Samovar Space, the first of the four public spaces conceived and designed by young people involved in the LSE Apprenticeship Programme in City Design, was officially opened on Saturday 22 October. The scheme, located at the top of world-famous Olympic Way, transforms a small site previously used for car parking. Delivered in partnership with and funded by Quintain, the developer behind Wembley Park, the space is expressly designed by and for young people in recognition of the value of their role in inclusive urban design.
The project is the result of 26 months of collaboration with the five apprentices aged 16-24, who undertook a learning and working experience at LSE. As part of this, they were trained to apply methodologies and tools - including social science-based ethnographic survey and mapping - to understand the potential and imagine the future of new public spaces in the Wembley Park.
The apprentices’ overarching intention was to create a place for young people to ‘just be’, a place to ‘hang out’ without needing to spend any money. They identified three themes, providing a design intention without creating strict definitions or rules for the project:
Samovar Space © Chris Winter
• COLLABORATE: a place to see and be seen
• CALM: a place to chill out and do nothing
• CONSUME: a place to snack and chat
The final designs were developed in collaboration with architects Flanagan Lawrence who worked with the apprentices through an iterative process to help translate their initial conceptual ideas into realisable spatial solutions. The end result is a brightly coloured space with exposed and covered areas for seating, AstroTurf, and a commissioned floor mural. The space hosts a purpose-built Soundshell, designed by Flanagan Lawrence, that will play host to events for young people throughout the year.
As part of the naming process, the apprentices drew on the core aim of the project: a place for people to come together and relax, free from judgement. Early design inspiration had been the collective practice of drinking tea from a Samovar. Originating in Eastern Europe the samovar is widely used throughout South-Eastern Europe, Iran, Afghanistan, Kashmir, the Middle East, Azerbaijan and is also known in some parts of Central Europe. The Apprentices could see the name working, as they imagined telling a friend “Let’s meet at the Samovar Space”.
Whilst Samovar Space is a meantime space the process of working with young people is being carried forward to four other permanent spaces at Wembley Park by Quintain. Samovar Space itself will also live on in the way it informs the future design of the spaces when its current location is developed as part of the consented Wembley Park masterplan.
To document the process of the development of Samovar Space Julia King at LSE, who led the apprenticeship programme, commissioned a graphic narrative Making Brent with a text written by Marianna Janowicz and the illustrations by Sabba Khan. The graphic narrative draws on multiple conversations with the group of apprentices involved in the design of Samovar Space.