The Embassy by Rachel Jenkins, Aminat Lawal Agoro, Mia Prahm Eskemose, Arome Agamah, Jeffrey Adjei
Our concept for ‘The Embassy’ is for a multidimensional space, functioning as cultural outpost, a community resource, a place of learning and relationship building, a physical crossing point and a refuge – in this instance for primarily grassroots, uncapitlised activity. It is not parochial to a specific culture, but aims to reflect global cultural happenings especially those that directly engage the local diverse communities. Each could celebrate and physically express their cultures and also allow for an accessible place for anyone to learn and be themselves. In essence, the concept of the commons expands beyond the purely local to making a connection to the wider world. For Woolwich, one of London’s most diverse and deprived communities, such a space can counter the narrative of multiculturalism as an inherently bad thing and, being sited in a key regeneration zone, provide an alternative vision that is more contextual and more dynamic than what retail oriented spaces often provided by such initiatives might be.
Our proposal is an intervention that opens up the space and creates a physical link that reanimates a dead street. We also propose a flexible layout can also allow for the space to be of use during any downtime as a marketplace, an exchange, hosting community services, and also to allow for easy reconfiguring for a variety of public functions. Current users of the space are not to be disenfranchised but engaged as part of this framework, especially if they already serve some kind of creative or community purpose. For upkeep and management we envisage the creation of a body such as a community trust or social enterprise, working under a charter granted by the council to effectively make it a public asset. Links to similar entities worldwide can be a source of its energy, inspiration and drive.
This proposal was developed by a multidisciplinary group of 5 individuals, who have a shared interest architecture and urbanism, and collaborate on projects that address culture, economic and social life in the city. Much of their interest is focussed on the African context.
Rachel Jenkins has been engaged with various platforms and organisations engaging with projects on how cities are evolving and how citizens interact with cities. Rachel has from the start contributed to the development of the concept and contextual research as well as her experience as a community organiser.
Aminat Lawal Agoro is a cultural worker and independent researcher specialising in African and African diasporic art and culture. Her current research project is a confluence of history, memory, ritual and urban spaces in the context of Lagos, Nigeria. Aminat’s local knowledge contributed to the contextual research and development of the concept.
Mia Prahm Eskemose is an urban sociologist with a particular interest in urban informality and city transformations. She has been engaged in research in different contexts such as Maputo, London and Copenhagen focusing on perceptions of home and sense of belonging. Mia worked on contextual research and developing the concept.
Arome Agamah has a background in architecture and planning with an interest in the economic and social development of urban communities and the means of improving public participation in planning, policymaking and design. Arome contributed his local knowledge, and he contributed to developing the concept, layouts and visualisations.
Jeffrey Adjei is an architect and urban planner with an interest in socially conscious design and the processes by which users of spaces and buildings interact with their environments. Jeffrey brought to the team his experience in design competitions and contributed to developing the concept, developing spatial approaches and visualisations.