Ash Sakula – Inventing Communities

With bottomless tea and biscuits flowing, this open studio felt more like visiting a close friend’s home rather than attending an architectural talk. Cany Ash and Robert Sakula, founders of Ash Sakula have created a comfortable, warm and inspiring studio space for their practice, which they generously opened up for this London Festival of Architecture event. 

With countless developments under construction across the capital, how can we successfully create new communities? A complex challenge, one which Ash Sakula sought to question and debate. 

Sheltered from the summer rain, we huddled together in the cosy studio for a series of thought-provoking presentations from the practice, the case study in hand being Ash Sakula’s work at Wickside in Hackney. Wickside is a 3.4 hectare canal-side development on the edge of London’s Olympic Park. It occupies the site of a former refuse yard, and forms part of the ongoing transformation of Hackney Wick and Fish Island. At first glance, Wickside might be mistaken for yet another mixed-use residential/commercial development, offering 500 new homes and 300 new jobs to London. However, the true quality and innovation of Wickside shines through once we look a little closer at the uses and composition of these differing uses.   

Hackney Wick contains the largest concentration of artists anywhere in Europe. The creative industries have grown and cultivated a unique character and community in the area, one which is crucial to protect and enhance in future development. Tackling the challenge of inventing new communities, the importance of embracing the existing conditions holds huge value in Wickside.

Within the plan for the scheme are a number of existing buildings, which will form the anchor for new creative industry workspaces. Offering a flexible mixture of small studio space, a working yard and workshops, the area allows for a rich mix of users and in turn will create a diverse and healthy community. This creative industry cluster will sit next to and integrate into large areas of new residential, with extensive design consultation being undertaken to coordinate the variety of uses. 

An art gallery, shops, restaurants, a foundry, creative studios and a brewery all linked by a linear park will bring a variety of activity, a variety of users and a variety of atmospheres, which will combine to create a vibrant, diverse and ever-changing community at Wickside. Formed as a collage of existing buildings, new buildings and canal, Robert Sakula describes Wickside as ‘not one place, but many’. The only negative, we have to wait a little while longer to see it complete!

Mark CoxComment