Alternative architects in bid to 'unlock' Thames Gateway plans
Wednesday December 1, 2004
The Office of Subversive Architecture
is a group of guerrilla architects specialising in ideas without clients,
funding and, at times, without permission. In September, its London "cell"
gave a disused signal box near Brick Lane, east London, a politically motivated
makeover. After being refused access, the OSA trespassed and gave it a new
lease of life as a whitewashed, furnished dream home.
The house remained out of reach on private land, a commentary on what the OSA sees as the public's exclusion from the planning and housing system. "It was difficult to realise the project even in a disused area, even as something that would improve the environment," says Karsten Huneck, an architect and one half of the OSA's London cell. "It got more political, but somehow that fitted with what we wanted to express."
The group is now bringing its brand of DIY intervention to the government's vast homebuilding project in the Thames Gateway. It was one of the contributors at a "sideshow" salon held last week to coincide with the Thames Gateway Forum, a conference for developers and investors. The OSA feels that people are unable to project their ideas of what should happen in the region, excluded either by the financial cost of attending the forum or the difficulty of addressing politicians and housebuilders.
"The Thames Gateway is locked up; we're trying to unlock it and allow for some movement," says Trenton Oldfield, a collaborator with the OSA and one of the salon organisers. He hopes to make the salon a regular event, providing space for new ideas and involving community groups.
Sadly, the OSA's own plan to subvert the Thames Gateway isn't about deploying crack guerrilla bricklayers and renegade architects. It just wants to remind people that the Gateway is more than a political initiative or a developers' profit centre. It is planning non-architectural interventions that simply draw attention to the area. "It's not about new architecture - it can be a performance, or an event, or a park," says Huneck.
A case of watch this space?