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The Growing Cooperative

Part 2 Project 2014
James Pang
London Metropolitan University, UK
The Growing Cooperative is a new active settlement on the edge of London, in the heart of the Lea Valley’s market gardening industry. Situated in Sedge Green, this project proposes the transformation of an existing greenhouse into flexible homes, whilst retaining a high level of productivity through shared growing spaces. The proposal is a result of a declared design methodology. This process explores the benefits of re-appropriating site structures, through sampling and creating new combinations of familiar elements, to propose contemporary and relevant forms of living. The settlement’s character reflects the juxtaposition of the generic and the specific, the ready-made and the user-led, where its architectural language is defined through its changing inhabitation over time.

The project seeks to provide a more open and inclusive model of settlement, located away from the city’s centre. Currently structured around a capitalist model, Sedge Green is dominated by a small number of residents whose vast expanses of greenhouses supply the country’s leading supermarkets. The proposal challenges this monoculture, through adopting a socialist cooperative structure, where the blurring of domestic and productive functions reflects the concept of living and growing as a shared and self-sufficient act. The greenhouse is no longer valued solely for profit, but also for its use-value. Taking the form of a Limited Equity Cooperative, members enjoy the benefits of collective ownership. Equity purchased is proportionate to each resident’s individual income. This provides a fair and shared, long-term repayment plan, encouraging investment in the lived-in quality of a home, rather than financial equity to be gained.

Viewed as a locally-led proposal, the architectural approach engages with local planning demands, and the requirements of the end-user, creating a series of dwelling typologies that future residents can copy, adapt or re-create. Developing on ex-agricultural land retains the rural character of the area, whilst exploiting the spatial and volumetric generosity of the existing greenhouse. Flexibility and adaptability are the core design principles. Adopting an incremental pattern of development provides time for the residents to define their own means of active living.

James Pang


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