Visiting the Caravanserai today in Canning Town was a fantastic experience. It was both refreshing and inspiring to experience a space so creatively utilized in order to contribute an alternative culture to the city-dwellers of East London. By far, the most intriguing fact about the Caravanserai is that it changes location every five years, meaning any infrastructure dedicated to a specific piece of land will eventually be lost. The solution? The wonderful people behind the Canning Town Caravanserai decided to mobilize as many resources as possible, and donate the rest to various deserving organizations. For example, plants and fruits are grown on a portable table, and storage containers cleverly fold into more manageable and small shapes. In addition, most of the infrastructure was created through community efforts and architectural challenges, meaning the community really has a claim and connection to the Caravanserai. It is a place for people to come together, and offers unifying experiences to those who previously had no means to obtain them. The most striking example of this, in my opinion, is how the Caravanserai allows people living in huge urban buildings to maintain their own gardens. It is a social mechanism that truly brings an alternative culture to a region of London going through heavy urban development and gentrification.
In addition, the Caravanserai does not attempt to hide the ghetto nature of its surroundings; instead, it embraces its surroundings and creates a cohesive experience for visitors. In terms of architecture, it is an ambitious ground that serves as a foil to the huge urban monstrosities covering the rest of the Docklands. Through its simple design and crowdsourced infrastructure, it shows that there is an alternative grounds for architectural space (with respect to urban development). The best example of this is the clear view of huge banks and institutions in Canary Wharf form the Caravanserai. This view serves as a reminder that urban development is going on, but through its juxtaposition with the Caravanserai, it sends us the message that the preservation of space for alternative culture is possible. Also, the community events invites people of all ages to experience this space: there are seesaws and igloo-esque structures for children to play in, large buildings where adults and adolescents alike can see renditions of the great works of Shakespeare, and much more. In conclusion, the Caravanserai successfully achieves its ambition in creating a community space. I would highly recommend visiting the Caravanserai to anyone passing through Canning Town – there is not a single spot that better embodies both the urban development atmosphere and the lower socioeconomic standards of the surroundings!