1/            Personal / Organisational transformation.

2/            Resilience through the ability to transform

3/            Temporary – a fleeting moment in time / traces and presences / Legacy.

4/            Role of Architecture – a gesture / catalyst / indicator of / commitment to transformation

5/            Role of the Architect – a transformative agent / facilitator / learner-educator / Human botanist (anthropologist) / choreographer.


[1]Transformation Thinking’ – Joyce Wycoff

[2]Farmeco Community Care-farm’ – Hill Holt Wood Design Team

[3] Hackney Museum

[4] ‘The Bladders: A Legacy Project’ – Jonathan Walker; University of Westminster;

[5] Susan Derges in ‘Shadow Catchers: Camera-less photography’ – V&A Museum, London


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