Thursday’s trip to Caravanserai was definitely an eye-opening experience for me.
Right as I stepped out of the Canning Town station I saw a huge split between the worn-down neighborhood homes and the newly gentrified shopping area under construction. This division brought about a strange feeling inside. Is gentrification as good as it seems to be? Or are there consequences that we are overlooking that come from this process? I believe the answer became clearer to me after visiting Caravanserai, a temporary community center designed by and made for the people that live there. At first glance, one might not be impressed by the exterior beauty of this place. However, take a closer look and you’ll be surprised. Everything built in Caravanserai has a purpose. From the movable gardens, to the stage and the cleverly designed performance space, Caravanserai represents a space in which anyone in the community can contribute towards.
Our guide, Che, showed us around the area and explained to our class how this space came to be. The land was originally granted to the community through a government sponsored contest for the best use of the area. The winner decided that a community center should be built here, and thus Caravanserai was born. After going around and observing the different ingenious uses of the land,
I’d have to say that Caravanserai is definitely an important place for building community relationships. For one, I think it was brilliant of them to put on plays for the community. Having social events put on increases both the popularity and the moral of the environment. Due to gentrification and privatisation, it has been increasingly hard for people in the east end of London to have a community space dedicated to them. Caravanserai represents a sort of stronghold that still tries to retain some of that familiarity and a place open to all.
With that being said, my personal experience with Caravanserai led me to sympathize with the community group as opposed to the big companies that are trying to gentrify the area. For one, going across the little sand boxes, gardens, and children’s libraries was very vibrant and refreshing. I love the idea of open spaces which all groups of people can come and enjoy. It’s not that the new shopping centers and luxury apartments won’t have public spaces to offer. In fact, many of these companies claim that they will also build open areas. However, they will not have the warm welcoming feel of Caravanserai. Other privatised “public” spaces may be too intimidating for those who live in less fortunate neighborhoods. Caravanserai provides a sustainable community space that promotes incorporation and acceptance. All in all, Caravanserai is a great environment for the East London Docklands community, and I am honored to have been able to participate in it for the day. Although there are a few flaws that come with any temporary community space, I still believe that Caravanserai serves an important purpose for the people who live there.