Today has been a quite productive day. In the morning we finally had the opportunity to meet the founder of IROKO and to better understand which direction our answer to the challenge should take. The interview was an inspiration for all of us. Not only we clarified our ideas, but we also understood that to be successful with one project, and more generally in life, you need to be passionate and fight for your ideas. We were offered a concrete example of what it means having a dream and being able to make it real. It is hard, but very rewarding.
After the very positive outcome of the interview, we started developing a clearer idea for our project. We arrived at the conclusion that we should focus not on developing other activities for the elderly, but on connecting LLDC and IROKO in order to bring some of the already existing activities into Queen Elizabeth Park. In particular, we thought about a long term partnership between the two organisations, which would in turn allow the development of IROKO’s activities in different areas of the park and at different times of the year.
Being this the main idea, we now needed to be more specific and ‘practical’. In other words we needed to define exactly ‘why’, ‘what’, ‘how’, ‘who’, ‘where’ and ‘when’. This was done for the main general idea. Tomorrow, we will continue by answering the 6 questions above for each project that we want to bring into the park. It will not be easy, but it will definitely be rewarding (and maybe an inspiration for the future).
Today we were finally able to explore the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (QEOP) and surrounding Hackney Wick area we had heard so much about, which after a week of bad weather at UCL was a nice change. The powerful art community of Hackney Wick is obvious and very visible even in the 3 minute walk from the station to Stour Space, our work base for this week.
Our day began with a talk at Stour Space, followed by a long awaited talk of QEOP. The tour first took us from the Fish Island entrance of the park, along the river and past the Copper Box Arena to the Velodrome. On entering the park, the huge amounts of space became very clear as we were taken through a huge concord area filled with very little people/activity. This immediately got us thinking about our IROKO challenge, and potential open spaces within the park which could be used more actively by the public.
While walking along the river I found it crazy to find out that almost all of the trees in the entire (560 acre) park had been driven in on the back of the truck. This was pointed out as we passed an old dark tree standing alone at the side of the river. This isolated native tree against the young imported vegetation really gives you a sense of the extent to which everything in the park is new, everything is perfect and everything has been put in a place for a purpose. The graduated river banks is just one example of the promotion of green space in the park, encouraging the development of marshlands along the river.
We visited the R-Urban Mobile Garden which sat in the north western part of the park, opposite East village, on a site due to be developed on in December. We were given a tour of the Mobile Garden site and its activities which, in such a new area where people maybe haven’t yet had the chance to meet and interact with their neighbours is a great project and gives people in the surrounding area an opportunity to form a community. The activities of the Mobile Garden give locals an outlet to interact with nature a bit as well as a space to learn new skills and pass on their own skills and history to others, at the Civic University and Wick Common Shop. ***
After lunch the group began to think about how we would organise ourselves this week. We identified that the key areas to focus on in order to tackle the challenge we have been set by IROKO are:
Identify activities/facilities which elderly people would like to have in the park
Locate an ‘open space’ in the park which could be used more actively
Develop an idea for a way in which IROKO’s activities/resources can be beneficial to the elderly people’s wants/needs
Specify what is required from LLDC in order for IROKO to implement this idea
Towards the end of the tour, it was felt among the group that the culture of the park was almost ‘missing’. We felt as though there wasn’t much within the park which made you feel like you were in London, that the park could be picked up and dropped in any other urban city and fit right in, that the park isn’t yet delivering the Olympic legacy which was promised. This became evident to me on returning to the Hackney Wick station, and again observing the fierce artistic culture which is present within the community and is so loud, even within the 3 minute walk from Stour Space to the station. Comparing this loud culture to the clean, purposefully placed, new structures within the park, it became slightly more understandable as to why people in the surrounding community may feel that the park ‘isn’t for them’.
