It’s a Dog’s Life
The UK is limping out of recession, the buzzword is austerity and the population is living with a drop in disposal income. Against this backdrop “collaborative consumption”
is on the rise.Swapping, bartering and lending are being reinvented for the digital age
and the way we consume is changing in the process. StreetCar, for example, allows millions of Londoners to have convenient access to a car without incurring the usual ownership costs, including road tax, insurance and overnight parking.
As part of ‘It’s a Dog’s Life’, the title of this year’s design brief, Studio 2 has been exploring the rise of collaborative consumption on the Isle of Dogs.The area of east London is home to rich and poor alike. Underprivileged local residents mix with a swathe of white-collar commuters, who rush into the towers of Canary Wharf each and every weekday morning. Towards the end of last year we examined how these low-living local inhabitants and high-flying commuters co-exist on the Isle of Dogs. Building on this exploratory
research and a trip to Venice, we are now in the process of creating a design that will demonstrate how their lives could be enriched by collaborative consumption.
My Beautiful Launderette
Studio 2’s first design brief was to create a 24-hour launderette on the Isle of Dogs. The site selected for the brief was an existing launderette on the Robin Hood Gardens estate in Poplar. Launderettes are a traditional form of collaborative consumption. It is where cash-poor local residents and time-poor workers already come together to wash and dry-clean their clothes.
Split into groups, Studio 2 was required to examine the launderette’s current function, intensify its use and increase its appeal to 21st century collaborative consumers.For the final proposal each group presented the ‘story’ of how their launderette would be occupied by the local population over a 24 hour period. As students Marrianne Louca, Maria Nygren and Su Mon Aye explain,
“We found a resident, one of the many Bangladeshis who live in the area, who
aims to have his own restaurant but can’t afford it. He lives with his young family
in a two-floor flat so we thought a good option for him would be to have his own
guerrilla restaurant on one floor as well as a launderette. This meant that people
from the city and local residents could enjoy an innovative way of dining whilst
doing their laundry.”
The strong Bangladeshi community on the estate proved to be a popular
influence for many of the other launderette designs. Monique Codrington, Anita Seidel and Alvin Bendu complimented the existing launderette’s specialist sari handwashing
service with sari making classes and fashion shows. The ‘Kabbadi Launderette’, designed by Maria Clarke, Hara Anastasiou and Yip Long Ching, introduces the Bangladeshi national sport of kabbadi to the numerous white-collar boxing enthusiasts in Canary Wharf.
Venice of the East (of London)
Leaving London, laundry and the Robin Hood Gardens behind us, Studio 2 headed to Venice, Italy, for the annual field trip. Our visit coincided with the architecture biennale. But we were also asked to consider the work of the German philosopher Wolfgang Scheppe, who uses Venice to explain his vision of the globalised city.Combining Scheppe’s research with our own specific site visits around Venice, we were able to draw a number of parallels between the situation in the Isle of Dogs and Venice. In the latter’s case, it is suffocation by tourism, the influx of an immigrant population and rising house prices which are forcing residents out of the city.
Back in London, Studio 2 embarked on its own version of academic collaboration.
Instead of simply observing the collaboration of others, each member of Studio 2 was required to conduct one part of the Isle of Dogs site analysis as well as investigate an existing example of collaborative consumption, such as ‘Zopa’, ‘SwapIt Baby’ and ‘Bartercard’. In each case, the findings were presented and circulated to the rest of the studio. That way every student could benefit from the collective knowledge and the studio was able to cover more research ground, in more detail and in a shorter amount
Comprehensive Design Project
From this collective pool of knowledge, each student was then asked to develop their own unique brief for the final comprehensive design project. Whilst these projects are still ongoing, obtaining the right work-life balance is proving to be a popular theme for collaborative consumption on the Isle of Dogs. In particular, the struggle of balancing a career with motherhood is demonstrating the opposing issues that separate the female residents of Robin Hood Gardens from the female workers of Canary Wharf; an
opposing issue which a number of Studio 2 students are using to bring these two constituents together. Hara Anastasiou’s ‘George Green’s School mix and match‘, located on Manchester Road, provides offices for groups of mothers to set up their own businesses alongside a kindergarten for their children. She says, “Lots of mothers with young
children are not in employment. The main issue on my project is to combine a place where mothers can look after their children and work at the same time.”
On the flip side, Maria Nygren has created ‘The Academic Playhouse’, a centre where career driven women can experience temporary motherhood. As Nygren explains,
“The statistics show that in the UK nearly half (49%) of women earning more than £100k p.a. are childless by the age of 40”. The playhouse teaches these career driven Canary Wharf women about motherhood whilst providing a positive role model for the children and giving existing mothers the opportunity to find employment. Monika Cinkowska’s Happy Mother Centre is in a similar vein, although her design also draws on the history of the site. Located in St. Matthias old church building, in between Canary Wharf and Robin Hood Gardens, the site used to be a former hospital for the sailors and seamen working at
the lively docks. The docks have long since closed down. But inside the old church, the inner columns are created out of the wood from seventeenth century ships’ masts, which Cinkowska says “makes elements of ships architecture a crucial part of the design”.