REVIEW: Permanence of the City, Wed 7th August 2013

September 16, 2013

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With the bunting hung and wooden crates carefully arranged for the stage, RTPI London Young Planners opened the doors for their first built environment inter-professional event on 7 August 2013, sponsored by Quod. Set in Audit House, Blackfriars, the evening took a pecha kucha style format and explored the theme of temporary projects in meanwhile uses; the challenges they face in realisation and their place in the urban realm. With speakers from an array of professional backgrounds the theme was described and analysed from multiple perspectives within the built environment.

Each speaker presented examples of their involvement in temporary projects and an account of the key obstacles and challenges they have faced along the way.

Cany Ash of Ash Sakula Architects described the joys and difficulties of the Caravanserai enterprise based in Canning Town, going on to explore how to keep a temporary project fresh and how to access funding streams. Whilst Alexander Hearn described how he established small-scale temporary projects in costly vacant spaces (due to council rates and security costs) and the potential to negotiate free rental in these spaces in exchange for offering traineeships to young people.

The array of projects being explored varied in both scope and scale from the considered and emotive effects of temporary installations and lighting arrangements created by Kristina Allison of Lighting Enterprises Consultancy and Associates, to the enormity of the global attraction that was the London Olympics with their highly publicised legacy which is now being unravelled in the east end of London, as described by Pippa Gueterbock of the London Legacy Development Corporation.

The activity and interest of the ‘Permanence of the City’ Event took place in a building which formed part of the initial inspiration for the entire event. Currently ran by the charity 3Space, the former court house has played host to a multitude of events from art exhibitions, to start-up companies ‘hot desking’ to our very own talk and drinks reception. The charity works to maintain the use of temporarily unoccupied buildings by working closely with landlords to provide free access for charities and community projects, facilitating local activity and benefitting the landlord through a building used for charitable purposes.3space

Andrew Cribb, the CEO of 3Space provided our final talk of the night explaining the concept and progress of the charity and how it facilitates the use of temporary space across the country and overseas for the benefit of both owner and community.

Following a summer of talks from various organisations, including the NLA and a related event from a joint RTPI London Young Planners/CBRE event, the idea and reality of temporary projects has been probed from the viewpoint of design (NLA), to understanding market forces (RTPI/CBRE) and here, from the view of those directly involved in establishing and creating the projects.

Whilst the projects themselves vary in approach, duration and design they share a common goal of generating interest and activity to adapt vacant spaces and harness energy from local people and volunteers in order to offer long-term socio-economic benefits beyond the life-time of the project itself. It is clear however that such aspirations are often blighted by dated planning policy, a preference for the status-quo and limited financial backing beyond the inception of temporary projects. Where temporary projects have been successful, this has been driven by a strong vision and leadership, ongoing negotiation with local authorities to agree terms and tangible benefits, and support by volunteers – like you and me.

If you want to get involved and support an existing temporary project, check out Canning Town Caravanserai (Ash Sakula Architects).

The presentations from the event can be downloaded here (70MB).

Lisa Hall and Stuart Eaves


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