Plan Projects has been working with London Borough of Tower Hamlets to develop ways a key open space in Whitechapel could be retrieved from its use as a car park and reinvented as a buzzing and eclectic civic resource.
During 2012-13 Whitechapel was the subject of a major master-planning exercise by Building Design Partnership (BDP). This ushered in an episode of significant developer activity, particularly new residential blocks. Public realm works form a key component of this uplift in urban quality and character, and will support the area’s promotion as an established district centre.
Plan’s project site sits at the western ‘gateway’ to this centre, on the corner of New Road and Whitechapel, adjacent to the Royal London Hospital. The goal of the project was to help assert its spatial function as moment of transition from one part of the city to another, as well as provide a rich assortment of economic and social benefits in line with the programme for urban renewal underpinning the BDP vision.
To this end, a Plan Projects team comprising Ivan Tennant, Iain Glover and associate Tere Garcia, conceived the ‘Whitechapel Common Room’. Through new landscaping and facilities this space would be able to function as a space where the diverse communities of Whitechapel could mingle and socialise and test their own home grown ways of improving the local urban fabric. Where the Ideas Store further east allows people to stretch their mental horizons, the Common Room project would inspire people to flex their civic muscles, forge new relationships, learn new skills and add to the busy trading culture that characterises the area.
The proposals also envisage improving the pedestrian experience in Whitechapel by introducing an ‘active edge’, a linear element in the shape of a bench, planter and table that invites interaction with passers-by, prompting dwell time with Common Room and exploration of the whole site.
The Plan Making team at Tower Hamlets comments that work by Plan Projects ‘helped inform our decision making and provide a great set of ideas for how the townscape could be improved in Whitechapel. The work done sets the scene for moving to the next stage of the project: arriving at some community focussed designs and initiatives that can prompt exciting ways in which s106 funds can be delivered across the regeneration area.’