WE THE SUBURBS INTERACTIVE EXHIBITION St. Luke’s, Southend-on-Sea, Essex 1st - 3rd May 2010
‘We the Suburbs’ is a project based in the community of St. Luke’s in Southend-on-Sea, brought about in an attempt to re-address the needs and desires of suburban communities through collaborative and participatory action. During the period from November 2009 to May 2010, a process of public consultation began funded by the University of Sheffield, Knowledge Transfer fund and UnLtd Millennium Fund. This report documents and analyses the process and findings.
SUBURBIA IN THE UK
According to the National Census, 86% of the UK’s population live in suburban locations. This staggering statistic encourages a questioning of the definition of ‘suburbia’. In the context used by the census, ‘suburbia’ envelopes everything from 19th century suburbs to urban council estates. However, for most, the connotations of the suburbs conjure a narrower image of trimmed lawns, car-filled driveways, commuting crowds and monotonous houses. Suburbia as a territory is largely ignored by the design and cultural professions. If not ignored, the suburbs are depicted in an overwhelmingly negative manner - in the context of scarcity of resources, speed and volume of consumption, the affect of urban sprawl and the concerns of individualism, painting a dismal and frightening picture. However, if the suburbs are to be realistically re-thought, it is essential that suburbanite’s motivations are given adequate validity.
“Suburbia’s vociferous enemies fail to see that it is an essential ingredient of city life. Such critics are outnumbered many, many times by the millions for whom suburbia is a land of pleasantness, friendship and hope.” Paul Barker ‘The Freedoms of Suburbia’
In order for communities to make necessary changes as they face uncertain futures (particularly with regards to adapting to future scenarios of climate change and peak oil), significant life style changes are required from its inhabitants. For this reason, it is fundamental that these changes are devised in collaboration with the people whom it will affect. This should be promoted on a micro-scale, ensuring that each community is treated as a unique case, with unique issues. For this reason this project forms a case study, to be seen as the pilot project, focusing on one community – St. Luke’s in Southend-on-Sea. “The next stage in moving towards such a future is to instigate a new model of participatory social research, so that even as the public response to the New Suburbanism is assessed, they are given the opportunity to collectively shape it.” ‘Suburban Futures’ Kingston University Centre for Suburban Studies
Understanding a site is an important process in developing the best design solution for a project. Despite popular belief in the suburbs being a monotonous and somewhat dull place to live, every environment still has its individuality and deserves to be recognised in its own right.
Southend town centre London
St Luke’s is in Southend-on-Sea, a coastal town at the end of the River Thames.
St. Luke’s is north east of the town centre.
The housing stock consists of a mixture of terraced, semi detached and detached post-war housing.
Cluny Square in St. Luke’s is known as a deprived area in Southend, however, it is surrounded by more affluent neighbourhoods.
Two 60s tower blocks dominate Cluny Square park in which many residents have been housed by the council.
In recent years Cluny Square in St. Luke’s has been renowned as having a high level of crime in comparison to other areas in Southend.
However, the community has begun to tackle these issues through various community agencies working together1.
Yet the area is still within 20% of the most deprived areas of the South East region.
Therefore more can be done to improve this suburban environment.
Currently the area offers many services for the community; a variety of primary schools and a secondary school...
... a health centre and a police station.
However, there is little, if any choice, in amenities provided for the community…
… a typically expensive supermarket, Waitrose, is in the area...
... one central park, Cluny Square, that is renowned for crime...
... some allotments behind a cluster of houses, a McDonald’s dru-thru, a handful of corner shops and a takeaway shop.
In addition, the residents are isolated in St. Luke’s due to the poor public transport methods linking them to the rest of the town.
St. Luke’s would benefit from more local amenities.
Currently only 13% of Southend’s residents think cultural facilities are important in making a good place to live.
New facilities need to be devised in collaboration with local people so a questionnaire was designed and completed by the residents.
Through working with the residents and seeking out their opinions, St. Luke’s can become a sustainable environment.
QUESTIONNAIRE RESULTS 2
WHY DO YOU LIVE IN ST. LUKE’S? Grew up here Family commitments More for your money Only available council accomodation Moved for a job Good family environment Proximity to town centre
YES NO Does St. Luke’s have a unique local culture?
YES NO Is there a strong sense of community in St. Luke’s?
NO Are there adequate facilities/ amenities in St. Luke’s?
YES NO Is there enough for children and young people to do in St. Luke’s?
NO Do the people of St. Luke’s have any control over decisions made for the community?
YES NO Do the priorities of local people differ to the priorities of local authorities?
1. The community agencies working together in St. Luke’s are; St. Luke’s Healthy Living Centre, Temple Sutton School, Essex Police, South Essex Homes, Connexions, Cluny Residents Association and Peartree Residents Association. 2. For further information on the questionnaire results, please consult ****.
