The Caravanserai project is a story in its own right. The starting point is in 2010, when the Mayors of Newham and London decided to launch a design competition as part of the regeneration of East London. The aim was to find ‘meanwhile’ uses for three prominent brownfield sites – and the adjacent water – in the Royal Docks and Canning Town. The chosen sites lie on or close to the Olympic venues and were expected to have both local and global impact, before, during and after the Games.
Read the full text of the Meanwhile London competition here.
An innovative design competition gives birth to a creative concept.
The Canning Town site becomes a blank canvas for the design team to work on a unique idea. The site is split in two sides along Wouldham Road: The north site is the largest, while the south one is linear and the home of two empty apartment blocks. The Caravanserai developed through a collaboration with a small group of creative organisations of architects, urbanists, designers, landscape architects and social enterprise agencies. The project takes inspiration from the Caravanserai – roadside inns – where travellers could rest and recover from their journeys, supporting the flow of commerce, information, and people across a network of global trade routes.
The Caravanserai is set around the idea of a protected courtyard, where people trade and network. Micro-enterprise units are placed all around this inner courtyard and face the main road opposite Canning Town Station. But the idea extends much further. The bigger picture is about building a local economy that can be quickly self-sustained and feed back to the local community. In this sense, a large area of the north site is transformed into an event space, that welcomes performances, shows, sport events and many more to financially make the project feasible. The south side supports the Caravanserai as it becomes a pop-up hotel for people from all over the world.
Canning Town Caravanserai won the Meanwhile London Competition for the Canning Town site in early 2011. The award was the temporary occupancy of both sites: the north for 2 years and the south for a 5 year period.
EXYZT // Space Makers // Ash Sakula // Community Links // The Kindest Group // Just Add Tea // Technology Will Save Us // Wayward Plant Registry // Atmos Studio // David Barrie Associated
Following the win of the design competition, the Caravanserai team focused on making the project happen as soon as possible. A series of events were planned, in order to publicise the idea and interact with locals. And the adventure starts.
The Caravanserai will provide a public space in the heart of Canning Town. It will be open to a diverse spectrum of residents from the local area, and will also welcome visitors and passers-by. It takes the form of an outdoor enclosure pop-up public space, containing small structures. The terrain will provide for diverse and complementary activities, including making, performance, training, trading, cooking, eating, drinking and playing. It will be firmly based on activities that are open to all, and involve all age ranges, including families, the young and the elderly.
We wish to connect people young and old, families, local organisations and local businesses with new oportunities and the possibilities of networked exchange. The area has been long-neglected, though is now the location for susbtantial development and investment, which risks marginalising local communities. It seems that the frayed fibres of the neighbourhood need some new vibrant connecting threads.
The project is a change-maker, activating informal connections between those with skills and those who wish to learn, providing tasks of construction, planting and opportunity to work and trade within space. The fabric of the neighbourhood will be rethreaded by the energy of the Caravanserai.
Canning Town Regeneration plans