Tottenham Pavilion is a hyper-local project with a bold aspiration to create a Pavilion unlike many others. The brief asked applicants from artists to architects, at any stage of their career, to design a new kind of public space that disrupted the continuum of gentrification.
The idea, born from a former industrial site that has, over 20 years, been converted by artists, musicians, makers and community dwellers into live / work space, was not to stop gentrification – a process that is already clearly evident in the area – rather to kick it in a different direction, open up the discussions and foster new connections between the Harringay Warehouse District and residents nearby.
Launched in January 2020, the competition had to evolve to overcome challenges – not least covid-19. “We were meant to be building the Pavilion now!” said Carolina Khouri, Lebanese-Polish artist from the warehouse district. The build was set to feature in this year’s London Festival of Architecture which, also due to the pandemic, has had to change its format. Instead of the build, Tottenham Pavilion has launched podcast conversatiolons exploring the process with the likes of London Architects Boano Prismontas, ft’work and Copenhagen based CHART – produced in kind by KooZA/rch magazine.
In total 166 designs were submitted from all over the word. The judging process combined the expertise of leading architects and a local community vote to gauge reactions. Four architects, Katy Marks, Citizens Design Bureau, Clare Richards, ft’work, Stephen Mackie & Sean McAlister, from Sean & Stephen, joined Aida Esposito, Creative Industries Consultant, and two Harringay Warehouse residents Ellis Gardiner, Director of New River Studios, and Ryan Hughes, independent Architect, formed the judging panel. Two designs were shortlisted, one of which won by a whisker.
The winning concept, ‘A Shared Hall & the Festival of Making’, by architecture collective Nine, has gentrification-disruption at heart of its concept – both in terms of the aesthetic and the involvement of local residents. Inspired by old market halls and clock towers, the concept of ‘a shared hall’ is flexible in its use but civic in its presence. The structure is simple to be achievable as a self-build project with local residents – Hamish Warren, from Nine, said “The act of building is engaging people with architecture and the built environment. People being involved in this process and thinking about their built environment, consciously or subconsciously, it’s all positive for being able to comment on how our built environment grows and develops.” Judge Clare Richards explained why the design won her vote “It’s in the name! This is a strong design and responds to every detail of the brief. The ‘festival of making’ to build it will really give local self-build volunteers a sense of ownership.”
The shortlisted concept, The Tottenham Sculpture Pavilion, by Jack Wates and Merrett Houmøller Architects, was in contrast a pavilion that occupied the perimeter of the site to support a sheltered community sculpture garden, employing a simple aesthetic of a repeated pitched roof to communicate a sense of collectively. The judging for top place was tight, as Sean McAlister, from the judging panel, explained “The ambition and broad use of the site nearly won Tottenham Sculpture Pavilion first position” for his counterpart, Stephen Mackie, the balance of the decision for him came down to viability given the limited budget of £15-£30k the organisers had set “on a tight budget, I think most of the elements I like about the design would be valued engineered out”.
There was a clear reason why Nine entered the competition, as Hamish Warren explains “We were really taken by the obvious enthusiasm the brief described about the warehouse community and the possibility the project could offer the wider community.” When hearing the news that Nine’s concept had won, Will Beeston was taken aback, “It’s especially surprising because we did kind of start the process as a bit of a challenge to the brief. To hear that we have actually won is doubly surprising.”
Both the winner and the shortlisted designers will receive a honorarium of £300, with the winning concept pencilled in to be built in 2021. The project to date has been self-funded by the organisers and run purely on passion. “The next phase is about fundraising” explains James West, West Creative, one of the three organisers. “We need to find the money, talk and consult with many more people and go through planning and other checks before we can start any building, hopefully in 2021.” adds Joe Wright, Joe Wright Architecture.