As we get ready to get to work this week and put a lot of the skills we have learnt in the first week into, it is important to remember that efficiency is key. After a great first week which was rounded off with a green urban initiatives panel, interviews research methods and group selection of preferred challenges, there is a lot to look forward to in this second week. In fact as I’m typing this listening to The Weeknd’s “Beauty Behind the Madness” and still reeling from the live stream of ‘Game of Thrones’ that I just managed to get through, the only thing on my mind is what amazing experiences that the coming week holds in store and how there is a burning desire for us all to come away with tangible skills and solutions at the end.
I was about to round of with one of my quotes but then I thought of someone else’s whose quotes you’ve probably heard at least once over the course of this weekend and so why not one more time…?
“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”
Coincidentally, Forman’s Smokehouse Gallery located on Stour Road, Fish Island, Hackney Wick overlooking The Olympic Stadium, played host to a unique collection of iconic images and artwork celebrating the career of the author of the above quote and will be coming back again. I guess beauty knows how to find itself. Might be worth paying a visit.
East London is a special place, unique in it’s diversity; a beauty that has transcended to a muse. If you don’t know, brace yourself and let it encapsulate and inspire you too.
Hopefully, by the end of this week we’ve all moved a step closer to shaking the world. Good luck everyone!
To some, this question is easily answered, and to others an impossible task. For those who decided to plant their roots here, how can we encourage them own their space and make it their own? For those whose roots have grown long and deeply entrenched, how do we continue making this city theirs too?
All of us, all of our unique differences, together in harmony in one city: is it possible?
So many questions, so few certain answers.
Yet, we still try. We still try in our own ways to make our home welcome to all. We discovered needs, we innovated solutions, and tested, failed, and tried and tried till we succeeded. Of course, the ‘we’ here might not be us right now, but a ‘we’ we could be. If we wanted to be.
The task is far harder than just copy and pasting solutions from other cities. The task is far more challenging than just sitting around and pushing theories around. You requires empathy, determination, creativity, and most of all, humility. The empathy to listen, the determination to push pass failures, the creativity to construct the future, and the humility to listen to those whose voices need our understanding the most. Change needs the mind, the heart and the drive, as pointed rightly by Mdm. Judy today.
Professor Henrietta Moore’s reevaluation of the word ‘prosperity’ set the tone for the first day of our (un)urban course. In moving the emphasis from income and GDP towards a more happiness and well-being oriented understanding of prosperity, the Institute of Global Prosperity encouraged a reassessment of the influence of green spaces and urban development on ‘prosperity’. This, as well as Henrietta’s reminder of the importance of ‘civic infrastructure’ (by 2050 70% of the world will live in cities), will doubtless inform our approach to the challenge in week 2.
After meeting the other members of our group, we carried the IGP’s considerations with us as we surveyed Tavistock and Gordon Square, comparing the ways people interact with these spaces.
Tasked with answering the question of how green spaces affect our wellbeing, we considered whether the parks were passive or active spaces, and conducted interviews with people who frequent the parks. From these in interviews, we learnt about the importance of location, with both parks situated handily between destinations. We spoke to a man pausing on the way to British Museum, and a number of students in Gordon Square. We also considered the design and landscaping of the parks: trees around the perimeter of both block out sound, and the long path around the outside is mainly used by runners, whereas lawns in the middle are predominantly used for sitting.
We thought about the park as a recreational space, speaking to a man running a detective style party event, and as a commercial one, I conducted an interview with the owner of the long running kiosk in the park to learn about the ebb and flow of custom over the years that she has worked here, assuming that this reflects the busyness of the park in general. These interviews can be found at https://soundcloud.com/un_urban
The rain forced our group to consider the effect of weather on how Green Spaces are used: we noticed that people were just passing through the park on their way to somewhere else rather than enjoying the green space.
Ultimately, the link between parks and wellbeing was made clear, in Tavistock square all the monuments were celebrating the achievements of pacifists, and advocates of peace. Obviously, this drew our attention to the importance of parks as oases of peace in otherwise crowded, often stressful cosmopolitan areas. When John mistook the sound of buses driving by to be the sound of a waterfall, the pacifying effect of the park was made clear, and we all felt better following our excursion.
