Caravanserai is a small friendly communal site that was built freely in a five-year span as an urban community project in Canning Town in East London. Caravanserai is definitely unique in the sense that it is centrally situated in between impoverished-looking tenements and newly gentrified buildings, such as social housing and markets. It appears as a communal garden surrounded by many different play areas suitable for children and those who enjoy arts & crafts, designing, or building.
At first glance, Caravanserai looks like a place built for children in a backyard. This is because everything that was used to build Caravanserai was freely donated, such as from companies that gave leftover material that was used to construct newly gentrified buildings.
Caravanserai is a very welcoming community, as there is a sign with the words “open for everyone” in the entrance. In the back of the site, there is a sign that defines Caravanserai to be “An oasis-like inn and trading post [that] connected people and provisions with their counterparts across Asia, Europe and Africa.” Caravanserai’s purpose was to show how urban public space could be freely built and open for everyone. Caravanserai thus is a local center in the East End where different people of different cultures and generations could come together and witness the diversity offered by different people.
Caravanserai made use of free public open space by building a garden for the local community as well as setting up outdoor theatre, playground, bar, café, and mini sheds, each representing a different theme—arts & crafts room, book store, gift shop, cultural dress up, etc. Caravanserai gains money by promoting and selling tickets for activities or shows and by selling homemade goods, such as from its mini café or gift shop.
Caravanserai in Canning Town is a temporary site that will be removed at the end of this year. The project of Caravanserai aims to spread throughout different parts of London and embark as a place that makes use of free space and free material, which ultimately joins diverse people together. One can view the voluntarily built project and enjoy their time there by stopping to grab a bite for lunch with freshly made ingredients from the gardens, or grabbing a coffee or tea to go, or visiting to watch a performance acted by volunteers.
My experience at Caravanserai was one of fascination and wonder, as I did not believe that many different cultural people came to a small public area to trade and settle some of their goods there. Seeing bicycle tires, bottle caps, metal cans, and other given material used to build Caravanserai made me think of how free public urban space made use of accessible, free resources to accommodate people’s needs, and therefore, gained profit.
Caravanserai’s voluntary incentives to build a community for the diverse groups of people in the East End were to welcome everyone and help others gain profit and as a result, Caravanserai thrived and will therefore, continue to make its mark by building sites in other areas of London