The Brick Lane Stitch
... is a thesis project located in the borough of Tower Hamlets in London. With mostly three-storey buildings lining the lane, the human occupation is strongly concentrated near the ground. Thanks to its dynamic history, culture and close dimension, everything seems to be a constant event. The hard numbers, however, indicate that the density of the area is nowhere near cities that we still perceive as comfortable to inhabit (e. g. Barcelona). Intensification of the lane is, therefore, a plausible aim of the project.
On just 1km of length, Brick Lane contains over 100 food related businesses, some of them permanent, some of them temporary. During the weekend market, stalls enter the lane and quite literally change its occupation. The density is strengthened, becoming almost overwhelming. The Asian style of street food is introduced to Western Europe. As a result, food most definitely acts as strong social glue for Brick Lane.
The point of interest is referred to as “the cut”. For just about a hundred meters, the mass of the lane (so crucial to the intimate occupation) is discontinued. The two intersecting railways create a challenging three-dimensional spatial condition. The space is perceived radically differently during the market, as the sub-scale fills the street. Immediately the big intervention of the railway (XL) is accompanied with more in-between matter (S, M, L). The XL scale is just a shell framing the life in the street. The diversity and ephemerality of the smaller scales create an extremely intense feeling on a small footprint. The differences between the weekend and the weekday, however, are too harsh. The cut needs to be mended to retain the continuation of the lane.
Brick Lane sits on the edge between the deprived borough of Tower Hamlets and the prosperous City of London borough. This schizophrenic condition is pushed to the extreme with the approval of the new Goods Yard development. The economic power of the development has a potential of seriously overrunning the current state of Brick Lane. Consequently, the development introduces an unprecedented “bigness” into the human-scale lane. In the visuals, the meeting point with Brick Lane is depicted as a square, introducing a condition that might result in breaking the flow, dispersing people to all directions. The harsh contact between the big and the small has to be rendered much softer.
The discontinuation of the mass in the cut and the emergence of the development are the main issues at hand. The main emphasis of the project, therefore, should be stitching up the cut with programme and simultaneously mediating the relationship between the bigness and the close dimension.
Assemble worked towards mending the derelict condition of a city in their Liverpool endeavour, aiming at stitching up the deprived Toxteth borough. Hit by economic stagnation and unemployment, the Victorian built-up area had been awaiting regeneration. With the introduction of new community driven programmes, Assemble aims at inviting general public to take part in truly using their borough. Granby Winter Garden is an attempt to give an old Victorian form a new unexpected function. The main principles of this project such as generous spatial quality, versatility of programme (i. e. indoor garden, housing, workshop spaces etc.) and the community-driven approach to design are to be adopted by the Brick Lane project.
As the research suggests that food works as a means of improving the spatial quality, the programme of the design should follow this principle. The project should introduce food-related infill, giving support to the cooking culture in Brick Lane. Due to the deprived nature of the area, it is of great interest to introduce a new branch of the Trussell Trust, one of the biggest UK food bank organisations. In addition, promoting the local Spitalfields City Farm should be another important aspect of the new building.
The first-impression model serves as a reaction to the cut. Thin dimension allows for different types of occupation. Interplay of the solid with the transparent and translucent enrich the spatial experience and trick the dimension into becoming narrower or wider respectively. On the site, the design springs from the width of the pavement. The cut is first filled to the maximum and gradually particularised. Based on all previous research, the most sensible and exciting location is dedicated to each programme.
The railway is the element that gives the area its unique spatial properties. The truss pays homage to the ruggedness and industrial nature of the cut. It stitches it up, quite literally. The excitement of the truss has the strength to reconcile the development and the lane. It is a piece of engineering - a framework that allows for versatile occupation. It is predictable by its nature, but simultaneously extremely generous. A truss, no matter its width or span is XL, but allows for the S, M, L to enter, mediating the harsh meeting point. By filling the truss with programme a truss turns into the truss tailored for Brick Lane.
The rugged and (to some perhaps) unwelcoming quality of the truss is compensated by its generosity and ambition as public infrastructure. Whilst taking up minimum space on the street, the truss should not only cater for people but also facilitate energy and water for various uses. The truss, although a substantial intervention in the fabric of Brick Lane should always give back more than it takes away. Furthermore, welder apprentices will be invited to create a crafted truss - one partially made from any scrap steel from the area. Just like that, this project should not become a mere imposition of a maladjusted piece of engineering but, in contrast a true Brick Lane endeavour.
PROGRAMME: food education centre, food banks, eating space, food museum, (suggested housing)
SITE: 1500 sqm
STATUS: UEL Year 3 thesis project