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The Luxury of Dirt

Part 2 Project 2002
Jay Gort
Julie Anne Bennett
University of Cambridge, UK
Caught between the demands of infrastructure and the local, architecture has to span between the extremes of intimacy and collective experience. It is in our evolving public spaces that these juxtapositions are often most harsh
and where innovation is required to establish future strategies.

How can government policy on public open space PPG17 be used to exploit the opportunities of vast infrastructures and large global institutions, negotiating new forms of public space for the Royal London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea?

After exploring ways of using tax legislation to insert a network of public open space into Chelsea’s dense conservation areas, the methodology was reversed and applied to the large, underused open spaces in the north of the borough.

A new park infrastructure transfigures both leisure and worked ground as it connects the new White City retail megacentre to Wormwood Scrubs. This incorporates the Westway through baroque devices and the motif of ‘garden’. The ground thickens and cuts down to locate a ‘local park’ as a market square within a configuration of roadside scale architecture. A hard piece of city is created between the development of an in-town IKEA (re-using an existing warehouse), and its ‘testing Ground’ and new social facilities for the BBC. Through introducing the unique into the topography of the ‘box-standard,’ it is hoped to retain the necessary autonomy of commercial institutions whilst adding a more experimental edge.

Jay Gort
Julie Anne Bennett

Somehow in the Mayor’s rush to promote living in London “The World City”, and the government’s policy to promote re-densifying our cities, not much thought has been given to the provision of amenities beyond the homes themselves. In following through the social impact of this urban intensification, one has to ask where are the new public spaces?

This year the unit has taken on the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Residential quarter for the jetset, the Borough offers a super-suburban standard of living. On the other hand, statistically within London the borough offers the least amount of public open space per inhabitant, and conceals extensive deprived areas away from view.

Continuing the unit’s interest in landscape urbanism, the PPG17 was tested to see whether public space could be reclaimed from the duty-free realm of Kensington and Chelsea to define new sites and provoke radical shifts in social structures. This process questioned the notion that all public open space should be green or indeed open – suggesting instead that by claiming space from unlikely sources benefit could be achieved on a number of levels.

Jay successfully questioned how PPG17 can be used to exploit the opportunities offered by vast infrastructures. By negotiating between autonomous institutions (BBC, IKEA) and topography, public space arose that answered the needs of the local as well as the regional.
A new park infrastructure connects The White City Shopping Centre with its unlikely neighbour, Wormwood Scrubs. Beneath the least fashionable end of the WestWay, a ‘local park’ and buildings on the scale of a roadside architecture meet around a new market square. This combines an Ikea ‘testing ground’ and new social facilities for the BBC, whilst hovering as a new piece of infrastructure, adjacent to the flyover and above, an abstract, at points exclusive landscape.

• Page Hits: 1683         • Entry Date: 11 September 2002         • Last Update: 11 September 2002