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In Residence: Exploring The Possibilities Of Architectural Occupation

Part 2 Project 2013
Josh Wyles
London Metropolitan University, UK
My project is an architectural residency based in the Whitgift Centre, a large retail development in the heart of Croydon, South London. Built in 1968 ‘The Whitgift’ has radically changed its appearance and program over 45 years, evolving into a successful, well used local centre; providing appropriate retail, key social spaces, business opportunities and employment for the local population.

Along with a raft of council-lead developments designed to re-invigorate a faltering economy, The Whitgift will be demolished and re-built by Westfield in a £1bn scheme starting in 2014.

The project recognises the need for development. Working within the framework of the Westfield planning application the project has developed a suite of Section 106 funded proposals that strategically use heritage to ensure the value of the existing centre is maintained during the potentially alienating transition from a local to a regional facility.

These elements embed local heritage and undergo a series of phased developments as the new centre’s regional catchment shrinks, gradually re-formatting the centre to a local economy, as the brief period of regional celebrity declines.

The designs respond to the memories and thoughts of the Whitgift’s inhabitants, inspired by the ‘Generosity of Whitgift,’ a collection installed in the residency that presents the life of the centre back to those who use it. The tectonic of development also learns from the slow adaptation of the original design, traceable through intimate study of the centre and its history.

Becoming ‘resident’ has allowed the project unique insights into how this world of retail works, how deeply the centre is woven into the history and identity of the area and the opportunities and lessons that it presents.

The centre now staffs the residency and meetings are being held with Westfield, the freeholder and council about incorporating the project into the development.

Josh Wyles

Mr Prof. Robert Mull
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