muf architecture/art

Strategic Themes, Dalston

1 The High Street
Priority project: High Street de-cluttering: This is a place of social and economic interaction. Thresholds are busy with trade and social interaction. De-cluttering the pavements addresses TfL’s DDA agenda and supports this initiative allowing space to be created to ease congestion. LBH are concerned that this does not prejudice the broader aspiration to widen pavements, increase pedestrian capacity and decrease crossing distance, particularly between Dalston Kingsland and Dalston Junction stations. This would be in line with recommendations of a recent TfL commissioned walking study of Kingsland High Street (Kingsland High Street Walking Study; Stage 1 Scoping study June 2007 by Project Centre)

2 Release spaces
At every street junction with Kingsland High Street there is the opportunity to create or enhance space to provide relief from pedestrian congestion. Some of these spaces have already been identified by LBH Street Scene in their Streets for People initiative, and this study sought to identify where there was a potential for added value. These spaces provide important links into the neighbourhoods, cultural venues and businesses beyond the high street, and constitute key cultural nodes and way finding opportunities.

3 Host spaces
Supporting creativity is not about public art commission rather making it easy for visual arts film and performance to be part of the public realm. Both official and unexpected spaces, external and internal has been identified for cultural and community activity within Dalston. This includes internal community space including empty shops, community centres and the new archive and library and external space such as Gillette Square, Bootstrap car park and proposed Dalston Square. The study highlights the opportunity to facilitate the temporary use of empty space for use by the creative community, for which there is an existing demand, and to upgrade community space to better meet needs and aspirations. Retrofit as opposed to rebuild, provides an economic way to keep space alive, retain the grain of the place and can facilitate start-ups and outreach to better evidence the creative capital in the neighbourhood.

4 Ridley Road
A significant amount of detailed research was undertaken at the analysis stage of the project which has informed the Ridley Road brief put out to consultants for the upgrading of the market.

5 Wayfinding
Dalston has a significant number of cultural venues and businesses, which are not easy to find. The wayfinding strategy is aimed at both the local and the visitor economy, and responds to consultations with the Town Centre Forum and their interest in greater legibility. Part of the intrigue of Dalston is its hidden life, which is constantly changing, and the signage is intended only to highlight major cultural venues. The strategy does not further congest the high street but instead highlights and enhances existing assets. Lighting the peace mural and introducing the street frontage planting to Princess May Road as a gateway marker; corner building signage to aid orientation and encourage movement off the high street, illuminated at night. We have also introduced temporary signage to support the initiative ‘business as usual’ during this period of change.

6 Heritage
In addition to listed buildings there is also a significant amount of character and grain provided by cultural buildings, artefacts and hand painted typography in Dalston. A heritage walk was conducted by muf and J & L Gibbons with LBH Conservation Officer, English Heritage, The Hackney Society and Arcola Theatre to consider and map unique cultural assets that make Dalston a better place to live and work. Signage and architectural artifacts collection has commenced to salvage and store signage that might otherwise be discarded.

7 Temporary enhancements
The study reviews the opportunity for realising projects in the here and now, while the neighbourhood is in a state of flux. In fact, these projects may well be the precursor for developments identified in the Master Plan, but which do not require the same level of investment, and can therefore be achieved more swiftly. The projects may also help to inform approach and design to those larger scaled projects, offering delight and interest in the short term. Another means to demonstrate the existing assets and potential of the area. The projects illustrated include the Eastern Curve, identified in the Master Plan as a park, but which in the meantime could be enhanced into an eco-park of nature conservation interest fostering precious urban ecology. Associated with this is the temporary installation a collaboration with the Barbican which emerged from this study which will animate the area alongside the Peace Mural Square, as the ‘Dalston Mill’ and inform permanent works. The temporary stopping up of Ashwin Street also provides an opportunity for pedestrian orientated street culture to develop and already a hoarding project with young people has turned the inevitable disruption of construction to a creative opportunity of mapping and music making.

8 Green Routes
There is a deficiency in the Dalston Neighbourhood of open space. Put together the open space encapsulated in the estates constitutes a significant green asset that the study has sought to highlight for events, planting, growing and play. The estate landscapes of Somerford Grove, Rhodes and Shellgrove Estates also offer clear potential for enhancing permeability for cycling and pedestrians to connect the place where people live better with the high street, schools and transport infrastructure. Community workshops planned for the Rhodes and Somerford Grove are concerned with the health and food production agenda and the better provision of community facilities for music and performance. The project identifies a kit of parts for improvements, evolved from consultations with the TRA’s of the estates and Hackney Homes. These can be packaged and implemented incrementally as green playable routes.

9 Semi Public Space
Through the research the semi public space of churchyards, school grounds and rooftops were identified as places that were secure, accessible and in many cases underutilised. The beauty of these types of space is that they come with their own structure for guardianship even with a requirement for revenue funding.

Church Grounds
The Area Dean for Hackney was supportive of the idea of landscaping parts of church grounds for natural play and community events.

School Grounds
Initial discussions with the Community Cohesion officer of the Petchey Academy demonstrated an interest in seeing the school grounds themselves as having their place in the idea of extended schools as host to community activities.

Semi-public spaces and edible landscapes.
The roof of Bootstrap alongside school playgrounds was identified during consultation as sites for an edible garden, with a programme of gardening skills activities in line with the Mayor of London’s Capital Growth initiative intended to boost locally grown food in London.

10 Cultural programming
Culture is embedded in all the project themes. There has been significant interest and response by the cultural clusters in Hackney in the call for ideas. The aim is to raise awareness of the urban environment and add meaning to places within the public realm through art projects. Programming and providing the ability for cultural activity to happen formally or informally also informs the process of physical change, its design, scope and legacy realised. This may range from the provision of in ground power, to permanent fixtures of staging, typography, screens and planting. A first call for ideas from the cultural clusters of Hackney generated a number of site-specfic proposals around the theme of Valuing the existing, nurturing the possible and defining what’s missing.