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An Evaluation

by AzuKo

The Pavilion and Alex

At the outset of the project the artist Alex Julyan described,

“ The Poplar Pavilion is an experiment

in design, deconstruction/construction and materials. It is also a laboratory for catalysing ideas about wellbeing, understanding the part the built environment plays in our health and encouraging awareness in all sectors.

“ The design and build will be generated

through and with the community and it will stand for all to engage with. My hope is that the Pavilion is experimental, stimulating, compassionate and theatrical.”


Alex Julyan is a London based artist, curator, producer, and Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellow. She works both independently and in partnership to deliver high quality public sector and independent projects, exhibitions and events. Her collaborations are informed by music, language, history, architecture and science. Alex, in 2014 was selected by the Wellcome Trust to be part of their Engagement Fellowship programme. Wellcome Trust’s Engagement Fellowship supports science, academic, healthcare and art professionals to engage the public with ideas around health and wellbeing.


What resulted was a multitude of tools, sounds, relationships, plants and structures; a place to connect, listen and discuss.


The Evaluation and AzuKo

This evaluation is a collection of quotes, thoughts and reflections from all of the Pavilion team members and volunteers, community members, local key stakeholders, and AzuKo. It is an assessment and presentation of the process and relationships that defined the Pavilion, and should act as a handbook for future engagers and commissioners to lead effective engagements. AzuKo is an architecture charity. We design with disadvantaged communities and empower them to create the world they dream of. We work alongside disadvantaged communities to create culturally sensitive design solutions. From housing, sanitation and infrastructure to play and public space, our projects address the real needs of the 5

communities we work with including living in, and working with the community around Chrisp Street Market and the housing association Poplar HARCA. Our current work is in the UK, Bangladesh and China, and is heavily grounded in engagement, trust building, research, facilitation and participatory design methods. Our experience in a range of settings, cultures and contexts gives us a robust perspective on engagement, and a point from which to evaluate the Poplar Pavilion. The evaluation has been written and designed to capture the nonlinearities, the aesthetic and the general essence of the Pavilion, while maintaining a level of criticality and reflection for collective growth and learning. 6



The once Metropolitan Borough of Poplar, and home to mayor George Lansbury1 (a man, who in 1921, spent six weeks in prison for directly defying the London County Council by defending the equal taxation rights of his constituents in East London) is the site of the Poplar Pavilion. Lansbury’s name lives on through the neighbourhood that bears it. The Lansbury neighbourhood is home to Chrisp Street Market, the ‘first purpose-built pedestrian shopping area in the UK’. The market was designed as part of the Festival of Britain and a postwar redevelopment plan that aimed to increase community spaces, rebuild a shattered East End and improve housing, among other things.

CITY OF In the market, at the tail end of a slender path L that leads south out towards the A13 sits an adjacent ONDON 1.

plaza called East India Square. It’s a slightly barren place. The black rails, securely fending off the onslaught of the private and corporate automobiles that define the A13, are no match for the fumes that are left behind. The square is lacking cover or shade, except for the London plane trees that face the street railing - the same trees set for removal as part of the coming development. The construction of the Pavilion began on the eve of a development that includes 650 new homes, new retail and leisure spaces. At the time of the Pavilion the designs were awaiting planning permission. For these reasons, Alex describes East India Square as the perfect site, and one, as you will see, that could not have become the sitePOPLAR by plan2.

2. Read more about Poplar and East India Square in the Report.


Materials, Costs and Labour / Events



Cloud 6 scaffolding platforms and tower,


including labour Scaffold boards to make the tree planters


4 sheds


Power tools


Paint, general equipment and used


furniture Materials from a demolished local


mosque: a ‘mihrab’, 5 sinks and 14 radiator covers Loaned piano

£0 £334

Plants and seeds £1,372 3 River birch trees Timber


Donated compost, plants and pots




Paid activity fees at the Pavilion


Meals and drinks for Alex and the team


(all locally spent) Van hire






Alex Julyan artist, project lead

1500 hours


Alex Henderson architect

120 hours + flight


Kate Minns lead architect, main collaborator

Indeterminate hours over April/ May/June/July/ Sept


Jim Jack artist and maker

230 hours


Enrico local assistant

100 hours


Cheryl community assistant

65 hours


Hannah Maxwell social media

38 hours


Jasmine Drewry student

40 hours


John local worker

16 hours


Betty work experience

60 hours


Marcus local worker

10 hours




June 1

London Festival of Architecture

June 17

Langdon Park School and AzuKo: ‘Defining Poplar’ Design Course

June 28

Bootcamp Fitness with Moses

July 8

Poplar Cub Scouts: camping, knots and skills

July 14

Stepney City Farm: planting workshop

July 17

Healthy Poplar: chair disco with A. Marie for individuals with mobility issues

July 18

Healthy Poplar: cook and chat with Georgia Puckett

July 19, 21

Healthy Poplar: back to play, skipping with Eleanor

July 20

Healthy Poplar: sing-a-long with James and Alex

July 22, 29

Idea Store: Family Reading Group

July 25

Idea Store: Book Swap

July 26,

Men’s Cabin: social group

July 28

Local History Library: a glimpse into the photo archives

July 31

Idea Store: Story and Rhyme Time

August 2, 9

Idea Store: Book Swap Men’s Cabin: social group

August 3, 17, 31

Prime Time: reading group for over 50’s


August 5, 12, 19, 26

Idea Store: Family Reading Group

August 8, 22

Idea Store: Adult Book Break

August 9, 16, 23, 30

Idea Store: Book Swap

August 10

Music: Rock ‘n’ roll with Graham

August 14

Idea Store: Story and Rhyme Time

August 15 August 17

Music for all: Carol plays guitar Plants and sustainability: Royal Horticultural Society

August 22, 29

Classical violin with Dimitry

August 23

Poetry and stories: Arlo Jolly

August 24 August 25 August 28

Singing with Cynthia Gerald Masala Bhangra dance with Shaz Falun Gong: exercise (regularly throughout September)

September 2

Idea Store: Family Reading Group Engineering workshop: What do engineers do? Meet and work with professionals

September 10

Childrens’ storytelling and activities

September 13

Cooking with Georgia: learn how to make a warming spicy lentil soup


September 13

Participatory research training with Toynbee Hall - improving older people’s lives in Tower Hamlets

September 14

Development meeting: Telford Homes and community members

September 16, 17

London Open House talks Exhibition of Local History images Piano lessons with Yuri and Stephen

September 17

Family workshop: with artist, Kulwinder. Respond to the pavilion in drawing and words

September 21

National Eye Health Week promotion: Tower Hamlets Deaf and Blind Services

September 22, 23

Open House London

September 27

Film night: “Architecture can be good for your health” with Poplar Film and Wellcome Trust

September 29

Flu jab awareness: Chrisp Street Health Centre

The People


A second generation resident in East London

Frequency of visits: 1 to 2 times per month Feeling: sad, hopeful and inspired Favourite Pavilion element: the decorative shed ramp Lasting thought: “I feel like my life has passed me by.”

Ranya first saw the Pavilion while spending a few hours out of the house - she didn’t stop, but the character of the building inspired her to return. “They’re beautiful, those Morning Glories. Do you have a garden?” The first time Ranya meets Alex, she says, “I’m taking some time for myself today” and that she won’t let her husband know that she had gone out. Her husband has tried to keep her from leaving the house for several years. She is not employed or dedicated to any projects outside of caring for her children and the household. For some time, she has lied to her husband about illnesses and errands simply to get out of the house. THE PEOPLE

Ranya uses a single crutch to function - she suffers from an incurable neurological condition, which numbs her hands and feet and leaves her in a great deal of pain. She is barely able to carry a few groceries that she purchases. The frustration and stress of her condition and the limitations that come with it have made her increasingly unhappy. She appears and feels depressed. She also has few supportive relationships - she and her husband are, in essence, estranged despite living in the same house. In a moment of intimacy, she tells Alex “my children don’t understand me”. She surprises Alex and Chris one day when she offers to recite a piece of poetry she has written. Ranya is yearning for creative outlets, and carries tension between what she has to express and the role she feels has been assigned to her. Chris and Alex suggest she take a bus ride or go to The Southbank Centre, but she is fearful and doesn’t know what it is. Chris suggests she go to the free museums, but she said she would never be able to find her way there. Alex also tells her that the Pavilion will probably be dismantled, there is a long silence before she responds. “I’m so upset, I’m so sad. Last night I called my sister and told her that I’ve finally found somewhere to be.” The Pavilion and her interactions with Alex have marked a turning point in her life. It’s provoked her to think differently about what is possible; for example, Ranya has started making more time for herself to write poetry and sketch. She is comfortable with Alex and Chris and appreciates what it could mean to belong to a place.



The local detractor

Frequency of visits: once (but walks by it to work 6 days a week) Feeling: frustrated, angry and fearful Favourite Pavilion element: no comment / people coming together Lasting thought: “The Pavilion is costing me customers.”

