Three months into the Scholarship Programme, and one cannot help but marvel at the encyclopaedic knowledge the Design for London team (DfL) have over the geographic and demographic composition of this great city.
In fact, it often seems comparable to a huddle of London cab drivers, exchanging sound-bites about back streets, landmarks and black spots… people who have seemingly graduated from ‘The Knowledge’ with distinction.
But this is no idle chat or banter, as we are whisked around the city, pawing over emerging development frameworks and masterplans. This is real thinking around subjects demanding the keenest of focus and energy, knowledge and creativity.
We have been shopping in Sutton, St Giles Circus and Brixton, skirted in and around the Olympic development site and the emerging fringe masterplans, paddled canoes along the River Lea, played football in Hackney Marshes and pondered the character of London’s Royal Docks.
We have stitched, knitted, linked and threaded, as well as realigned, opened-up and de-cluttered. We have discussed ownership, boundaries and severance as well as accessibility, permeability and legibility. We have reviewed schemes aimed at place making and identity, whilst pondering specificity, culture and ethnicity. And all this from the relative safety of the seventh floor of Palestra, on Blackfriars Road.
In parallel, the research programme, developed in conjunction with my DfL Scholarship Mentor (Eleanor Fawcett), is gathering pace with a site identified on the northern reaches of the Lea Valley encompassing Lea Bridge Road, Hackney Marshes and the nearby Water Works. Local to this study area, are numerous emerging base line studies and masterplans of varying scales, which seek to unify, connect and integrate outlying or isolated areas, and open up derelict land for more productive activity.