So here is what our students at London Met will mostly be doing over the next nine months.
The Isle of Dogs
Our primary site of investigation is The Isle of Dogs. The former island in the East End of London is part of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, one of the poorest localities in the country. But it is also home to the Canary Wharf financial district, one of the most recognisable physical features in the UK and a totem of wealth and prosperity.
New waves of young, white-collar professionals are drawn to work and reside in Canary Wharf and its surrounding areas from across the world. Interaction with the local environment is negated by the fluency and ease with which these online communicators talk to each other via the latest media and digital technologies. Just like their surroundings, these professional interlopers share more in common with their counterparts in other world cities like New York or Hong Kong than their indigenous neighbours.
The Isle of Dogs is also a microcosm of London’s unique urban patchwork of want and wealth. At the same time as Canary Wharf gives the area one of the highest average incomes in the UK, nearby Blackwall is one of the poorest wards in England and home to beneficiaries of The Evening Standard’s ‘Dispossessed’ fund, a recent charitable fundraising initiative to raise money and awareness of the people cut off from a standard of living most Londoners take for granted.
Collaborative Consumption aka ZipCar Capitalism aka Consumption 2.0[i]
But in spite of many notable differences the recession may have brought these two disparate groups closer together. Whilst underprivileged households are used to being resourceful when it comes to saving money, the recent credit crisis-driven encumbrance to the lifestyles of the tech-savvy professional populations has seen them open up to similarly efficient forms of consumer spending.
If the 20th century was a time defined by hyper-consumption, where success was based on how many material items a person owned, then the new century is seeing the rise of collaborative consumption: a rapid explosion in traditional sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting, and swapping redefined through technology and peer communities.[ii]
Comprehensive Design Project
The Isle of Dogs is currently undergoing massive physical, social and economic change.
In the light of the changing forces alluded to above, does the island’s transformation offer strategic and creative potential for sharing and increasingly collaborative lifestyles or is the islanders’ coexistence, their daily lives and sense of worth determined by their extreme mutual differences?
Using the island as a test bed, Studio 2 will aim to explore, explain and design for a society that is simultaneously integrating and disintegrating, cooperating and segregating.