The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


BUDD UK practice engagement

As part of the Transforming Local Areas: Urban Design for Development module, students engage in an Urban Design exercise in partnership with a local stakeholder (term 2).

Since 2012, the main focus of investigation has been on East London and its post-Olympics Transformation.

East London and its post-Olympics transformation have become a fertile ground for a series of design-driven investigations of the module Transforming Local Areas - Urban Design for Development (core module of the MSc Building and Urban Design in Development). 

Within the framework of an urban design exercise, run in partnership with a local stakeholder, students are stimulated to critically reinvent the development brief as tool for urban-design-driven transformation, undertaking fieldwork and proposing a critical alternative for transformation in a series of urban environments. 

Urban analysis move therefore beyond an enquiry over the socio-spatial dimensions of an urban area, to incorporate local narratives, stakeholders’ imaginations, human and non-human mobilities, investigations over conditions of alterity, dynamics of seclusion and dispossession or displacement, mechanisms of care. Vision statements are equally re-thought, attempting to move away from the production of empty mottos and slogans that inevitably perpetuates profit- and growth-driven understandings of urban transformation. How can we devise a loose-though-inclusive framework of principles and guidelines that could steer transformation effectively, while at the same time embracing the complexity and multi-vocality of the urban realm, and the call for just and sustainable development?

Since the academic year 2012-13, we partnered with local institutions and organisations operating at the South-Eastern end of Newham’s so-called ‘arc of opportunity’, in the Royal Docks area, where we have dug deeply into a contested regeneration process – driven by Newham Council’s (and the Mayor of London’s) vision of a hub for international investment driven by sustainable technology, business parks, and housing. Challenging such vision, we worked in Silvertown, North Woolwich, Albert Island, Custom House. 

Most recently, we took advantage of the remote nature of our investigations – as imposed by the COVID-19-related lockdown – to understand the area within the wider regeneration of the Lea Valley and three urban transformation projects related to such process: St Andrew’s in Bromley-by-Bow, Chobham Farm in Stratford, Hale Village in Tottenham Hale. At the Royal Docks, we focused on the redevelopment of Royal Wharf and Silvertown Quays.  The exercise was fundamental in grasping how regeneration discourses and imaginations, but also dynamics of seclusion and dispossession, replicate across scales and places, though with apparently different connotations.

2020-21: Selection of Works on Silvertown Quays and Royal Wharf / St Andrews / Chobham Farm / Hale Village

In 2019-20, we had partnered with Newham Council, which contacted us to reason on opportunities for a people-centred transformation of Custom House, on the background of a regeneration process sustained by a participatory agenda. 

2019-20: Selection of Works on Custom House

We had started co-producing knowledge on the area back in 2012-13, partnering precisely with Newham Council. We focused firstly on the area of North Woolwich, with a specific concern for the supposed isolation of the area and the potential transformation of Pier Parade — which was identified as a catalyst for community-driven activities. We then moved to Albert Island shifting the focus to an apparently leftover and empty piece of urban land, read through its connections towards Beckton and North Woolwich. We speculated on the possible transformation of the island while keeping in mind the development restrictions imposed by the proximity of the London City Airport. We then embarked into a critical appraisal of Silvertown Quays regeneration project, sitting at the heart of the Royal Docks basins and leveraging upon its built heritage. Against the fascinating background of the Millennium Mills and other elements of industrial archaeology, we argued for (and attempted to portray) a critical alternative for the future of the area, mindful of its relationship with the socio-spatial fabric of the surroundings and of the potential civic vocation of the new public spaces to be created.

2012-13: Selection of Works on North Woolwich

2013-14: Selection of Works on Albert Island

2014-15: Selection of Works on Silvertown Quays

In Silvertown Quays, we revisited our public engagement strategy and started liaising more closely with community-based organisations, initially with The Momentum Project, and then with ASTA Community Hub. ASTA, part of the wider network of spaces and activities of Community-Links, proposed to us to work on the proposal of expansion for the London City Airport, which would have threatened the Silvertown neighbourhood, where the Hub is. From this experience, importantly, a group of students moved to constitute Royal Docks Community Voice (RDCV), which has since then operated in the area supporting a wider neighbourhood planning momentum. 

2015-16: Works on Silvertown and the proposal for the expansion of the London City Airport

After a hiatus of two years in Lewisham, working first with Deptford Neighbourhood Action (on the regeneration of Convoys Wharf and its impact on Deptford), and Lee Neighbourhood Forum (on the contested regeneration of Leegate), we moved back to the Royal Docks in 2018-19, partnering with our alumni from RDCV and running the exercise in parallel with Croydon Council, fostering a cross-local dialogue over spaces artificially constructed as derelict, their profit-driven regeneration, and spaces of opportunity for bottom-up resignification.

2016-17: Works on Convoys Wharf
2017-18: Works on Lee
2018-19: Works on Royal Docks / Croydon

We look forward to keep focusing on the contested transformation of East London, supporting the agency of community-based initiatives. 

Previous engagements

2012 Elephant and Castle

2011 London Borough of Enfield

2010 Bishopsgate Goods Yard, London

2009 Shoreditch, East London