What truly defines a community? « Canning Town Caravanserai

What truly defines a community?

What truly defines a community?

Is it the people within it? Is it the cultures it is comprised of? Is it the area that surrounds it?

Caravanserai attempts to answer this question. As a local community organization, Caravanserai

won the rights to a plot of land that they could develop into a space for the surrounding residents.

Like many of the other plots of land in the area, Caravanserai used to be a desolate piece of land

that was, frankly, quite eerie if it was anything like the plots of land that surround it. However, this

space has been transformed into a bustling hive for the community. Caravanserai consists of a

community stage, a restaurant that uses ingredients from its gardens, and individual booths and

enclosed structures that the community can use transforming a once lifeless space into one with


Upon walking up to the property, I immediately became aware of the color that encompasses the

space. From the sign that is in bright orange to the grass that is a lively green, the place dances with

life. The life is formed by structures and spaces that have been built by and for the community. The

garden is planted and maintained by members of the community. Some of the buildings have been

designed by the community, including a portable garden wagon that was built after the design won

a competition. Caravanserai is not just a place that can be used, it is a place that can be interacted

with making it entirely special.

I found a couple aspects of Caravanserai especially intriguing. One of these aspects was its reusing

of materials. Metal soda cans had been crushed to create decor that added a hypnotic feel to the

area. Shipping materials that once been some of the building blocks of the economy of the area

were turned into chairs and swings. It was the amount of these chairs, seesaws, and swings that

actually caught my attention. These seats are a place for people to rest, to work, to laugh, to learn

about one another, and to bond as a community. They encourage interaction. They encourage

conversation. I believe that the idea of the extensive amount of these seats is just epitomized by

“The Longest Table.” Caravanserai is obviously stating their main goal: unity of the community.

The Table does not seek to exclude anyone; instead, it invites individuals to come together.

I also believe that Caravanserai does an incredible job of developing individuality within this

community as well. Caravanserai allows spaces for artists to display their work. They allow theatre

performances on their theatre stage. They also allow for classes on Steel Drums to be taught in their

enclosure. These examples just display the amount of emphasis that Caravanserai puts not only on

education in general but also education of different cultures. Because Caravanserai encourages the

individual to grow and explore, they are allowing the community to flourish as a whole as a result.

Just as Caravanserai is brimming with color and life, it is also brimming with a sense of community

that is incredibly difficult to achieve. I believe that, most of all, a community should be welcoming.

Caravanserai did not scare away the University student from across the ocean. Instead, I felt a sense

of belonging to this place in which I had never previously visited. After walking around

Caravanserai, I do not feel as great of a desire to ask the question, “What truly defines a



Keely Marshall