Live-Work London

Mixed use as a catalyst for revitalisation 

London today is one of the fastest growing cities in Europe. Within the next years the 7 million metropolis is expected to grow by another 800,000 people who will work and live in Greater London. Along with the economic growth, for instance in the financial or in the "creative sector", the housing situation has tightened considerably.

Up to now in London even quarters close to the inner city often resemble a patchwork of disconnected commercial streets, insular residential areas and enterprise zones. This specific structure, created by English planning law, alters with changing claims in the area. Manufacturing and extensive commercial areas are dislocated, leaving behind space for temporary usages. Temporary projects, however, are under pressure as soon as tertiary sector usages or residential projects promise greater returns.

Designing in this context means adjusting to the complexity of change, conducting the process productively and identifying new perspectives for building and space, connecting the new to the existing.

The Borough of Southwark is situated to the South of the Thames just opposite the City of London. It has, however, not yet been swept over by the tremendous economic growth of London. The usage of many commercial areas is at the moment being reconsidered. Instead of developer projects with maximum returns, one thinks instantly of affordable housing and workspace for “creative people”, who are trained at the neighbouring arts colleges or actively promote the preservation of their ateliers and music studios in Peckham. The existing structures have to be upgraded by new impulses to provide new options for the local population and at the same time to attract a new clientele, thus to promote a diverse, open and comfortable urban environment.

The design project aims at revitalising and re-designing former warehouses and integrating live work quarters into the very centre of Peckham. It is intended to redefine the existing patchwork structure proactively for different ways of living, thereby creating a vision for the city of the future. The assignment envisages concepts for the overall urban context, for the specific disposition of the new quarter, for building-typologies and architectural details.

In a first phase, existing live work typologies in Europe were analysed according to their urban, architectural as well as social implications. In a second phase, urban design concepts have been developed for the proposed areas, focused on the relation of public- and common space, which in England is differently perceived than in other European countries.

Spatial concepts and urbanistic interventions have been designed for the highly fragmented situations - concerning social, programmatic or typological aspects - which are to be found in Peckham, to create a coherent and open space that is usable by all. Common space is understood as an initial, which might open up existing varieties and make them productive for future developments. In this sense the implementation of live work typologies as a form of mixed use, which is added to the existing structure, is seen as possibility to create new forms of public or semi-public life. Thus the design projects, in the end, produce a complex urban framework, which convincingly connects the scale of the city with the scale of typology and architecture. The implementation of mixed use, working and living, is seen as innovation, which might trigger new models for further discussion in the ongoing process of urbanisation in London.

In spring 2008 the projects have been presented to members of Southwark Council and Peckham Vision who we'd like to thank for their friendly support. Special thanks goes to Mickey Smith, Benny O'Looney, Adam Khan and Eileen Conn for guiding us and introducing us to the city, for their critique and input.