John has his own café in East India Square - he has a staff of three. The staff members, all women, walk by the Pavilion often. They are more supportive of the project than John - they’ll say hello and bring out cups of tea. One of the women has been an informal guardian of the plants, she extolls the value of the Pavilion to the team and the community. John tells Alex that the project is inflicting a loss of business upon him because when football fans exit the DLR across the road “they are looking for us” and the Pavilion blocks their view. He demands that Alex make a sign for him, which Chris does. He eventually gives the sign back. THE PEOPLE

He doesn’t completely understand the value of the Pavilion, or even why or how it’s there. John is not opposed to a place where community gathers, but he feels like he’s not been consulted, he may overlook the value that the Pavilion is bringing to the space and potentially to his business - he will not be convinced. Despite his frustration with the Pavilion, Alex and the team frequent his shop. Discussions have begun about keeping the Pavilion up beyond its agreed lifespan. John has been a major opponent of the Pavilion remaining in the square, he has openly complained expressing his frustration and disapproval to his landlord Poplar HARCA and the property management team. John has become more insular as a result, he is mistrusting of Poplar HARCA and the property management team. He doesn’t feel validated or listened to, and is exerting his frustrations on the project and the team.



An elderly East Ender

Frequency of visits: nearly every day Feeling: fearful, overwhelmed and thankful Favourite Pavilion element: the plants that emanate from the floor Lasting thought: “I have to do everything on my own now.”

His doctor told Charlie that he needs to start walking to bring down his cholesterol levels and reduce his risk of heart attack. It concerned him enough that he began a daily walk routine - a walk itinerary that now incorporates the Pavilion. His physical and mental health have deteriorated since the death of his wife eight months ago. Charlie is a recovering alcoholic, but he’s very scared about his health and mortality, which in turn exacerbates his condition. He lives alone, and his only child lives abroad - they don’t speak much. He calls her to tell her about the Pavilion as a way of connecting. When he arrives at the Pavilion he appreciates THE PEOPLE

‘taking a load off’ and sitting among the plants. He was first drawn to the plants. He tells one of the Pavilion volunteers “How did you get those to grow so well? I’ve been trying to grow beans in my kitchen for ages”. In a chat with Kate, he tells her that he wanted to be an architect at one point. They talk about her training and other pieces of work she’s done. He doesn’t ask a lot of questions in conversation, because he is often consumed by his health challenges and anxieties. He meanders over toward the chessboard where he’s met by another ‘old bloke’, Joe. Charlie has never spoken to Joe before, but he’s seen him around, they play a game of chess. They meet another local man who has started a garden at the back of a nearby community hall growing vegetables. He brings some over to Charlie, Joe and the Pavilion team - small potatoes, garlic, a couple of tomatoes. The Pavilion gives him a ritual and routine to stick to - he is thankful for the Pavilion and the team, and communicates it in small ways everyday.


Hayley and Rebecca

Daughter and mother

Frequency of visits: 3 times a week Feeling: glad, curious and passionate Favourite Pavilion element: the piano Lasting thought: “A building has to be an environment where kids can grow up in.”

Adjoining East India Square sits Fitzgerald House, or ‘F block’, as it’s known by some locals. The 19story concrete tower will be dismantled as part of the Chrisp Street Market regeneration. Hayley lives in a cramped flat with her mum, Rebecca, her sister and her stepdad. Hayley drags her mother to visit the Pavilion where Rebecca begins speaking with another mother. It is the first time she has spoken with a British-Bangladeshi mother - she is pleasantly surprised, because she finds it hard to connect with her British-Bangladeshi neighbours. Hayley speaks with a woman representing the Scouts - the woman has recruited a few children THE PEOPLE

that day, but Rebecca tells her that they are not settled in their home, and “can’t commit to something like that”. Hayley shares with Alex, “We’ve been in temporary accommodation for about 12 years, we’ve moved to multiple places. It’s hard to make friends”. If the Pavilion team are around, Hayley always says “hi” and shares what she has done that day. It’s a much needed space for Hayley to run around in, to use her imagination and interact with those in the community. Rebecca appreciates that Alex and Kate offer Hayley an example of what women can do. Rebecca and her husband don’t allow Hayley and her sister to have friends over, because they feel their house is too cramped. The children remark that there is little space for them even to do their homework or eat dinner. Hayley says, “Mum and Dad give me a time to come home because all the people who do drugs - selling and things like that are out later when I like to go home”. When they come to the Pavilion they enjoy sitting around the piano. Hayley and her sister are enthusiastic singers and performers, they use the stage and the music to sing songs they hear on the radio.



Pavilion team member

Frequency of visits: 3 days a week Feeling: inspired and proud Favourite Pavilion element: the personalised and adjoined chairs Lasting thought: “They don’t ask anymore to sit.”

Drawn to the project because of its quirkiness and openness, Chris asked if he could volunteer early on. Since then he has become a regular part of the team. He feels a real ownership over the space and the project - like he belongs. “I was kind of free to build my own space within, which doesn’t often happen.” A woman asks Chris about the planters, she asks if he can make some for her. She wants to know how much they are and when he can come to do them. It makes him feel as though she respects his work. Chris has lengthy conversations with a local man named Ray, who is a prolific reader. He is currently preoccupied with quantum mechanics. THE PEOPLE

He’s very keen to have long discussions and often shares poetry with him. He has a particular fondness for Chris. Chris’s favourite visitor is a young boy who has autism who comes with his grandmother. He loves the way that she can sit and take a moment to chat while the boy focuses in on the plants and the piano. Chris was struck one day when a man asked him to fill out a form. He was too busy working, but a passer by who frequents the site, stopped to help. They completed the form together and an hour later were still chatting. Chris is glad to see the tangible link between architecture and health in things like chair disco for people with mobility issues - a mix of people exercising on chairs, laughing and socialising under the upside down shed. Chris fondly recalls the regular social interactions that the space has generated, “you could see from the way people just enjoyed it how much it affected their wellbeing. In its simplest terms, lots of people come back daily, it’s just a really happy place”.



Poplar HARCA staff

Frequency of visits: twice a week (walks by every work day) Feeling: curious, joyful and optimistic Favourite Pavilion element: the round table at the edge of the platform Lasting thought: “It took me a while to get it.”

Claire thinks the Pavilion is great and understands that there are several benefits to the team and the structure being there. She acknowledges that Alex and her team “talk to the public in a way that probably wouldn’t happen otherwise”. She will miss them, and knows the community will too. Despite that, it’s nearly four months into the project, and she doesn’t completely understand it. She thinks her understanding increases the longer it’s there, and the more she interacts with the team. Claire understands that Alex is an artist and that this is an art project and that fact is keeping her at a distance - she doesn’t really ‘connect with art’. THE PEOPLE

She hears grumblings internally about why Poplar HARCA would spend so much time and money on “such an eyesore” and “what’s the point of an upside down shed?” Occasionally, Claire introduces Alex to resources and people in and around Chrisp Street Market that can help. She also realises she could have done much more to be involved and support the project and feels like there have been missed opportunities on both sides, from Alex and from HARCA, to make the project more lasting and impactful. She’s not familiar with the conversations Alex has had with the director at HARCA who offered her the site, nor what their intentions were. As a housing association, Claire knows the challenges the organisation is facing with welfare reform, budget cuts and other policy challenges. They are also in the middle of a major regeneration project, which is currently going through planning. One of her fondest memories of the Pavilion is when she observed two older gentlemen drawn to each other by the structure - they met at the chess table. She notices people “smelling the flowers… more than they do with the municipal planters”. Importantly, it has been an insight for Claire into what is possible for future engagements and the depth of conversation and understanding that is possible. There was something real for Claire about the communities’ influence in changing and engaging with the space. She appreciates that the public realm on their estates, though not nearly as bad as it used to be, is very heavily managed. She feels like Alex’s approach began to combat that.


The Report






the pavilion


the process


power and love

I XXI 24

health and wellbeing the survey bibliography THE REPORT


POPLAR Kate Minns 19 Shepton House Welwyn Street London E2 0JN

The once Metropolitan Borough of Poplar, and home to mayor George Lansbury (a man, who in 1921, spent six weeks in prison for directly defying the London County Council by defending the equal taxation rights of his constituents in East London) is the site of the Poplar Pavilion. Lansbury’s name lives on through the neighbourhood that bears it. The Lansbury neighbourhood is home to Chrisp Street Market, the ‘first purpose-built pedestrian shopping area in the UK’. The market was designed as part of the 1951 Festival of Britain and a postwar redevelopment plan that aimed to increase community spaces, rebuild a shattered East End and improve housing, among other things. In the market, at the tail end of a slender path that leads south out towards the A13 sits an adjacent plaza called East India Square - named after the pseudo highway that the square adjoins. It’s a slightly barren place. The black rails, securely fending off the onslaught of the private and corporate automobiles that define the A13, are no match for the fumes that are left behind. The square is lacking cover or shade, except for the London plane trees that face the street railing. Architect Kate Minns, in a letter to her local MP, describes why the trees should remain, despite their planned removal as part of the coming development.


07950 380486

Kate Harrison Tower Hamlets London Borough Council Planning Department Mulberry Place 5 Globe Crescent London E14 2BG 21.09.17 RE.


