How Are Jan Kattein Architects Working to Regenerate Urban Spaces?
The award-winning firm based in London, England, Jan Kattein Architects, works to realize the civic and spatial opportunities that architecture presents’ with their projects establishing a social and physical legacy, achieved by embracing an open, interactive design process that responds positively to the needs and aspirations of the clients.
Allowing the process to drive each individual project, their method stimulates innovative design, seeking to add benefits through education, economic growth, cultural activity, and greater community coherence.
Sustainability is paramount to the firm’s approach. Their projects always seek opportunities to re-activate existing spaces, use reclaimed or surplus materials, and tap into local supply networks throughout the design, procurement, and delivery. The spaces designed are saturated with research into strategies contemplating the possibilities of accommodating change through flexible design strategies to demountable construction techniques, which we will cover within this article.
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On a sliver of land just four meters wide, Sayer Street packs in the infrastructure in the form of an assemblage sitting within a framework of brightly colored scaffold and lighting to support all the social life which characterizes London’s best-loved high streets. The firm approached this through the use of undulating canopies shelter event spaces and seating nooks, interspersed with lush planting and three compact workspace pavilions.
The project aims to complement the recently opened terrace of cafes and restaurants on the south of Sayer Street until the rest of the high street has reached completion. The temporary nature of the scheme allows it to test responses to some of the pressing existential questions facing urban spaces across the country, including how to balance the implications of the emerging experience economy against the continuous need for civic spaces that define a sense of belonging to the city.
Abundant exotic planting is a central part of the spatial experience, softly enclosing areas within the folly to indulge in the pleasures of walking in the city: providing reasons to wander, opportunities to meet, and vantage points for simply stepping back to watch life go by. Completing the high street microcosm is a community radio station, a flower shop, and an art gallery to imbue the urban space with retail and cultural activity.
The regeneration of Aberfeldy Street was initiated as a way to construct a creative program of high street works, events, and business support aims to build common ground as Poplar changes around it. In 2019, Poplar HARCA and EcoWorld London, the owners of the properties lining the high street, commissioned High Street Works to re-energize the economic and social life of Aberfeldy Street. The aim was to build the capacity of its business and community networks to take their place in the pending redevelopment of Aberfeldy Village, as the struggling, vacant shops were formerly undermining the high street’s civic role as a gathering place for the neighborhood.
A bold patchwork mural and tree lighting wash the high street and its facades in fresh colors, setting the scene for this urban transformation. In homage to Poplar’s legacy of garment manufacture, honing in on the Bangladeshi Kantha tradition of textile recycling, the firm called out to the community to donate patches of well-loved fabrics. These donations were then digitally scanned and stitched, stretching the swatches across the buildings, bringing the high street to life in 200 different colors of paint.
The firm’s interventions began with the ‘Start Here’ program, which coupled eye-catching but light-touch refurbishment works to inactive retail units with support to existing shops and recruitment of new, innovative businesses to occupy vacant premises. As entrepreneurs are given the physical and strategic tools to adapt to changing customer needs, existing businesses are retained. In exchange for this support, businesses committed to engaging with the neighborhood through a series of ‘give-back’ events in a continuous effort to promote a program of engagement and outreach activities to set Aberfeldy Street as a worthy cultural destination.
Fore Street is a collection of targeted interventions around the high street to revitalize the southern gateway into Enfield and diversify the town center by creating new spaces for culture, play, and work. Angel Edmonton is listed among the 10% most deprived areas for several of the English Indices of Deprivation with barriers to education, skills, training, employment, income deprivation, and poor living environment. In 2019, Enfield Council commissioned the firm to prepare a bid for the Mayor’s Good Growth Fund. Once funding was secured, JKA and Fisher Cheng Architects jointly won a tender to implement the project.
Currently, under construction, the completion of Phase 1, the living room, is programmed for this July 2022 with Phase 2, the Garage, scheduled for completion in March 2023. The firm’s proposals for Angel Edmonton address some of the long-standing priorities that the community has voiced, ensuring that local people and businesses harness the benefits that regeneration brings.
This urban regeneration brings council services to a shop front on the high street, providing an interactive setting to develop a vision for its future. Keeping in line with the Enfield Council’s priority to reduce the use of embodied carbon, Jan Kattein Architects has designed the project to retain all the existing structures on site and adapt them to serve their new purpose.
The project seeks to strengthen the identity of the town center through public realm interventions, transforming a disused garage yard and anti-social behavior hotspot into a work and community space, introducing a school street in response to air quality deficiencies, and establishing an urban room in the local library.
The firm’s approach has been recognized by numerous national and international design awards, being actively aware that design excellence is a result of a team effort, continually investing themselves in their work and their professional relationships.
By allowing the design process to steer the project, Jan Kattein Architects have succeeded in building a portfolio of inventive projects, each of which takes advantage of the unusual opportunities and particular challenges of its respective site context. The firm believes that an integrated approach is needed for any place to fulfill its potential, with this conviction leading them to work across sectors, including regeneration, housing, economic development, education, public space, and planning.