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· Philip Graham

Island Estate

Time for an urban solution

Film of our Green Sky Thinking Week event - Island Estate: Reintegrating the Neighbourhood

There's something wrong with our street.

Cars speed into dead end turns, bikes slither down the blind alley to the canal, children and prams spill onto the danger-junction, eyes (probably) follow the last one out of the office at night and school holidays and clock changes reliably herald the return of the rock-throwing, bike-stealing, abuse-shouting kids. But it’s alright because each episode is met with another cage. Only there are probably enough cages and cameras in Cluse Court now and it’s still not working.

Caged off Cluse Court

The estate is still an island in our erstwhile well-connected corner of Islington. There’s a sea of wealth at its edges now - the froth of The Bailout Bubble – but no investment for the estates in their shadows. So we’ve taken the initiative to show how we and our neighbours might be unlocked with a bit of the place-making, street-making design logic that runs through all of our work at Cullinans.

To energise all levels of our office we made this problem the focus of our annual Design Day, allowing a break from schedules and details to tackle this essential challenge to our cities. Briefed by survey answers from local residents and businesses, a Youth Worker, a Police Officer and urban specialists Space Syntax, three groups spent the day studying and making proposals for an estate on our doorstep that we’d hardly explored in our 20 years here, for want of reason or connection to the local street pattern.

Recklessly we opened our doors only a week later to a public audience of all backgrounds, expertise and local residents and a councillor too, in the spirit of Green Sky Thinking Week. Like our own, internal Design Reviews that see all of our projects go before an audience of ourselves, Green Sky Thinking is conceived as a forum for debate and critique. It didn’t disappoint.

…one of the most exciting projects that I’ve been involved in my time as a Police Officer.

Inspector Debbie Pierson

A proposal

There’s a project in this and it won’t start with discussions about “units” or “maximise the number of one-beds to reduce occupancy rates.” In the coming weeks we’ll be testing our ideas with our neighbours and councillors for taking down the walls and framing new spaces for the wider community with new housing in the blank, bin gable ends of the estate. Watch those spaces.

 

Philip Graham

Partner & Architect @CullinanStudio

 

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