Dear Kate Harrison It has come to my attention that the above current planning application for the redevelopment of Chrisp Street Market includes the removal of 16no. London Plane trees on East India Dock Road. I have been working on East India Square for the past 6 months and it is of my opinion that the removal of these trees would have a significant impact on the health of the public. The Eco System Service value for trees of this species, maturity and size is high (2). This section of East India Dock Road (where the A13 meets the A12) has one of the highest pollution recordings in London and the UK as a whole (1). It appears that the proposal to remove the trees is solely to enable a greater land area for the developer to build upon. Not only are these London Plane trees excellent at cleaning the air (2), their position on East India Dock Road has the effect of encouraging a great number of people to walk a greater distance away from the traffic on the A13. It is reported that by walking further away from the traffic, towards the outer edge of the pavement, we reduce our risk to pollution intake (3). The proposed buildings are designed to significantly encroach onto the public footway which will expose the public to greater pollution intake by making them walk closer to this very busy highway; therefore the proposal to mitigate the loss of the London Planes by planting trees in East India Square (which is set back from the road) will not mitigate the risk to the public’s health. We are in the incredible situation where pedestrians are being advised to alter their behaviour to mitigate the current high pollution levels. (3,4): I appeal to you not to permit this element, and any other part of the application, which would contradict this advice and local, regional and national planning policies including The London Plan Policies 7.14, &.47 and the LBTH Local Plan Policies ES2 & Yours faithfully,

Kate Minns KMA CC Alex Julyan, Wellcome Trust Fellow Lydia Davies, Trees for Cities John Biggs, Major of Tower Hamlets Jim Fitzpatrick, MP Poplar & Limehouse Notes: 1. 2. 3. 4.

The construction of the pavilion began on the eve of a development that includes 650 new homes, new retail and leisure spaces. At the time of the Pavilion, the designs were awaiting planning permission. The square is also the site of Poplar HARCA’s headquarters. Known in the area simply as ‘HARCA’, the landlord represents the co-commissioning body of the Pavilion, and the housing association responsible for nearly 5,000

“ Not all deprived people live in deprived areas, and not everyone living in a deprived area is deprived.” - Unknown homes in the surrounding area. The Pavilion sits no more than 20 meters from HARCA’s main entrance. According to the 2015 indices of deprivation, The London Borough of Tower Hamlets, where Poplar resides, ranked as the 10th most deprived local authority in England. Within the borough, the most highly deprived areas are the four wards furthest East - Lansbury, Bromley South, Mile End, and Bromley North - the areas most immediately surrounding Chrisp Street Market. In a report by the Tower Hamlets Health and Wellbeing board, “On average, a man living in the borough starts to develop health problems from the age of 54 compared to 64 in the rest of the country. For a woman, it is 56 compared to 64”. The report cites a number of reasons for this disparity, including, “the health impacts of higher levels of poverty (low income, unemployment, insecure employment), poor housing quality, overcrowding, homelessness, social isolation, poor air quality, lack of access to affordable healthy food and lack of green spaces”. Which result in, “low birth weight, dental decay in children, childhood obesity, smoking, unhealthy diet, alcohol consumption, high risk sexual behaviour and the use of illegal drugs… higher levels of physical and mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, long-term lung diseases, liver disease, tuberculosis and HIV”. In response, Alex Julyan describes the Pavilion: “at its heart are questions about the ways in which communities can engage with and influence the built environment to promote a greater sense of wellbeing”. From top to bottom: Chrisp Street Market in 1904, 2017 and future developement*. (see page 26)





The Pavilion over the course of its life, and the life of the evaluation, has been defined in a multitude of ways: a design, a piece of art, a place, a site for play, a project, an idea and even a collective narrative, among others.

This section represents many of the ways people understood the physical structure (in no particular order).



“[Alex] talked about building a wellbeing pavilion in Chrisp Street Market, which evolved over time... they started it as a temporary project to engage people, build a structure and make a statement.” - Director at Poplar HARCA

“... an open, warm space that accommodates a

Place to be

range of people. I’m presuming... representative of the engagement that happened.” - Director at Poplar HARCA Respite “Physically it was that month where it was literally 30 degrees everyday... sizzling.

“ We don’t talk about the structure that much. It just becomes a place to be.” According to Alex, it’s estimated that nearly 2000 people per week moved around and through the pavilion with approximately 50 people per day staying at the Pavilion between five minutes and an hour. They ranged in age from new-borns to 90 years old and across the social spectrum. Alex also estimates that events at the Pavilion averaged ten people per hour.

No shade... the air pollution... you can feel it... it broke up the space with all the greenery.” - Pavilion volunteer

Eyesore “I like the concept but it is an eyesore.” - Poplar HARCA staff Stimulus “There was just a lot of energy, a lot of smiles... a focal point with people laughing... always someone running through it, or a kid shouting, or calling for their friends... scaffolders coming and joking around.” - Pavilion volunteer

“It’s not about trying to create an architectural


masterpiece and how far away we are from that.

“Quite a lot of people here were surprised by it; enchanted a bit by it.” - Director at Poplar HARCA

We’ve just made a place that actually seems to be very neutral.” - Alex Julyan

Fundamental Improvement “Certainly an improvement on the empty concrete space.” - Community member

“Friendly materials, that might be warm, wood, natural. Trees. People like congregating around trees. A really basic way of creating a place is put a tree there, with a seat under it.” - Pavilion team

Something different “I don’t want to glam it all up, but I think there are these little changes in people when they get to do something slightly different.” - Poplar HARCA staff

Public “We were creating a space for the people; it became clearer

Co-created “It’s about communication, isn’t it. There’s an element of [the community] influencing it, and seeing if they influenced it.” - Poplar HARCA staff

that that’s what we were doing.” - Pavilion team member



Evolution “I quite liked the way it took shape over the weeks and the amazing little oasis it formed in the Chrisp Street market entrance.” - Poplar HARCA staff Musical “When you hear a piano, first thing you do is sit down and have a chat with each other, because it’s nice. That was probably the best idea.” - Pavilion volunteer

Useless “It’s a waste of space.” - Poplar HARCA staff Lateral “Creating curiosity, inquisitive thoughts, a bit of wonder, understand that not everything need[s] to be in a straight line.” - Community member Polar “Educated the community or frustrated them.” - Poplar HARCA staff

Upcycled “Recycling come to life!” - Community member




“... this is odd and peculiar, and when people come up to you, they will be interested in that.” - Poplar HARCA staff

Human scale “[It was] on a small enough scale to understand it.” - Pavilion volunteer

Forum “[A] much bigger conversation with people about change... the Pavilion was somewhere to stand to have those conversations.” - Pavilion volunteer Opportunity

Communal garden “[It] brought people through… because [Alex] was planting plants that were familiar. People were stopping and having conversations around the plants.” - Pavilion team member

“It started to become less about the architecture, and more about the place in a way, but then introducing elements that gave opportunity… made people want to come and play, and stay, and talk.” - Pavilion team member

- Alex Julyan



“It’s in the middle of the square, and also it’s very green and inviting to do something… with your hands and with your senses.” - Community engager

“I like that there are pianos and art. I don’t

“ The plants have been really powerful, an instant draw.”

dislike Poplar Pavilion - I just don’t understand the purpose of it.” - Poplar HARCA staff Playground



“[See] a little head poke out of those holes - kids

“… deliberately leaving it open ended, so that people could run through it, and walk through it.” - Pavilion team member

crawling through there. I remember loving that sort of thing.” - Poplar HARCA staff


think anybody could have done this”. In this she is extolling the work she and her team did beyond

“Play became an important part of it. Neither of us had imagined that it would be as important. Creating a place that is really playful… not just for children, but also for adults”. - Pavilion team member

the design and build of the space - the time she committed to listening and understanding people in the moment. We cannot separate the built solution from the trust, connection and intimacy felt by those inhabiting the space, similarly to how the orientation, details and aesthetics of Cinderella’s castle do not capture the nature of one’s experience at Disnelyand. With any design (replace the word design with ‘experiment’, ‘dish’, ‘piece of art’, etc.) Alex and her approach toward relationships is as much a piece of the project, if not more, as the upside down shed.

“ Children lead the way, as far as I’m concerned, in so many ways, and watching how they inhabit the space and those shelters is really fascinating.” “As far as they’re concerned it belongs to them, it was made for them - it’s theirs… and that is correct. It’s the adults that kind of hang back, to the point that some people ask us, is it OK to go inside. Children don’t do that.” - Alex Julyan Another world “A little door has opened and you’ve gone somewhere else.” - Community member Model “[I] had a lot of offers to build that kind of planter… ‘can you build one in my shed?’ That means that they were pleased with what they see.” - Pavilion team Inseparable Importantly, the Pavilion was an extension of Alex and her team. Alex herself says, “we put some plants, some seating, some shelter in a place, or made a little place with it, and on some level, I




At AzuKo, we would largely describe Alex's Pavilion as ‘design’, and design in its broadest form - one that is listening to people, understanding their individual and collective needs and creating something that responds to those needs. On a granular level, AzuKo would also describe design as something that is optimal when it is ‘participatory’, or done in collaboration with those we are designing for.

“ 60% of our time is listening and talking. Maybe 30% is building, and 10% is other stuff.” - Alex Julyan


Though described as an architectural design, we believe that the Pavilion must be evaluated from an organisational perspective. Alex was, in effect, not an artist or a designer, but rather an entrepreneur, or director. To make the Pavilion a reality (not simply to build it), required hustle, resilience, learning on the go, serendipity, flexibility, organising and communication, on top of the necessary skills and experience to make a ‘design-build’ project a reality.

The method by which Alex created the Pavilion is comprised of several key pieces described here.

