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Abbey Green design competition: Why Barking is special

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AJ editor Kieran Long introduces the shortlisted projects and explains why Barking deserves a popular, characterful Abbey Green

Barking is a special place. A place of real East End character and charm, it is also one of the most diverse places in London. At the AJ, we feel a special connection with the town, and I personally have been thinking and writing about Barking for some years.

My family grew up in and around Barking, and another AJ staffer’s parents were married in St Margaret’s Church in the heart of Abbey Green.

The Abbey Green competition is just the latest in a string of innovative events and initiatives that have taken place in recent years in and around Barking town centre.

A13 Artscape, the arts project along the A13 road curated by Irish architect Tom de Paor; good new social housing by Peter Barber, Jestico + Whiles and others; the Barking Central development by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AJ 13.09.07), with muf’s wonderful, award-winning public space at its heart – all testify to a borough and a town open to new ideas and ready to challenge convention.

At the AJ, we have enjoyed supporting the borough and Design for London to find and select the best possible designer for this project.

The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham’s desire to run this competition with the AJ and Design for London also shows that the borough (unlike many) is open to procurement routes that allow for new and exciting voices to emerge.

This is doubly rare in the context of public realm and landscape design, and the borough should be applauded.

We are excited by the response to the competition, and the schemes published on the following pages show both the diversity of approaches we received, but also, critically, how difficult a brief this was.

The practices which appear in the shortlist have very different approaches to the space, and we hope that the result will be a popular, characterful Abbey Green – the heart of Barking.

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