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Free Lobby; Corporate Branding Meets Informal Market for Commerce

Part 2 Project 2000
Michael Durran
University of Cambridge, UK
Barely thirty years after its completion, the Ethelred Housing Estate in Vauxhall is faced with an uncertain future, as Lambeth Council attempts to remove the problem of its failed inner city social housing the estate may soon be demolished.

This project examines the alternative options, aiming to
"re-brand" the estate as a more dynamic entity within the urban fabric and to address the need for big programs within cities, by introducing new economic models of public and private partnership to revitalise the area.

Tapping into the new forms of commercial and economic interaction an e-commerce distribution centre has been folded into the existing structure of an unused car park on the estate, creating a new ground plane above. This forms the foundation of a shared landscape, Free Lobby, which is
sponsored by a corporate brand and offers informal small-scale businesses a market place, whilst providing a social hub for the local community.

The logo, Free Lobby, will act as a tool kit to create a network within London and on the Internet, using new commercial activity as a key to the sustainable regeneration of other neglected inner London suburbs.

Michael Durran

In the context of the Urban Task Force declarations that densification is the salvation of urban life, the work of Diploma unit has been informed by aspects of globalization, popular culture and branding to question the issue of regeneration and “densification versus population.?

With Vauxhall as a ground for this study, Michael Durran’s work has been embedded in the political manoeuvering of local resident groups and government initiatives to transform a run-down area of South London. The economic and commercial demands of e-commerce distribution have been folded into the unused carpark structures of an existing housing estate which is under threat of demolition. This proposition does not seek an instant solution but acts as the foundation of a new shared landscape ?the free lobby ?which is sponsored by a corporate brand to offer small-scale business a market place and a social hub transforming the area.

Whilst proposing a radical shift in the urban topography and social fabric of the city, the project has been successfully tested against local opinion. The collision of dynamic programmes against the more static nature of the existing housing provides an appropriate response to the particular condition of Vauxhall which diversifies the existing communities whilst maintaining the site’s duality as both garden suburb and inner city.

Deborah Saunt
David Hills

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