The Design Studio component of the MSc City Design and Social Science involves in-depth research, analysis and proposals by students working in groups with tutors on specific urban issues and sites. An ongoing Studio programme is focused on Urban Edges, set in different urban contexts each academic year. Each year's collaboration is published and can also be read online in PDF format - follow links above or scroll down.
This year's City Design Research Studio (2014-15), led by Professor Fran Tonkiss, Dr Gunter Gassner and Dr David Madden, took the theme of the 'critical city' and focused on Tottenham, a district in the borough of Haringey in northeast London. Tottenham is a place where many of the crises of urban life are visible. It is the poorest neighbourhood in the most unequal borough in the capital. Many Tottenham residents experience numerous forms of injustice, and the area has repeatedly been the site of uprisings and riots. And many locals feel that the councilʼs official regeneration plans threaten to bring gentrification and displacement rather than social progress. The students’ challenge was to understand this area without simplifying or stigmatising it and to propose critical interventions that could help Tottenhamʼs communities on their own terms rather than facilitating their erasure. The Studio publication Critical City will be published at the end of June 2015.
Our studio exploration in 2013-14 was based between the Elephant & Castle and St. George’s Circus, two historic pinpoints on the map of south London. Within this historic stretch are a host of territories and interests, including a recently vacated and demolished, large-scale social housing estate called the Heygate Estate, the London College of Communication and London South Bank University, and the Elephant & Castle transport intersection. A number of pieces of land in the area are subject to private redevelopment, including the Heygate Estate and the Elephant & Castle shopping centre. Urban renewal within this historic stretch takes on multiple forms and
values, all of which are defined by the current economic crisis and a new political momentum for regeneration. It is an area in which the large-scale displacement of people has been further amplified by the soaring land values in London together with the dismantling of inner city social housing stock.
The 2014 studio publication Resourceful City (see below) represents the work of five groups and expands our understanding of what it means to be resourceful in a period of economic austerity. The diversity and relevance of issues include: redefining the terms of agreement between local authorities and private developers; exploring the social and economic dimensions of density; imagining the cultural resources required to enhance the role of the high street; challenging the idea of an urban centre; and focusing on education and the capacity of public institutions as a major source of renewal.
In 2012-13 the Studio focused on the inner London borough of Hackney as a site for thinking about the challenges of the local city. Against the backdrop of current political designs for ‘localism’, we aimed to explore in more imaginative ways various local capacities for city-making. Beginning at Hackney Central and the dense commercial, residential, social and mobile environments that surround it, the Studio groups analysed the connections and contexts, the actors and interests, the problems and potential which constitute this complex locality. The map of the local city that emerges is a rich one: from Hackney Central as a point of arrival and interchange, to the fragile vibrancy of a high street under the dual pressures of economic downturn and rapid urban change, the generative environments of ‘problem’ housing estates, geographies of local youth, differential patterns of access and mobility, and the connective potential of the area’s ‘backyard’—the canal that links this local place back into an extended urban network. Scroll down for Local City.
In 2011-12 our students focused on the Barbican, the massive multi-level, multi-entry, modernist labyrinth in the City of London comprising the largest arts centre in Europe and a dense housing development, as a site for thinking about the problems and the potential of the ‘public city’. The Studio explored the public character of the city not simply in terms of designated spaces, but in terms of different kinds of use, of users and of urban interaction. The Barbican presents an opportunity to conceptualise how participation and performance extend both within its walls and to the city beyond. The fruit of their labours, Public City is available to read below.
In 2010-11 the focus was on 'High Street 2012', the six kilometre stretch of road running from Aldgate through Stratford, a combination of a number of local high streets that accumulate into a major urban corridor leading to the Olympic Legacy project. The area associated with High Street 2012 is currently part of major planning and design initiatives that relate to shifts in policy directions for the role of London’s high streets, as well as the substantial, planned regeneration of London’s East End. Students worked together in groups to analyse their stretch of street, and to propose strategies for intervention. Their work is the basis for City Street (see below).
In 2009-10 the focus was on the areas surrounding East London's massive Olympic Park development: Hackney Wick, Fish Island, Sugarhouse Lane, Carpenter's Estate, Stratford Town Centre and Leyton. How will they benefit from the regeneration projects promised for this largely deprived part of London? Students suggested some interventions, emphasising the role small, local projects could play in the growth and change of the Olympic fringe sites.
In 2008-09, the City Design Research Studio centred on Bishopsgate, on London's city fringe. In 2007-08 the Studio theme was urban development on the inner/outer city edge - looking at Barking and Dagenham in East London within the larger Thames Gateway context. In 2006-07 the central theme was Housing and the City, with a focus on Southwark: the students' original research on housing history fed into the catalogue for Home/Away, the British Pavilion at the 2008 Venice Architecture Biennale. In 2005-06, the Studio focused on the Land Securities development of Bankside 123, designed by Allies and Morrison Architects, and sited behind the Tate Modern.
See links below for the electronic version of previous Studio publications (separate PDF for each chapter), starting with last year's (2014):
Resourceful City (PDF)
MSc City Design and Social Science 2013-14
■ 01 Negotiating Regeneration
■ 02 Relational Grain
■ 03 Urban Ecology of the High Street
■ 04 A Castle for the Elephant
■ 05 An Open System
■ 06 Collage
Local City (PDF)
MSc City Design and Social Science 2012-13
Public City (PDF)
MSc City Design and Social Science 2011-12
City Street (PDF)
MSc City Design and Social Science 2010-11