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A shell for communal and commercial use in Hackney, London, UK

Part 1 Project 2003
Viktor Jak
Richard Yusuf Adams
London Metropolitan University | UK
The scheme is picking up on the existing variation in context along the river Lea and the peninsula just north of Lea Bridge, once a timber wharf, is turned into a public plaza with a building shell. The wharf with its lone brick warehouse has a feeling of detachment, but also an important role in mediating between the rural Lea Valley and inner city Hackney, and between the sub-urban areas of Waltham Forest and more urban Hackney, which is further enhanced by the busyness of the Lea Bridge Road connecting the two Boroughs.

A building is proposed, strong in character, but loose in its possible usage. An open public ground floor with community and commercial spaces is followed by two more generic open floors providing for multiple usages, which are then followed by a rather closed top floor with several terraces suggesting a more private use. A concrete skeleton provides for big or small openings in the façade, and windows with three types of openings provide for light, views and ventilation. A plywood sheet wrapping recalls the timber trade and relates well in scale to both humans and the bricks of the warehouse.

The wharf itself is kept open for various programmes. Most of the concreted paving is left in place and only replaced around the new building and the existing warehouse to create a continuous surface. The new paving suggests places on the wharf and between the two buildings and connects a cycle path along the river with Lea Bridge road making the place more accessible.

Viktor Jak
Richard Yusuf Adams

Our studio explored a design process which encouraged students to evolve a kind of personal theme, where phenomenal observations were translated into specific spatial ideas. These were developed through a series of references and projects, the progression of which defined a process moving from the interior, the personal and imaginary, to the open and public scale and space of the city. For the major project, students were asked to choose their own sites - ‘found places’- and develop a programme for an ‘inbetween’ public/private building, envisaging possible scenarios for its occupation over time.
Viktor Jak’s project resulted in an impressive body of work embodying an advanced level of spatial inquiry, revolving primarily around the theme of ‘emptiness’/sparseness. It is the result of a very thorough research and design process, revealing the qualities of a gifted and original individual, with a critical and often provocative approach towards architectural intervention. The project’s high level of resolution, however, did not impede the proposal’s openness and sense of optimism - which responded well to the hopes of the overall programme.
The site chosen by Viktor is a small peninsula surrounded by the river Lea at Lea Bridge in eastern Hackney, London. The project is an accomplished proposal for a large building for combined community/commercial use providing a complex set of relations between spaces envisioned for varying degrees of private and public functions. This complexity also generates a series of intriguing spatial conditions within the building as well as in its relation to the site. A carefully considered structure, integrated services, and infrastructure of wall openings and cladding system allows for a high degree of flexibility which likens the building to an improved ‘contemporary’ warehouse ( whose design accommodates the participation of the building’s users in its future transformations, anticipating thereby a sense of evolving authorship).
The proposal for this essentially ‘empty building’, which establishes a kind of gateway to the Leigh Valley, grew out of an appreciation of the sense of place but also from the sense of need of a new presence - as manifested by the size and careful positioning of the proposed building - which is somehow uncomfortably yet successfully overpowering in relation to the picturesqueness of the adjacent landmark brick building.


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