Alex at the centre

“Making work that is made as well as I can do it…

Alex’s style was open and collaborative, and at the same time it put her at the centre of the action and decision making - partly out of necessity and partly out of a demand for a professional standard.

skilfully, thoughtfully, reflectively, rigorously, and to be constantly reflecting on that during the making process.” - Alex Julyan “There was no agenda.” - Pavilion volunteer

“… we were quite clear this is Alex’s project, she was quite clear this is Alex’s project.” - Director at Poplar HARCA

“Where we have been very careful is to think about what we have planted, so planting plants that people are planting in their own

“I don’t want to hold myself up as the expert

gardens and community gardens already, so

voice, but nor do I want to deny the fact that I

it’s something that many people have already

have expertise. I’ve been doing this a long time,

had the experience of planting and growing

and I’ve thought about it a long time, and I’ve

themselves, and if they haven’t, they would have

been making things a long time… but it’s not about hierarchies.” - Alex Julyan

done in their native countries, where would have been somewhere like Bangladesh. Or they’re seeing other people doing it, or they’re buying

“[I] didn’t have time to stop and see what was going on, it’s totally impossible, because I’m the

vegetables down at market, so there’s this deep familiarity with those plants.” - Alex Julyan

linchpin. I have to somehow be all things to all people - it’s just the nature of the beast, and now

“… maybe there was a very loose idea… whatever

I’ve accepted that, it’s absolutely fine. I can’t

we were going to design, it was going to be in

achieve all the things I’d like to achieve. Things have to fall by the wayside.” - Alex Julyan

response to interaction with the community, and

“... because I’m the pivotal person in the whole project, as long as I transmit the idea that I think

people. Before she brought me on board, she was already connecting up community groups with the intention that she wanted to bring them [in].” - Pavilion team member

this is important, and I think we should try it, people follow that. It’s almost like you need to be the cult leader.” - Alex Julyan

“[Traditional arts engagements] are… crowd pleasing type of creative activities, which might be about engaging members of the public

“You’re not necessarily making work for them -

with making something [without any] real

you’re making, quite selfishly, work for yourself.

understanding of the process of development

You need to put it in the world to test it with an audience, so who is that audience?” - Alex Julyan

make a hat, and no context for that, and no

Intention The project aspired to respond to the needs of the people in Poplar, strived to be open and accepting, worked towards human-centred design principles. It aimed to be critical and reflective and concentrated on wellbeing and a sense of wonder.

of an idea, or the real skill but just, let’s all rhyme or reason. Anyone can make a hat, but I wouldn’t call it arts engagement. [It’s] a lack of intellectual engagement.” - Alex Julyan “[We were] working on it with a care and a craft… no roping off the worksite.” - Pavilion team member



Fluid plan and uncertainty

“I really think there isn’t a problem with that at all, that I’m just doing this thing, this small thing on the ground - face-to-face, and I’m doing

Serendipity Alex was content to be open to fortuitously stumbling across people, materials, and other things to make the project a reality. This ties intimately with the intention and fluid plan elements of the process. Serendipity requires openness, surrendering to the things and relationships that show up, and a contentment with the moment.

it as authentically as I can, and it’s contained. Maybe that’s enough.

“The project was just me to start with, just me.

Because there was a strong intention, there was also a faith that the moment would guide the project and the design. Because of that faith, there is an absence of a clear strategy, and that fact is clearly communicated to everyone. As with any organisational venture, attempting something that’s never been done before, there is also doubt, vagueness and unfamiliarity.

I had no idea how I was going to do this, so I “There was no master plan. That was quite frightening, that was also very good in that the

did what I usually do, which is just ask around. Slowly this team came together.” - Alex Julyan

only way to approach it was one step at a time, and again, we kind of came back to people.” - Alex Julyan

“It was a step by step process and a lot of it was serendipity - design builds lead to that.” - Pavilion team member

“… the objective was that Alex wanted to make a project. That in some ways related to her research. I don’t think she really knew how to do that. I think it was that she wanted to make something… something that’s public… as we started to talk, things didn’t really become clearer.” - Pavilion team member

Resourceful Recycled, upcycled and crowdsourced - things, relationships and intuition. The project was able to come together, like a startup company, because Alex tapped into a range of skills, experiences and resources from Gumtree and people leaving materials at the site, to calling in favours and friends. “Alex put a huge amount of work into… and did amazing work connecting up with people, and I think it’s one of her brilliant skills - she’s a real networker, and she is really good at bringing people on board.” - Pavilion team member “It’s quite overwhelming to say, ‘I’m going to start this project, and it needs money, and it needs a lot of people involved.’ For people to see that you can plant a seed and it will grow, next to the A12 is encouraging.” - Pavilion volunteer



“She was so present on site. She was having these conversations, but she was so engaged with the project that she wasn’t jotting these down or anything, she became part of the fabric of the place.” - Pavilion volunteer “We are clearly only semi-skilled, and we’re there doing our best everyday and we’re prepared at any minute to down tools, and have a conversation. I hadn’t really mapped that out when we started, but it became clear quickly that’s what we had to do, and that’s what the project was.” - Alex Julyan Organic and responsive The project evolved as conversations were had, and as a collective understanding was developed. “I didn’t know this community at all... I can kind of insert myself into all kinds of situations quite happily.” - Alex Julyan “… because we were understanding it as we “I had a list; just networking, speak to someone

were going along, it was quite hard for us to…

else, and someone referring me to them - a lot of that. Going to events and stuff.”

even [the] public coming through, and trying to explain what the project was, it was so open.”

- Local worker and Pavilion volunteer

- Pavilion team member


“This could happen in a multitude of places.”

The process was fundamentally about connecting with people, and a respect for their experiences, their needs, their concerns, their values and their hopes. Listening is a source of understanding, and it is also a source of validation and trust.

- Alex Julyan

“Every one of us has that about us - we listen,

[To] make work that is very responsive, so it is able to on a weekly basis, shift according to what [the] community or what that public are bringing to it, which is unknown when you start the project.” - Alex Julyan

and we take people seriously, and it’s authentic. It’s not something we’re doing because it’s part

“... it’s evolved through conversation with each

of the project. It’s because people are interesting,

other, and with passers-by.” - Alex Julyan

and they have a huge amount to tell us… and surprise us with, and critique us, and that has a real value.” - Alex Julyan

“… there was a physical openness and a mental openness.” - Pavilion volunteer



join an old wardrobe to the back of a shed. Alex balanced this with it being an ‘Alex-centric’ project. “There is a value within the team - [the] exchange between us and how we’re negotiating. Problem solving and how we’re working with

“ What started to become a bigger part of the story are the relationships we started to forge.” - Pavilion team member

materials, [we] approach things differently from each other. What I try to do is actually give each team member space to be themselves, as well as be on my project... it’s about saying this is the broad sweep of the project, and you are an amazing architect, and you are an amazing sculptor, and see which bits we can pull out, and put into this project.” - Alex Julyan

“Discovery while we were working on it.” - Pavilion team member

“I was kind of free to build my own space within, which doesn’t often happen… that’s the job you

Nonlinear and iterative In the building of the Pavilion things were broken and fixed multiple times, the team was thinking and creating laterally, materials were showing up if and when, and learning and redesigning defined much of how the space was created. “[I’m] constantly reminding myself that disruption is not only important, it’s vital - it is

have to do, that’s what we need, so please do that.” - Pavilion volunteer Time Alex and her team allowed themselves the time to try and understand the people and the context, learn how to work within that context, and connect with the people and place on an intimate level, and with care.

the project. The making isn’t the project… it’s conversations coupled with observation, constantly watching how people use the space, what they’re responding to, what they’re not responding to, and being able to shift that all the time.” - Alex Julyan

“Things take a little time. You don’t have the time always to commit as much as you’d like. The trust that you’re talking about - Alex had this substantial amount of time.” - Poplar HARCA staff “I think it’s slow, actually, because things change

“... this piece of wood here instead of there, this

so much and so quickly. A slow observation -

table could have been in another place, and it would have been still OK.” - Pavilion volunteer

how you really deeply engage somewhere... to really get to know the people and the diversity of the people.” - Pavilion team member

Collective problem solving To make the structure required a trust in each other to constantly be able to work through problems big and small. From how to flip a shed upside down and suspend it to how might we



“[With time you] get to know familiarities… you just get different information, different relationships”. - Poplar HARCA staff

“We had an opportunity here to have proper conversations with people.” - Poplar HARCA staff Handover As one local community engager noted, a project like the Pavilion should have “some continuity [so] it lives beyond that project. It has to be like a living history”. In the case of the Pavilion, it was able to build momentum and support in the community, and eventually develop aspirations to remain, despite its temporary nature and intent. In fact, there was a community effort to save the Pavilion which was also supported by Poplar HARCA. This effort was led by a member of the community. “If again someone comes and does a project like “The reality of it coming down was quite hard for

this with us one of my initial questions will be,

us to deal with, emotionally. I think both of us felt really a bit shit about taking it down.”

what if everyone loves it, and wants to continue

- Pavilion team member

with it and are you going to build that in?” - Director at Poplar HARCA “Who is going to take it on, and is a group going to come forward. But that was never part of the plan initially, so if it was, maybe that could have been dealt with better.” - Poplar HARCA staff “[A local resident] spent two hours collecting signatures to save the Pavilion. He amassed 60 signatures and subsequently another 30 online.” - Alex Julyan




Adam Kahane in his book by the same name, describes ‘power and love’ as a necessary balance to drive lasting social change - a balance of the individual needs of those involved with the collective needs of the group. What came up throughout this evaluation was a discussion of power and love, and the balance necessary to dictate the change we hope to see in the world. The question of impact for AzuKo starts with things like ‘a theory of change’, which explore the type of change we imagine we’ll start to see in our work. In the case of the Pavilion, we started with an exploration of the term, ‘engagement’.

“ Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic.” - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (by way of Paul Tillich)



place for groups to engage with others.”

The question we’ve asked ourselves throughout this evaluation is, what does engagement mean and engagement to what end? There are a range of definitions: a promise or an

- Poplar HARCA staff

agreement, moving into position, an act of getting involved in or involving someone else, and a fight. Alex spoke at length about her approach to engagement.

“It wasn’t easy, construction can be taxing… [while] we’re engaged in building this thing [it] engages conversation.” - Pavilion team member And many more… Vision

“The kind of engagement I do is about dialogue, and about digging deep, and about ideas. In a way, to be able to send someone away thinking, ‘maybe artists are people who deal with ideas as much as they deal with materials’.” We heard a range of ways to describe engagement from others throughout the evaluation. “... part of me thinks was it wrong of me to expect more? Was it wrong of me to expect that they would engage with the ideas?” - Alex Julyan

The American scientist, George Washington Carver said “Where there is no vision, there is no hope”. The quote alludes to a key piece of any project, which is, without a clear vision, it’s hard for people to get on board. Several months into the project, Alex spoke about it: “I’d love to say that there is a clear strategy. I’m not sure there is, I’m really not sure there is. Sometimes I think that is really problematic there’s no broader strategy around that.” - Alex Julyan

“... someone knows when they become engaged in something.” - Poplar HARCA staff

This was also echoed by others we spoke to about the project:

“Then they can become engaged in the thing [it] becomes real when you have the chance to explore it yourself.” - Poplar HARCA staff

“So I sort of had an idea of what she was doing. It was always, I’d say, quite hard to grasp, because I understood she was researching architecture, and

“One of the tactics in ensuring that people have an authentic response to things is sometimes doing stuff and then letting [them] engage in it.” - Director at Poplar HARCA

health. I couldn’t really understand how she was researching it or exploring it. Seriously, it’s never really felt clear what we’re doing.” - Pavilion team member

“What struck me is that many conversations

“I think that first conversation we had, and

I’ve had tell me how engaged people are with

following one, I understood that there wasn’t, what I would call - a person from a project

housing, development, architecture, space, shared space and society. People are informed.” - Alex Julyan

management point of view - a clear objective... but I expected that misalignment if that makes sense.” - Pavilion volunteer

“... different activities there… wasn’t as much of that as I thought there would be, using it as a

This approach, however, is what made the project



the project. Wendell Berry might argue that there is no problem with this and the rational mind that has dominated modernity, development and perhaps the degradation of our natural environment, is not always the most appropriate way to approach work. Berry would argue that what is needed is the ‘sympathetic mind’. Alex also seemed to have a conflict with this:

[it’s] rather valuable to see how it developed as a place.” - Poplar HARCA staff There were also reflections on a more strategic approach and of the ‘rational mind’: “… we could have been more proactive in engaging them in a quite thorough series of workshops around placemaking in the public

“Sometimes I think it’s OK. We live in such a culture that is we have to tick the boxes, and it has to fulfill all these aims. Sometimes it just can’t.”

realm and community consultation, and how you make citizen-led places.” - Pavilion team member

“ Sometimes it’s just enough that it happened; where it happened, when it happened.”

to. That’s part of the success of it, we had that tension. But I still feel more focused on change, so how can we change something and make it better or work, have some impact? And I think we would pinpoint some very specific things to test out.” - Pavilion team member

- Alex Julyan

Others also agreed with the ‘sympathetic’ approach: “I don’t think I understood very well the key objective. I’m glad that I didn’t. I think I actually asked [Alex], if I remember well, she said that there isn’t an end - it’s a continuous development. That made me even more intrigued, because my background is in project management. The fact that you don’t have an objective is a bit weird.” - Pavilion volunteer “She’s going to let it pan out the way it’s going to be. We don’t get enough of that. It’s a great way to be… not everything should have a point. I didn’t know what it would be like so



“I was often wanting to get quite specific, and rigorous about something. [Alex] often didn’t want

Poplar HARCA We’d like to focus on the nature of the relationship with Poplar HARCA. They were arguably the main stakeholder aside from the Pavilion team and the public, and we’ve had in-depth discussions with several members of Poplar HARCA. In a discussion with the director who supplied the site for the Pavilion, it was understood that the intention of supporting Alex was to appear to democratise the public realm and promote a greater sense of agency amongst residents: “… that sense of a lack of self-determination and because the place has been managed, the overall offer of the place has been managed, the space has been managed. You’ve got to turn that around.” Another Poplar HARCA employee, though unsure as to why the director commissioned the piece, felt like it had achieved some sense of autonomy and

openness in the public realm: “… I’d like to know what [the director] wanted it for, beyond it’s another art project.” “it was run in a way that was open, not too many rules and regulations - telling people what they can and can’t do.”

question, and the whole point of it is to talk to people.” - Pavilion team member Though not necessarily directed at the Pavilion, this statement gives an idea of Poplar HARCA’s thoughts on engagement projects: “… if someone who came to us and said - I want to deliver a project aimed at a very small

Another clear objective for leadership is capacity building:

demographic, a very small socio-economic group,

“If we’re going to create a cohesive community, I need the current community… to grow in their capacity and resilience to take on projects, to deliver stuff, to start businesses.”

would ask ourselves, seriously, why would you

“A different way of building that capacity, which at its heart is about you defining where you want to be, understanding where the opportunities are, and being supported.”


And defining, as the director says, ‘where you want to be’, is arguably at the heart of the Pavilion:

“ We’re making with the community, we’re talking to people, observing people, and asking them what they feel they would like in this public space. What gives them a sense of feeling well.” - Pavilion team member “I would say, looking at people, when they come here, they’re just confused. Some people think, ‘what’s going on?’ That confusion sets off a

and I’m going to get some grant funding, and I’m going to deliver it, then I’m going to be gone - we not try and create something like that, which supports, in an ongoing way and allows people to gain agency within that, and engages a much broader demographic?” - Director at Poplar

A Disconnection Several discussions alluded to a misalignment between Alex and Poplar HARCA, despite the Pavilion seemingly addressing interests for Poplar HARCA: “There are individuals within HARCA with whom I feel an affinity… perhaps it’s about working through those individuals. I don’t know. I feel quite confused by this stuff how to penetrate, and how to really know what’s going on, because I think I veer between thinking is it me being slightly paranoid, or is my project being co-opted, or is it being ignored? I don’t actually know. Maybe it’s about that, having a bit more clarity in that conversation about what’s going on.” - Alex Julyan The Pavilion team acknowledged the challenge of communicating something unknown: “... not know what we’re about, not really knowing where to place usand I think that’s totally



understandable, because we didn’t really know what we were doing, that was the beauty… it remained experimental that meant that maybe it was harder for them to engage in it.” - Pavilion team member

directorates, so communities and neighbourhoods (CAN team)… how they [could] use it to do their outreach - use it like a community centre, use it like one of our neighbourhood centres.” - Poplar HARCA staff

Because the team at Poplar HARCA didn’t completely grasp the project, it didn’t receive the support that was potentially available. That was expressed in the thought from a more vested member of Poplar HARCA staff:

Its temporary nature was perhaps a point of disconnect:

“I could have introduced her to a lot of people in HARCA - I didn’t. That’s something I could have done, or we could have done. It took me so long

- Director at Poplar HARCA

to get it, to realise and I didn’t initiate it. Alex wasn’t getting an awful lot of support really. We were supportive but it was down to Alex to make it all work how she could have brought in other

“… she wanted it to be a temporary piece of work that operated between two points, so those outcomes are probably different to ours.”