Day 2 began with a panel discussion about the Olympic’s ‘Urban Wellbeing and Public Health’ legacy (or as we were all about to find out- its lack of it).
Oliver Dawkins, an expert on spatial analysis, opened the floor by exploring whether the Olympic Park was meeting its legacy. The London Legacy Corporation had promised to ensure that the following legacy provisions were fulfilled:
Local people: education, jobs and accessibility
Built environment: Sustainability, building heights and protected views
Natural Environment: open spaces and waterways
Although, as Oliver explained, the stakeholders had been successful in creating a strong natural environment: e.g 111 acres of open space, 525 bird boxes 150 bat boxes and 6.5 km of waterways, they had failed to incorporate this beautiful ecosystem with the local community. Currently, local people aren’t accessing the park nor are they, in any substantial number, gaining employment from its existence.
As a result of its many failures he originally had a rocky relationship with the London Legacy Corporation. In protest to London Legacy’s prosecution of photographers and disengagement with the local community prior to the game’s opening, Oliver organised ‘The Universal Right to Play’, a pop-up sports festival which took place across London.
However, his relationship with the London Legacy Corporation has remarkably changed from one of protest and anguish to one of collaboration. He is now helping develop for the Corporation ‘Smart Sustainable Districts’, a 3D real- time computer models for use in community planning of the Olympic park.
Neil McElduff (London Office of Clinical Commissioning Groups) then took to the stage to discuss his involvement with the Ludwig Guttman Health Centre to enable it to better alleviate value to the local community. He discussed his belief that, in lay man terms, health should not be seen as a passive condition but rather something that is socially and actively produced.
Neil lambasted the Centre for its lack of engagement with the local community. Although, thanks to his help, its capacity use has grown from 30% to 70% it remains a 6000 sqm building that has largely failed to deliver on its promised legacy. He suggested that the centre’s management should be given to the ‘third-sector’, (Charity and volunteering ), citing: a recent art gallery that was erected for the disabled and a Deaf Awareness day as examples of the ‘third sectors’ successes in involving the local community with the health centre space. However, he lamented that this is impracticable given that the ‘third sector’ cannot afford space.
We were then given the following challenge: How can Creative Wick mobilise its networks to improve the wellbeing of HWFI locals? and separated into our groups to come up with solutions.
Given the fantastic network that Creative Wick possesses with many of the larger Olympic stakeholders, we recognised that it was important for Creative Wick to tap into this resource and along with their creative expertise, help build local community engagement with the Olympic legacy. Some of the solutions we generated included: Creative Wick in partnership with local charities offering art classes/therapy to the elderly at the Health centre and Creative Wick running interactive tours of the Olympic park for local school children.
After each group presented we all enjoyed a fabulously long lunch break.
The afternoon activity saw us engaging with Mensch, an organisation which taught us how to create human-centered designs.
Our first task was the spaghetti and marshmallows challenge. We had to erect the tallest structure with a marshmallow at its peak using only spaghetti, tape and a piece of string. Sadly the structure that my group built resembled something like a kite on a rainy day and collapsed as soon as the marshmallow was placed on top! What was the point of this task? Well apart from seeing who was the best architect it was designed to test how we would approach a task and how we would collaborate with our team mates.
Moving forward we began to explore how we could better the experience of an Urban commuter. Each small group had to create an persona with 3 unique aspects to their commute and three needs that they required assistance with. My group created Chara Clefield an 81 year old widow who thanks to old-age and a lack of technological awareness was suffering from the commute from hell. She tripped on a regular basis thanks to the onslaught of morning rush hour traffic, struggled to physically board trains and buses and was completely in the dark when a travel disruption occurred.
With the call to embrace our creative confidence we were told to fire away over 100 ideas to improve our commuter’s journey.
My group came up with a number of solutions ranging from absurd (Speed shoes and red bull for elderly commuters), technologically based (interactive oyster cards) and elderly friendly infrastructure development (travelators). Narrowing our ideas to two main themes we will be developing our first ever human centered design to rescue the likes of poor ‘Chara’ from her commute from hell. Looking forward!