Hip to be a square

Friday 31 Aug 2012

Gillett Square is a model for future social regeneration

The idea of a Square in Dalston had been discussed locally for over 20 years as part of a community wide consultation by Groundwork East London and Hackney Cooperative Development. The local community were determined to create a special space that could represent the local cultures and spearhead improvement throughout the community.

The project gained momentum in 1998 when funds became available for HawkinsBrown to prepare a masterplan of the surrounding area. This lead to the retention and repair of the derelict buildings in Bradbury Street and the development of the award winning Bradbury St market stalls, and the building of the Dalston Culture Club to house the Vortex Jazz Club. A derelict car park was converted into a new town square; knitting together the surrounding buildings and provide much needed outdoor space for performances and teaching. A sense of place has emerged with the rehabilitated managed workspaces, offices and workshops with their first and second storey balconies looking over the square. Besides the successful Jazz Café there are local entrepreneurs selling music, jewellery, crafts and beauty products, plus hair salons, a tailor, an African bookshop, designer-makers, craftspeople, graphic artists, architects, media and IT workers and arts and voluntary sector groups. There is a high level of sustainable black, ethnic minority and female entrepreneurs and community groups.

Support for the scheme came from the European Regional Development Fund, the Greater London Authority, Hackney Co-operative Developments, The Peabody Trust and the Vortex Jazz Foundation.

This scheme didn't just physically redevelop the square but aimed to build an innovative, devolved management organisation to secure an enduring future for the site and its community. This is based on the following achievements:

1) The Dalston neighbourhood having roots, character, cohesion, stability and relative permanence. 2) A good and responsible design - with the introduction of deck entries on the upper floors of the terrace to create passive surveillance over the public square. Provision of flexible market pods based on European newsstands, giving the Dalston Culture House a celebratory, luminous frontage and allowing the square to act as a multipurpose outdoor theatre attracting no less than the RSC to perform. This has all lead to its long-term sustainability, reducing crime, providing employment, housing and cultural activities for the local community. 3) Does not rely on one charismatic leader but the accountability of the whole local community. 4) Engagement with a wider economic and cultural market to endure local cycles of boom and bust, thus allowing for longer term economic development and neighbourhood renewal. 5) Attracting national recognition as a model for regenerations as the first of the London Mayor's programme of new public spaces for London. 6) On-going private, voluntary and public sector partnerships were all parties are prepared to change and create a whole, which is far greater than the sum of their parts.

Gillett Square has been cited in much research as a model for future social regeneration and has received much recognition for its creative and inclusive design

Key Facts:

United Kingdom

Want to submit your project to World Architecture News?

Contact The Team