The language and how the project was communicated also seemed to create distance, particularly around the word ‘art’: “… I started to tell you about the project… it’s a bit of an unusual project in that it’s a sort of arts project.” - Poplar HARCA staff “You couldn’t explain it at the time.” - Pavilion volunteer “I like art, but I am not a big follower of it and I love the fact that [it] seems it’s got a slight practical element to it. The drip feeding was beneficial for me to believe in it a bit more. Maybe that’s me, my sceptical side might have been out.” - Poplar HARCA staff Alex, throughout, felt as though HARCA was slightly indifferent, disengaged and even distant. This may have been intentional by HARCA, particularly on the eve of a regeneration project: “Slightly hesitant, especially given its proximity to the HQ, for it to happen too much in a formal way, it had to feel and look independent. I had to make sure it didn’t feel like a HARCA project on HARCA land, on a site we’re about to bulldoze.” - Director at Poplar HARCA



“I don’t know at the moment how many people came through, what the engagement was like, what happened, what was said - I don’t know that yet.” - Director at Poplar HARCA “It seems to have been a positive experience - it seems to have engaged a breadth of people, I don’t know.” - Director at Poplar HARCA Alex seemed uncertain about Poplar HARCA’s intentions throughout: “I think it’s really difficult, a real stumbling block for me. When we go, what is the conversation we’ve had, because we’re not really getting anywhere - is it just we leave a set of really awkward questions?” - Alex Julyan Possibilities and learnings The ‘power’ in Kahane’s thesis is one’s ability to listen and understand the needs of the individual parties involved - stakeholders. One thing that is clear about this project is that Alex and her team went out of their way to listen, validate and understand the needs of those they spoke to in public. It is a brave approach to work and should be at the foundation of all ‘engagements’. This same approach, we believe, depending on the objectives of the engagement, must be considered for all involved - particularly those with power. In this case, it would include some strategy around engaging with the landlord and the power structure of the area. Because we could not possibly capture the essence of all the relationships between the Pavilion and the community, we’ve attempted to give a feel for the relationships in ‘The People’ portion of this evaluation and in the relationship with Poplar HARCA. We’ve observed on some level, and would assume, that the characteristics of the relationship between Alex and Poplar HARCA also

apply to the relationship with other groups, particularly health care professionals in Tower Hamlets, critical opponents of the Pavilion (e.g. those who graffitied the Pavilion) and Telford Homes. Like Alex’s relationship with Poplar HARCA, there didn’t appear to be a strategy around engaging health care professionals in Tower Hamlets. There was a desire from Alex to engage this group and she was able to attract several (see the 'Events at Poplar Pavilion' section i.e. Cooking with Georgia, National Eye Health Week Promotion, etc.) However, the perceived indifference to the Pavilion, particularly from larger groups with power like the GP Care Group, was a point of frustration for Alex and the team. With that said, events like Cooking with Georgia, which was organised through the team at Poplar HARCA and provided healthy culinary advice for local people, were examples of the Pavilion being an effective arena for engagement and health advice. In the limited engagement with Telford Homes (the developer of the Chrisp Street regeneration) there were several emails and a single meeting which AzuKo attended. The meeting seemed to be without an agenda and direction, but intended to promote the principles of the Pavilion for current and future developments. There didn’t seem to be an attempt to try to understand what Telford’s needs were and how the Pavilion could support those needs - the approach that was taken with the community. The Telford team seemed defensive and elusive in the Pavilion team’s attempt to have an honest and genuine dialogue. THE REPORT


Alex felt that she may not have been able to engage Poplar HARCA and these other groups in an effective way because she was 'overstretched' and “the project wasn’t long enough”. Future engagements could learn from focusing more energy and time on a more inclusive engagement strategy before beginning and saving enough time to focus on the groups that are most relevant for the project’s aims. Again, ‘power and love’ says that for change to occur, the needs of everyone involved (especially those with power) must be validated and included - a genuine discussion before anything is designed. This, AzuKo believes, does two things: 1. It validates them. Ultimately, it’s about building strong, trusting relationships to accomplish collective and individual goals together; that requires listening, understanding and kindness. 2. It grounds the design in something that serves everyone involved - by understanding what individuals need, we can then start to design spaces, services and systems that are socially and culturally relevant. Though the Pavilion did on some level address the aspirations of Poplar HARCA in their support of the community, there didn’t appear to be a clear understanding between the two parties from



the beginning of a programme that would clearly start to work towards the two sets of objectives in a way that each group felt heard, understood and validated. “As the aspirations pushed on to be something that potentially continues that piece of work of engaging people and building a pavilion, whilst tough and interesting, I’d argue is nowhere near as tough and impeded as creating a group that has the capacity to run a place like this, and to continue that work.” - Director at Poplar HARCA “[Were there] opportunities along the way to come back to us, to demonstrate what impact you felt it was having, or what insight you felt you were getting, etc?” - Poplar HARCA Staff Vision and alignment are vital, because the collective discussion holds the key to designing for people effectively. There were perhaps opportunities missed to think more openly about what the space could offer. This was addressed by the Poplar HARCA team: “You wonder if there is a way of getting more help for people through services that already exist... there is an opportunity here. If someone’s come, and they’ve come back, that’s worth noting - you’re getting repeat visits. If they’ve talked about a particular subject, maybe that’s worth [knowing] if you’ve referred

someone on to a service, that’s definitely worth making a note of.” - Poplar HARCA Staff This thought suggests that Poplar HARCA felt the Pavilion had the potential to be a vehicle for a more holistic understanding of engagement one that would not only have been more in line with their work, but that also could have increased the impact of the engagement. We believe that this disconnect is largely a result of the absence of a clear vision from the outset, and lack of an intention to engage Poplar HARCA in a way that was meaningful and respectful to the landlord. We believe that the disconnect (and something that we at AzuKo would advise against when thinking about engagement and design for social issues that include multiple stakeholders) with Poplar HARCA, local health professionals and the developer stems from the fact that the project was always going to be a pavilion, even before a single conversation was had in Poplar - not something that was thought up with residents, HARCA and the rest, and not something that was necessarily addressing the most pressing issues for everyone - something AzuKo would call ‘participatory’. So when a Poplar HARCA staff member says “You

disconnect, we also believe that there is great value in working with ‘love’ and ‘empathy’, as described earlier - approaches that appreciate the moment, that understand that there is incredible change in simply listening to someone, and that are aware of our limits as humans. For future fellowships and engagements, we think it would be valuable to consider:

• • •

• •

How might the engager use the first part of the fellowship to develop clarity around the vision of the project? How might the engager identify and engage key stakeholders before it is decided what the ‘solution’ or project will be? How might the engager develop a strategy to work and design with key stakeholders that would make the work and impact last beyond the length of the project? How might the engager utilise principles of power and love to identify, validate and include all key stakeholders? How might the engager empower a group of local people through workshops and training to lead a similar project on their own?

wonder if there is a way of getting more help for people through services that already exist”, it becomes clear that they have another, equally relevant perspective on the challenges design solutions could address in Poplar, and they perhaps didn’t feel like that perspective was considered. Despite this



health and wellbeing


Much of the Pavilion’s effect on health and wellbeing is intimately linked to stress and anxiety, fear and mental health in the community. In an article published in the Journal of Leisure Sciences, Hull and Michael describe the challenges around stress.

“The toll of stress comes in at least three forms: emotional, physical, and cognitive. Emotional stress includes anxiety, anomie, isolation, and the thoughts and behaviors associated with those feelings. Physical symptoms of stress include degradation of the immune system, raised blood pressure, increased muscle tension, and numerous other behavioral and physiological changes. Cognitive symptoms of stress include reduced attention capacity and the consequent degradation of performance on cognitive tasks.” These are, of course, only the highest level of affect. What, for example, does reduced attention capacity mean for other elements of health, like one’s ability to focus on information that may lead to better lifestyle choices? Because of the complexity of this discussion, we’ve attempted to highlight a high level understanding of the potential ways the Pavilion had an impact on health and wellbeing in Poplar.






An article on the disclosure of trauma, and its effect on health discusses how ‘holding back one’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours is associated with long-term stress and disease’. The Pavilion was a place of trust that allowed for cathartic sharing. (Pennebaker et al.) “Something in this place that made her feel it was OK to share that with me... the surprising part is that she told me. We had never met before.” “… it gave a freedom to us to some degree maybe getting the chance to offload about things, maybe it’s therapy in some way.” “ [There were] much bigger conversations with people about change; the pavilion was somewhere to stand to have those conversations.” “We had an opportunity here to have proper conversations with people.” “What struck me is that conversation, and many conversations I’ve had tell me how engaged people are with housing, development, architecture, space, shared space and society. People are informed. They do care. They are reflective. And they articulate that in many, many different ways.” “Somebody was having a tinkle on the piano, and often people would say, ‘I’d really like to play the piano’, or ‘I always wished I could be a piano player’.”




In the article, 'How does communication heal? Pathways linking clinician–patient communication to health outcomes' Street et al. echo previous studies that a particular kind of communication is correlated with lower blood pressure, less anxiety, and a higher quality of life, among other effects. Fields such as non-violent communication, facilitation and mediation have also shown that listening and validation can be powerful tools for building trust, nurturing mutual respect and understanding and even cohesion. “… the value is that we’re listening and respectful.”

“Alex gets to talk to them in a way that probably wouldn’t happen otherwise.” “Many of them don’t feel that they’re consulted or listened to. That is an overarching feeling I get from these conversations.”

social cohesion

In an article published in the Health & Place Journal, Baum et al. asked, “Do perceived neighbourhood cohesion and safety contribute to neighbourhood differences in health?” In the report, it was argued that “statistically significant locational

differences in health emerged. Perceived neighbourhood cohesion and safety accounted for this difference”. The Pavilion fostered opportunities for greater community cohesion, and the perception that there was cohesion. “Here is the first time I’ve seen an Asian women speaking to a nonAsian women.” “… the very first stages, we had an unbelievably negative response: it’s going to be burnt down, it’s going to be graffitied. It won’t last, they’ll pull all the plants up, they’ll kill all the trees, you don’t want to do that. The narrative was just bleak. For me that showed such a disdain for people. In fact, we haven’t experienced that.”



ambiguity and inclusion The ambiguity of the structure, or its openness to more than one interpretation - not having one obvious meaning - has been described as a source for inclusion. Christoph Baumberger describes an ambiguous building as one that “must admit for multiple interpretations according to which it symbolizes or refers to different things. An interpretation is, in this paper, an assignment of a referent to a symbol”. Robert Venturi argues that “contradictory or circumstantial” parts are inherently inclusive, because they are open to interpretation, sometimes loose, more expressive, and not rules-based. “I also liked that it wasn’t targeted - that it was open to anyone.” “You couldn’t explain it at the time, it’s crazy. I didn’t see that before. I’ve not seen that little box thing over there. Pictures, there’s loads.”


