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Architects’ Journal takes a tour of Canning Town Caravanserai « Canning Town Caravanserai

Architects’ Journal takes a tour of Canning Town Caravanserai

Footprint pays a visit to the Caravanserai on the eve of Open House weekend

20 September, 2012 | By Hannah Wood


Car-a-van·se·rai [kærë”vænsëraû] n. pl. -rais

1. An oasis-like inn and trading post. Hundreds of Caravanserais lined the world famous Silk Road which connected people and provisions from Asia to their counterparts in the Mediterranean, North and East Africa and Europe. These hubs offered rest, water, food, entertainment and business opportunities.

Footprint was welcomed into the Canning Town Caravanserai ‘cultural exchange and urban ideas hub’ and brainchild of Ash Sakula Architects by on-site manager Ibrahim Buhari. A comprehensive tour of the project commenced amidst the twenty construction volunteers busily preparing for a weekend of workshops, glitter art and no-car boot sale, as part of Open House 2012.

Canning Town Caravanserai began life as a successful bid for Boris Johnson’s 2011 ‘Meanwhile London’ competition, where entrants submitted proposals for three brownfield sites on the journey from central London out to the Olympic park in Stratford. Since the opening of the project in April this year, the task now is to sustain interest and engagement with the local community while continuing to add and enrich the site, until 2017 at least.

caravanserai_10The Caravanserai has a strong environmental agenda – construction materials are to be re-appropriated or recycled and all locally sourced, with emphasis on upcycling and making resources stretch as far as possible.

Timber sleepers were upcycled from the nearby Olympic park and are now used as decking.

The remainder of the wood was sourced from ISG, contractor of the nearby Siemens Crystal (see next week’s AJ), and previously diverted from landfill. Scaffolding was donated from nearby Loughton Scaffolding.

The caravanserai is divided into eight micro-enterprise units which support local start up independent businesses rent-free. Ash Sakula’s ‘Dragon’s Kiosk’ competition held in April this year provided a platform for prospective traders to pitch their ideas and business strategies for the Caravanserai.

Successful proposals were then offered a location on-site, current occupants include upholstery and vintage furniture upcycling, artwork and printed canvases, pet accessories and ‘Iman Made’, skincare line without harmful chemicals, run by chief trader Iman Ogoo.

Additional structures to support the market activities include a dining table for feast events, theatre for live performances, cafe, children’s play area, and The Cube – a structure created by architecture students at UEL as part of their construction week programme.

Since April, the Caravanserai has played host to a series of events including Chelsea Fringe (pop-up garden event as a branch of the Chelsea Flower Show), community feasts and a series of live music events held in conjunction with local bar Arch1.

Read more at the Architect’s Journal Footprint Blog: