Whilst on a study tour with university to Budapest, I had a great opportunity to meet and talk to working landscape architects and lectures of the profession in Budapest, as well as having some down time to explore the place ourselves.
One of the key moments for me was being walked around Kopaszi-gát (translating to Bald Park!) by Istvan Steffler, Director of Garten Studios. It was lovely to see how passionate about the industry he was and that Istvan Steffler took time out of his working day to talk to us students, and in a second language!
This particular park was located on a small spit between the River Danube and a large bay off the river. We were told there were many constraints when it came to designing the park, the largest was the potential 8m difference in water heights from the River Danube! This meant that the architects were required to design a space that could cope with this, and that was still usable, no matter what the water level was. The other main issue facing the designers was the large amount of contamination in the bay from the adjacent (now disused) power plant.
It was interesting to hear how an ampetheatre was designed to allow outdoor music concerts, performances and other events was only used on a number of occasions when the park was first opened, since then, it has now become a large and expansive area of seating. A positive outcome to this has meant that it acts as a flood defence mechanism. This has been tested on a few occasions where the water level has reached its maximum, just below the building floor levels. The park displays a good example of how well the architects and landscape architects have worked together designing the built forms for business use, around the landscaping and vice-versa. Another point that was made to us was about how important it is for contractors and designers to talk to each other whilst the project is under construction about any issues that could arise. This was highlighted to us where a walkway extended out from the built forms. The original intention for this was to extend over the water level at most times of the year, however there were issues (discovered on Site) with the placement of the proposals, now it extends over the water only once the water level rises.
Despite the rain and the cold wintery weather, planting in the park brought some much needed warmth and colour to an otherwise dull, grey day.
London is a city undergoing constant change, in many cases a push for housing being the catalyst. Certain areas have seen this more markedly than others, one being Hackney Wick, situated on the border of Hackney and Tower Hamlets boroughs. Once known for its petroleum, plastics, dye and confectionary industries during the 19th and early 20th centuries, contemporary Hackney Wick has now become synonymous with creative industries.
‘Live-work’ spaces have formed the backbone of the creative culture around the area, many of which have sprung up from the repurposing of old factory buildings into habitable living arrangements/studios. This has allowed individuals to be surrounded by like-minded people and in turn create hotspots for particular creative professions.
However, the area is currently subject to another wave of change, a type of change that is threatening creative industries and independent business’ alike. It comes in the form of property developers who have identified the area of potential. Undeniably, Hackney Wick has become more desirable to live in since the advent of the 2012 Olympics and the expansion of Stratford City/ Westfield shopping centre developments, both located in neighbouring areas. As a result rent prices for live-work spaces and business premises has increased, already driving those out who cannot soak up the cost.
There is no easy option to alleviate the pressures that Hackney Wick is facing, but rather than try to block change altogether, a sensitive approach should be adopted. This must come in way that puts a focus on the existing uses of the area.
The Olympic Legacy plan has included Hackney Wick as an identified area, which is active in an appropriate transformation of space and connectivity to the area. Where planning frameworks such as this will be used as umbrella rule, the responsibility also comes down to appointed design consultants to strive to achieve a considered end result in new development.
Recently Liz Lake Associates has had the opportunity to take these design intentions forward into residential space within Hackney Wick. The project on White Post Lane, with HWO Architects, has looked to retain spaces for existing users of the area. These spaces come in the form of ‘yard’ typologies which are heavily identified within Hackney Wick. Intended as flexible shared space, yards provide adequate room for the activities of creative industries. The narrow and intimate nature of these spaces lend themselves to human scale interaction, rendering them perfect for meetings/exhibitions and collaboration between people using them.