The inclusion of a piano and music in the design not only provoked opportunities for social interaction and connection, but also a range of potential health benefits. One piece of research argues that “there is evidence to show that music is an intrinsic and important part of human development… growing recognition of community music as an important musical activity is very much in keeping with current thinking that supports the integration of social, educational, medical, and therapeutic practices”. (MacDonald et al.) What’s more: • Music has shown to produce positive neurological effects on the brain, can influence plasticity on the brain, and the human motor system • Music has been shown to be distracting, and in some instances induced people into a state of ‘flow’ as described by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi



• Evidence shows that playing music supports arm and leg function, coordination, blood flow, dexterity, etc. • Music inspires meaning • Music promotes connection and is a social activity “There is clear and unequivocal evidence that music affects behaviour… has been harnessed in numerous contexts to change behaviours in beneficial ways”. “... standing next to the piano, and somebody else is playing the piano, and they’d end up having a conversation. Quite possibly that wouldn’t have happened.”


/appreciation and taking one’s time

The Pavilion represented a reprieve for many people. A moment to stop, talk, listen and smell. Research has shown that breaks, like the one afforded by the Pavilion lower stress levels, lower inhibiting hormone levels, remove distractions, allow for greater focus and attention, and extend energy reserves. (Liebertz) “... the colour there, you know, is amazing.” “someone coming every few days to read a book at lunch time.” “It started to become less about the architecture, and more about the place in a way, but then introducing elements that gave opportunity… made people want to come and play, and stay, and talk.”



opportunity for physical activity and play The Pavilion is a playful space. Play has been shown to be a crucial part of brain development; it allows children to use their creativity and imagination, and develop physical, cognitive and emotional strength. Play has also been shown to help children promote new competencies, build confidence and resiliency to confront future challenges, work in groups, share, resolve conflict and identify passions; and for the sake of the Pavilion, play supports parents to more fully engage in the world of their children by coming face-to-face with their emotions, their passions and their views, all the while, providing an avenue for parents to immerse themselves into the physical experience of the child. “[By] deliberately leaving it open ended, so that people could run through it and walk through it.” “There was just a lot of energy, a lot of smiles. [It was] a focal point with people laughing, always someone running through it, or a kid shouting, or calling for their friends.”



a reason to be outside and access to green space In his article on biophilic architecture, Joyce talks of the importance of seeing green, “In an often-cited article in Science, Ulrich discusses a study of hospital patients who had undergone gall bladder surgery and had rooms with views of either a small tree group or of a brown brick wall. As opposed to patients with the brick wall view, patients with the treeview had shorter hospital stays, received fewer negative comments from the nurses, required less moderate and strong analgesics, and had slightly fewer postoperative complications.” Joyce goes on to describe why spaces like the Pavilion that take organic shapes, and include green space are crucial in the urban environment, “humans are aesthetically attracted to natural contents and to particular landscape configurations… [these] are also found to have positive effects on human functioning and can reduce stress”. Thompson et al. in their article expand on the link green spaces have to stress, and particularly in deprived communities. “There is evidence for a positive relationship between access to green or natural environments and people’s perceived overall general health, mental health, longevity, physical health and social health. The evidence is particularly strong for positive associations between experience of natural environments and mental health. It appears that contact with natural environments promotes psychological restoration, improved mood, improved attention and reduced stress and anxiety.”







“Within deprived social housing communities in Chicago, research has consistently shown the benefit of green space both to cognitive restoration, self-discipline, reduced aggression and reduced crime.” “I’d rather be outside, than in my stuffy stockroom.” “… the plants have been really powerful, and an instant draw. What I find is that people talk around them a lot. We have one lady who I’m pretty sure has dementia, and she is very non-verbal she’s very elderly. She initially use to come pick the plants, and I managed to dissuade her of that. She was there today, and she comes regularly, she mostly talks to herself, and she checks in with the plants… sometimes she’ll sit amongst them.” “It’s in the middle of the square, and also it’s very green and inviting to do something with your hands and with your senses.” “... on some level, totally damn obvious, we kind of put some plants, some seating, some shelter in a place.”

connecting There is a multitude of scientific and pseudo-scientific evidence to support the need for meaningful connection and relationships - the driver and indicator of positive health outcomes; everything from promotion of healthy behaviours (e.g. regular exercise) to psychological wellbeing (e.g. reduced levels of depression). One such article by James House, titled 'Social Isolation Kills, But How and Why?' speaks to the certainty of connection in regards to health and wellbeing. “I watched two old men, these two old blokes, one walking that way, and one walking that way - I was watching them get closer to each other, and they met just around the chess board it wouldn’t have happened otherwise, they would have just wandered past each other.”



“The food stuff that they did was really good. Things like the chair disco, a sort of mix of people, people sort of join in… that was one of the best.” “The sort of social interaction that [it] generated, you could see from the way people just enjoyed it how much it affected their wellbeing. [In its] simplest terms [it was] really apparent. People will be coming back, lots of people come back daily. [It’s] just a kind of really happy place.” “People chatting and exchanging ideas and things, helping each other, meeting up, having an interaction where somehow one person would end up helping the other person. It was a real kind of community. [An] incubator or something.”



empowerment and agency It was understood by most stakeholders involved that the Pavilion supported a sense of agency among many who engaged with the team and the space. In a study of wealth, agency and wellbeing, it has been shown that feelings of agency and empowerment, even in the absence of material wealth, are indicators of wellbeing. (Victor et al.) “This idea sunk [in] - maybe it is for us, maybe we can sit, maybe we can play the piano. At the beginning, we always had people asking us, can I play the piano, yes you can, and they don’t ask anymore, they just play. They don’t ask anymore to sit.” “I think the Pavilion is staying, and people have adopted it as their place is a great legacy. I think we couldn’t wish for better in some senses, that physically it remains and continues in whatever form. The community have taken ownership of it.” (The Pavilion didn’t stay in the end, despite a community-led effort to save it) “Those girls saw you with a saw and a drill and hammer. That’s so important. That’s a small thing, but he’s right, those small things mean something.” “It was a positive implementation in the built environment. It came with a lot of energy and colour, and it did happen. We need to stop saying we can do this and do that, put something out there.”



recruitment to social services “[It’s an] opportunity for groups who are interested in wellbeing to talk about what they do - signpost… people who’ve felt similar, in terms of mental health issues, and physical health issues, financial issues - struggle.” “Deborah who was the scouts leader she actually had four people join her group from doing the event here and a lot of the kids didn’t actually know that was available in their area.” “Bala is from Poplar HARCA. I’m from ‘My Time Active,’ and this is funded by Morgan Stanley... engage with the community [to teach] easier ways of cooking healthier food, and there is no salt involved. I’m a nutritionist. I had 50 people the first time.” “Simon Robinson, the practice manager at Chrisp Street Health Centre and his colleagues handed out leaflets and information about flu jabs on the last active day of the Pavilion and reported about 90 interactions. John Osborne from Tower Hamlets deaf blind services ran an awareness session two weeks earlier and reported about 200 interactions.”



a new perspective and possibilities

Here we are talking about potentially altered mindsets and new hopes and visions for the community. These are complex and nuanced elements of wellbeing; for example, a study from the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that “will, ways, self-efficacy, and optimism are related but not identical constructs”, all of which linked to wellbeing. (Magaletta & Oliver)

Another study from the Journal of Psychology showed that perceived self-efficacy of participants in East Asia and Europe positively affected health behaviors, wellbeing and coping strategies. (Luszczynska et al.) “[We are] giving them a sense of what they could have, as opposed to what they’re probably going to end up with.” “In Italy, I think we are at that stage where we push the boundaries a bit more, we are not continuously abiding to the rule that can be restrictive sometimes. I have a rule, and I have to follow it. Well, not necessarily.” “The impact on people will be to think about the moment that you can have strange things happen in your community, that’s what I really think. Knowledge that there is something different. Or that you can dare.” “This has opened a door for a lot of people who don’t necessarily know about art, and creativity and architecture, and I think for local poorer areas, they don’t get to experience that.” “Both Alex and I would talk about it as a sort of antidote of how development happens in a lot of places. Most places pop up without people not really knowing what’s going on.”



curiosity and wonder In an article titled ‘Curiosity and Wellbeing’, Gallagher and Lopez state, “This article reports findings from a study which examined associations between the exploration and absorption components of curiosity and continuous and categorical indices of wellbeing… the exploration (more so than absorption) component of curiosity exhibited moderate positive associations with measures of wellbeing”. Another article published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Phsychology argues, “We investigated the relationship between various character strengths and life satisfaction among 5,299 adults... Consistently and robustly associated with life satisfaction were hope, zest, gratitude, love, and curiosity. Only weakly associated with life satisfaction, in contrast, were modesty and the intellectual strengths of appreciation of beauty, creativity, judgment, and love of learning”. (Park et al.) “... people in a rush, nothing like that here. Time for the curiosity, to develop that curiosity… oh there’s another chair today, another plant today.” “It’s in the middle of the square and also it’s very green and inviting to do something… with your hands and with your senses”. “… the whole dynamic would be different, because they won’t stop. There won’t be the interactions… you know some people walk around that corner and they’ll know something might be happening when they get around there.” “There’s a curiosity around. Alex and others will be missed.”



belonging to a place / creating a collective story In an academic article by Kirmayer et al. on identity, community and the mental health of communities, the authors argue, “[c]ultural discontinuity and oppression have been linked to high rates of depression, alcoholism, suicide, and violence in many communities, with the greatest impact on youth. Despite these challenges, many communities have done well… There is evidence that local control of community institutions and cultural continuity may contribute to better mental health”. The Pavilion may have supported this continuity through a culture of discussion and shared narrative. This is particularly relevant on the eve of regeneration in Chrisp Street Market as the Pavilion modeled a potential link between the process of how places are developed (not just architecturally) and the health of the people in those places - something that does not currently seem to be important in the eyes of developers and landlords. “Just through talking to people and discussion… in some ways that was nice, because their input became the meaning as well, how they understood it.” “The sharing of a story… [there’s] very little opportunity to do so [in that setting]. That process of sharing a narrative forms a community around something.” “Their built environment just happened. The narrative is really never explained, that makes people feel completely disempowered.” “It’s possible to share a narrative [and that your community and space is] something worth protecting.” “We’re sharing the narrative, building that story with people just by including people. Just communicating in an honest way… that’s an empowering thing.”



