Barking and Dagenham Borough Council is working with five collaborative and interdisciplinary teams in a radical bid to revitalise the town's square which could result in £20 million worth of new buildings.
The teams, which it has shortlisted in an enlightened architectural competition, are: Berkeley Homes with TM2, Enterprise Regeneration and Andrew Sabin; Urban Catalyst with Alsop and Stormer, Matthew Lloyd, Rydon Group, Land Use Consultants and Martin Richman; McAllister/Shed km with Kemp Pennington and Thomas Heatherwick Studio; and Panter Hudspith with Hawkestone Properties, Livingstone Eyre and Ron Haselden. They were all asked to look at the built form of the development, quality of public space, and at hosting a temporary art event this June during Architecture Week to herald all the changes.
The teams responded, armed with honoraria of £2000 each. They came up with mixed-use designs featuring restaurants, libraries, flats and shops, most of them aiming at forging vital, 24-hour environments and the creation of bold forms of public art and landscaping.
The competition is a direct result of another local initiative. The council has already been active in the area with the £9 million A13 Artscape public art project along the major trunk road into London. That's where the first idea came from to develop an outdoor performance space as a flexible and low-cost venue for occasional events. But during this proposal it became clear that the arts infrastructure of the borough needed strengthening and an opportunity arose to integrate this idea with improving public space round the town hall and linking it with development opportunities in the immediate vicinity. Hence the competition.
Barking is currently staging an exhibition of these proposals at the town's central library until 23 March and will be picking a winner on 6 March.
Its urban-regeneration manager, Jeremy Grint, said that inviting architects, artists and developers to 'work together from the outset seems to be paying off. ' He added: 'We're very impressed with the quality of ideas and would like to see the process extended to more public and private sector projects.'