See your space…

As local authorities have ever decreasing resources to manage their existing, often ageing properties, and private finance is used to develop our built environment, the question of what is public space arises.

Many of our contemporary accessible spaces have restrictive rules imposed upon them by their private land-owners. Other privately-owned developments suggest pockets of land or parts of buildings open to a communal use and how can the public take ownership of these under such circumstances?

We suggest that the benefits in providing shared spaces, the use of which are the responsibility of a network of local communities, has never been more valuable if a stable, healthy society is to be supported within a global city.

The need to identify a new series of public and communal spaces across the city has led us, as architects, to explore the existing empty, derelict or apparently uninhabited structures and landscapes in our neighbourhood that might provide such an opportunity. The challenge is to ‘make public’ the possibility of grass-roots ownership of these places.

Clusters of red chairs appear around, inside or next to an empty building or a disused structure, signifying the possibility of people coming together to use and to temporarily and peacefully occupy the place. Postcards of the red chairs are distributed across the neighbourhood. What is the response of the public to this previously latent opportunity that the act of sitting together on mutual ground now exposes?

This work illustrates our proposal to provoke inhabitation of communal ground in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.  The project is to take place this Summer when we seek to record public responses through film, photography and the written word.

Is there a public interest?
Are these spaces easily appropriated?
Is there a sense of ownership that follows?
How do the land-owners respond to the attention this act provokes?


Anna Versteeg, Architect
Naomi Shaw, Architect
Ioana Marinescu, Photographer
Tapio Snellman, Film-maker


March 2018