’Seats at the table’ for equity coming to West Smithfield

Winners have been announced for the competition I wrote about in July to deliver in Spring 2023 “temporary public realm interventions in Smithfield and East London that collectively develop a deeper understanding of the public’s experience of streets and public spaces”.

A news release announced that Re-Fabricate and the DisOrdinary Architecture Project won the competition with ‘Seats at the table’:

“ a proposal that will explore the intersection between equity, accessibility, and sustainable design. The team will work with local disabled and non-disabled youth to co-design spaces of sharing, making, learning, nourishment and socialising. These will form part of a series of installations across East London and in Smithfield that will bring people together before, during and after LFA 2023.

“At the same time, they will celebrate and support the vital richness of our bio- and neuro- differences, as diverse individuals create and add a multitude of chairs and other artefacts that represent their relationships to, and accessibility requirements for, enabling equal places at the table. Through this process, they will ask how different materials, practices, places and people can produce equity, by challenging what kinds of bodies are valued and devalued in conventional designs for public space; by co-exploring alternative ways of working and making that are inclusive from the start; and by communicating lessons learnt to wider audiences by exhibiting their research and design development alongside the installations”.

The competition is run by London Festival of Architecture (LFA), City of London Corporation and its cultural district Culture Mile, and Foundation for Future London.

The proposal sounds intriguing, and I asked the organisers if they could tell me more about how things might develop, and how local residents and businesses might be engaged.

New London Architecture – parent of LFA – provided some images but said:

“I’m afraid that at this stage, we cannot share any more information about the winning submission as it is likely to evolve before June 2023. However, I would advise you to stay in touch closer to LFA 2023 next year and we’ll be able to share more as it comes in. We’ll also be able to link you up with interview possibilities much later down the line as we get closer to June”.

Here’s a Google Earth view of West Smithfield to locate the project, and photo of the West Smithfield rotunda garden from a couple of summers back when Culture Mile organised another event.

The location for Seats at the table

The release says:

“The Re-Fabricate and DisOrdinary team have extensive experience in engaging the public, youth, and disabled art groups across London. Re-Fabricate is a collective of architects and architectural professionals focusing on eradicating waste by promoting a circular economy and sustainable design in the built environment. The DisOrdinary Architecture Project is a platform that works across various projects to show how starting from disability – from the rich differences that biodiversity and neuro-divergence bring – is a powerful creative force for design.

“The team will bring together disabled and non-disabled architects and creatives at different stages of their careers to creatively engage with diverse co-creation and co- partnering methods for making inclusive and adaptable sustainable urban spaces.

“The winning team will now embark on the delivery of workshops across the Culture mile and East London Bank, working with disabled artists, young people for Special Educational Needs (SEN) and mainstream schools, built environment students, and the general public. The result of these co-design workshops will be the final scheme that will be co-built and installed for a period of three months from April to June 2023.

“The competition intends to deliver one or more temporary public realm interventions in Smithfield and East London that collectively develop a deeper understanding of the public’s experience of streets and public spaces. Re-Fabricate and The DisOrdinary Architecture Project will now work with local groups, Foundation for Future London , Culture Mile and LFA on the next steps of the project including engagement and design delivery”.

Chair of the City of London Corporation’s Culture, Heritage and Libraries Committee, Wendy Hyde, said: “Competitions like this which help create inclusive public spaces will continue to draw people back into the Square Mile as our recovery accelerates. “It’s fantastic to see the City is busy and bustling again. Congratulations to Re-Fabricate and The DisOrdinary Project.”

There’s more information about the team, and their approach, on the release.

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