ENTRY #267

Service Wash by Alpa Depani, Thomas Randall-Page


This proposal champions the launderette as a venue for commoning.

An urban phenomenon, the launderette is a relic of postwar social infrastructure, a provision intended to be egalitarian. Its decline in popularity is countered by an A1 class designation that prohibits change of use…thus explaining the bye-gone-era flavour of your local launderette.

In neighbourhoods where the ‘local’ high street renaissance is biased towards private enterprise and an encroaching demographic at the expense and exclusion of others, the launderette remains a bastion of public facility.

The Service Wash utilises the launderette’s quotidian presence proposing an expansion of its established function in favour of those most marginalised by urban renewal – the homeless. The physical inability to clean or be clean can be psychologically punishing; it creates an additional barrier to inclusiveness that the proposal aims to remedy. By partnering with homeless charities and drawing on existing initiatives, the launderette becomes a place to wash both clothes and self for those who have no other means to do so.

Small insertions aid the expanded programme. Service units draw upon the familiar palette of the launderette typology providing enclosure for showers and haircuts. Dimensioned according to standard washer-dryers the units are easily multiplied and are designed to sit alongside or replace existing machines. Benches create space to wait; rails hang robes worn during the spin and dry cycle by those with no change of clothes. Lockers allow storage of small personal items doubling as a means of providing an address.

The programme responds to the host launderette; its operating hours, ownership model and adjacent amenities. There are collaborations with local hairdressers and tailors, collective ownership by those that have benefitted from the Service Wash.

Gradually the launderette’s sense of purpose is renewed; a gift it bestows to others.


The Service Wash is a collaborative response to the brief, researched designed and executed by friends and long-time Hackney residents Alpa Depani and Thomas Randall-Page.

Alpa is an architect with an established professional and personal interest in public realm issues; she has previously collaborated with charities and NGOs and is a keen writer.

Tom is a designer and experienced tutor; he is adept at 1:1 making and possesses formidable skill in the art of the axonometric.

Amongst other things they share a love of their local borough, and of course the humble launderette.

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