The Bartlett School of Architecture


Conversations on the Canal

Sophie Hardcastle

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Conversations on the Canal’ is a project exploring the River Lee Navigation in Hackney Wick, as a platform for conversation amongst a community. The project was prompted by the potential loss of the A12 underpass, and seeks to explore a dialogical approach to researching, retaining and reclaiming this space for public use.

To challenge detached, disembodied and distanced practices of recent urban transformation in the area, Sophie developed an approach of ‘situated dialogical practice’ grounded within the specificity of a site and its community.

Over a period of six weeks, local individuals and organisations were invited into conversation on a narrowboat. Through small talk, boat rides, urban foraging, tea drinking, kayaking, sandwich eating and incessant waving to passing boats, Conversations on the Canal reveals the area’s hidden narratives. This is documented within an artist’s book and accompanied by a film which emphasises the personal struggle to celebrate the scope of embodied knowledge and perspectives alongside attempting to draw one’s own understanding and knowledge from a series of encounters. 

The first phase of this ongoing work culminated in an audio walk of the canal, foregrounding the voices of the local community whilst expanding its reach to other urban practitioners and professionals.


1. Conversations on the canal. Sophie Hardcastle, 2019
2. River Lee Navigation. Sophie Hardcastle, 2019
3. Boat view – A12 underpass. Sophie Hardcastle, 2019