The bibliography can be found at the back of the Report THE REPORT


the survey






How does the Pavilion make you feel?

How does the Pavilion make you feel?











How much were you inpired by the Pavilion?

How much were you inpired by the Pavilion?











What do you like/dislike about the Pavilion?


Planting, the piano, interesting space, somewhere to hang out I like that there’s pianos and art The way people used the Pavilion. It was great. It does not look aesthetically pleasing Amazing little oasis The concept, but it is an eyesore The transformation it has brought to the area WOULD SUCH A STRUCTURE HAVE BEEN BUILT IN A RICHER BOROUGH?


It brings the community together I FIND IT PATRONISING It’s zany and unusual, and encourages people to use the public space better It’s a waste of space and a health hazard Looks a mess! Something different on offer each week Like the concept of informing the local community on advice/information Dislike the structure/information/location of the structure


The aesthetics The variety of materials and compositions Brings a sense of wonder A little door has opened and you’ve gone somewhere else Not enough colours. Should put more chalk. Recycling come to life! Post modernist carbuncle I like it very much, also my family very, very, very (million verys) much


What has the Poplar Pavilion done to improve and/or worsen the neighbourhood?


Both positive and negative Nonetheless, it has stirred feelings in people Brings families together Educated the community or frustrated them An improvement on the empty concrete space HOW DOES A SCAFFOLD WITH GARDEN SHEDS AND A FEW PLANTS IMPROVE THE OUTLOOK OF THE AREA? Creating curiosity, inquisitive thoughts, a bit of wonder Nothing


Brought a community and proximity to the area It has always been a hive of activity It was free. I was surprised. I want to play the piano I think the Pavilion caused confusion to residents at times A friendly atmosphere and engage young people I don’t think it has improved or worsened the neighbourhood Reinforces the point that Poplar is a working class area full of poor people that need middle class contemporary art imposed on them


It gives you something to live for. Brightens your day up Shows you can do something on your own It makes the area look worse Before, no communication. Now, we can talk. I did have my doubts when it was first built and thought it would be vandalised, however I am pleasantly surprised to say that this has not been the case I have seen people asking about gardening tips It got strangers talking to each other


Baum, F. E., Ziersch, A. M., Zhang, G., & Osborne, K.

Kirmayer, L. J., Brass, G. M., Tait, C. L. 'The mental

'Do perceived neighbourhood cohesion and safety contribute to neighbourhood differences in health?'. Health & place 15(4) 2009: 925-934.

health of Aboriginal peoples: Transformations of identity and community'. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 45(7) 2000: 607-616.

Baumberger, C. 'Ambiguity in Architecture'. Ernst

Liebertz, C. 'Want Clear Thinking? Relax: A short

et al 2009: 293-319.

mental vacation can ease the stresses of the daily grind and prompt fresh ideas'. Scientific American, 2005.

Berry, W. 'The Rational Mind vs. The Sympathetic Mind'. Citizenship Papers, 2003. Frost J. L. 'Neuroscience, play and brain development'. Paper presented at: IPA/USA Triennial National Conference; Longmont, CO; 18-21 June 1998. Gallagher, M. W., Shane J. Lopez. “Curiosity and well-being�. The Journal of Positive Psychology 2.4, 2007: 236-248. House, J. S. 'Social isolation kills, but how and why?'. Psychosomatic Medicine 63.2, 2001: 273-274. Hull IV, R. B., Michael, S. E. 'Nature-based Recreation, mood change, and stress restoration'. Leisure Sciences 17(1) 1995: 1-14. Joyce, Y. 'Architectural lessons from environmental psychology: The case of biophilic architecture'. Review of General Psychology 11(4) 2007: 305. Kahane, Adam. 'Power and love: A theory and practice of social change'. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2010. Kenneth, R. G. 'The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds'. Pediatrics 119 (1) 2007: 182-191.


Luszczynska, A., Scholz, U., Schwarzer, R. 'The general self-efficacy scale: multicultural validation studies'. The Journal of Psychology 139(5) 2005: 439-457. MacDonald, R., Kreutz, G., & Mitchell, L. 'What is music, health, and wellbeing and why is it important'. Music, Health and Wellbeing 2012: 3-11. Magaletta, P. R., & Oliver, J. M. 'The hope construct, will, and ways: Their relations with selfefficacy, optimism, and general well-being'. Journal of Clinical Psychology 55(5) 1999: 539-551. Park, N., Peterson, C., Seligman, M. E. 'Strengths of character and well-being'. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 23(5) 2004: 603-619.

Pennebaker, J. W., Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., Glaser, R. 'Disclosure of traumas and immune function: health implications for psychotherapy'. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 56(2) 1988: 239.

Victor, B., Fischer, E. F., Cooil, B., Vergara, A., Mukolo, A., Blevins, M. 'Frustrated freedom: The effects of agency and wealth on wellbeing in rural Mozambique'. World Development 47 2013: 30-41.

Shonkoff J. P., Phillips DA. 'From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development'. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2000. Street, R. L., Makoul, G., Arora, N. K., Epstein, R. M. 'How does communication heal? Pathways linking clinician–patient communication to health outcomes'. Patient Education and Counseling 74(3) 2009: 295-301. Tamis-LeMonda, C. S., Shannon JD, Cabrera NJ, Lamb ME. 'Fathers and mothers at play with their 2- and 3-yearolds: contributions to language and cognitive development'. Child Dev. 75 2004: 1806-1820. Thompson, C. W., Roe, J., Aspinall, P., Mitchell, R., Clow, A., Miller, D. 'More green space is linked to less stress in deprived communities: Evidence from salivary cortisol patterns'. Landscape and Urban Planning 105(3) 2012: 221-229. Ulrich, R. S., 'View through a window may influence recovery from surgery'. Science, 224(4647) 1984: 420-421. Venturi, R. 'Complexity and contradiction in architecture' vol.1 The Museum of Modern Art, 1977.




Supported by Wellcome Trust Commissioned by Alex Julyan for Wellcome Trust Author Nathan Ardaiz, AzuKo Design Margherita Buzzi Cover sketches Neighbourhood young people (workshop held at the Pavilion) Photography Alex Julyan Ben Gilbert, Wellcome 2017 *Rendered image: Sheppard Robson





The paradigm of science and rationality, at times, forgets the impact of the unseen and unmeasurable. In an article titled, ‘How does communication heal? Pathways linking clinician–patient communication to health outcomes’, Street et al. argue that: “... clinician–patient communication can predict health outcomes weeks and months after the consultation... outcomes of the interaction include patient understanding, trust, and clinician–patient agreement. These affect intermediate outcomes (e.g. increased adherence, better self-care skills) which, in turn, affect health and well-being. Seven pathways through which communication can lead to better health include increased access to care, greater patient knowledge and 8

shared understanding, higher quality medical decisions, enhanced therapeutic alliances, increased social support, patient agency and empowerment, and better management of emotions”. What Street et al. highlight, and what has been shown in the ‘health and wellbeing’ section of this report, is that our individual and collective wellbeing is nonlinear, largely unmeasurable and complex - it points to a multitude of causes for how we feel. Whole person health, then, is defined by living in a neighbourhood with an impending redevelopment where one has little say about his or her ‘place’; it’s about not having stimulus for curiosity and wonder; it’s about not feeling agency or power over where one lives; and it’s about not being heard - all things the Pavilion challenged. 9

What Alex, her team and the Pavilion have shown is that health outcomes may be beyond measurement and strategy, but they are not beyond an available ear, time and validation. If nothing else, this engagement has shown that there are no distinct boundaries between what it means to build meaningful relationships, what it means to treat people for illnesses and what it means to create a space that works for people; there are lessons here for most.



AzuKo Empowering communities through design

Poplar Pavilion Evaluation  

AzuKo was commissioned to evaluate Poplar Pavilion, an architecture and well-being pop-up in East London. The report is a collection of thou...

Poplar Pavilion Evaluation  

AzuKo was commissioned to evaluate Poplar Pavilion, an architecture and well-being pop-up in East London. The report is a collection of thou...