1. Profiling St. Luke’s community through interactive questions about perceptions of the area 2. Local resident’s ideas and desires for the area 3. Establishing used and underused areas 3. and routes in St. Luke’s through mapping of daily routines 4. Mapping of human networks within the community 6. 5. Publicising and dissemination of project aims and future plans 6. Creative workshops to support the 7. exhibition 7. Competition for local artists to support the exhibition
St. Luke’s interactive exhibition was as consultation event that produced unique insight into local resident’s perceptions and opinions of their local environment. The exhibition was designed to engage visitors further than traditional consultation techniques, using interactive design, models and providing incentives for visitors through workshops and pieces by local artists. Held over a Bank Holiday weekend, the exhibition attracted over 100 visitors of a range of ages, which resulted in the creation of a robust profile of the community. The key focuses of the exhibition was to establish a profile of current resident’s of St. Luke’s including demographics, resident’s desires and aspirations, community networks, current use of public space and highlighting underused spaces in the area.
ST. LUKE’S COMMUNITY PROFILE USING THE AREA A series of simple questions were posed to visitors. In offering answers to each of the questions a basic profile of St. Luke’s developed. This allowed visitors to see how their perceptions of the community and local environment compared to other resident’s perceptions.
Length of Residency in St. Lukes’s:
6-12 Months 1-3 Years
10-20 Years 20+ Years
Cars per household
Home Ownership in St. Lukes’s:
83 54 89 %
Of residents make less than 20% of journeys by car
a. self-owned b. council owned c. rented from social landlord d. rented from private landlord
% of residents of St. Luke’s are Christian or have no religion
A model of St. Luke’s area asked visitors to map their routes and daily routines. Through using different coloured string, visitors could also identify whether these movements were made by foot/bike, car or public transport. This enabled the identification of the areas with high footfall and how some of these compare to vacant sites in the area.
“Being a mum to small children I often feel isolated in my flat and fearful of the threat of racism when I go outside.”
of residents of St. Luke’s are White and British
Amenities and Facilities
b % of residents that a. feel safe b. don’t feel safe
10-20 20-50 50-80 80-100
% of family member that live in St. Luke’s
IDEAS AND DESIRES
‘regularly’ use Waitrose, the closest supermarket
travel at least once a week to use another community’s facilities
The exhibition offered visitors the opportunity to make suggestions of facilities, events, interventions and community schemes that they felt could improve and enhance St. Luke’s Community. Through categorising these suggestions by relevant themes, an overall impression of community priorities became apparent. “Social areas for parent’s while children play in the park” Sally, 29
“Better lighting the public areas to help feel safer”
“An allotment for children and teenagers”
“A graffiti wall”
“An outdoor cinema, like Greenwich Park”
“Local artists to paint the shutters that make the area look austere when the shops are closed” Stephen, 58
“A local music festival”
“A community picnic in the park”
“A programme of summer events, to give the community something to look forward to” Sue, 48
Routine journeys made by foot or bike Routine journeys made by car or private transport Routine journeys made by public transport Cluny Square
Joan, 70 Recycling your unwanted items
Safety of the Streets
Local artist Jess Worley ran a jewellery workshop that encouraged participants to consider local heritage and tradition as inspiration for jewellery design – an important attraction to participants, especially young people.
Growing your own Food
Music and Film Events
LOCAL HUMAN MAKING PUBLIC NETWORKS Exhibition visitors added to a human networks map of St. Luke’s by adding themselves to the map and drawing links with the people they knew, whether friends, family or colleagues. This reveals the local basis for most successful future community participation and interaction.
Elsie, aged 13, goes to school with Damien, aged 16
Karen, aged 38, is a neighbour of Dot, aged 71
Fundamental to the success of the interactive exhibition has been to locally publicise the aims and future aspirations of ‘We ♥ the Suburbs’. By using a memorable name and graphic with an extensive series of posters and flyers, the exhibition had a strong local presence. A take-away exhibition pamphlet allowed visitors to further understand the themes addressed in the project, namely: What Suburbia is and what the term means to suburbanites
Kim, aged 45, is the mother of Natalie, aged 12
Offering suburbanites the opportunity to express their experiences of what its really like to live in the suburbs Recognising local culture
40’s and 50’s
Celebrating suburbia’s unique and distinctive attributes
C2C RAIL LINK
UK POPULATION THAT LIVE IN SUBURBBAN AREAS
86% POPULATION THAT TRAVEL BETWEEN 40km AND 60km TO WORK
OXFORD DICTIONARY DEFINITION Noun: an outlying district of a city, especially a residential one. ORIGIN From Old French suburbe or Latin suburbium, from sub- ‘near to’ & urbs, urb- ‘city’. EXPANSION OF THE SUBURBS
new houses were built in the interwar period comprising over
of British housing stock
NO. OF PEOPLE THAT COMMUTE TO LONDON DAILY FROM OUTSIDE OF THE M25
2% of the UK
POLITICAL MAKE-UP OF ELECTED COUNCILLORS IN SOUTHEND-ON-SEA
IND EPE NDE NT
750,000 ST. LUKES AREA PROFILE IN COMPARISON TO NATIONAL AVERAGES
R OU LAB
20’s and 30’s
Clive, aged 56, works with Sue, aged 35
ST. LUKE’S , A SUBURB OF SOUTHEND-ON-SEA AND LONDON
LIB ER AL DE M OC RA T
ST. LUKE’S INTERACTIVE EXHIBITION
Interest in current affairs CONSERVATIVE
Housing - with mortgage Educated - to degree level Couples with children Have satellite TV
LOW VERY LOW LOW VERY LOW HIGH MEDIUM
ARTIST’S COMPETITION A competition for local artists was circulated, offering the opportunity to contribute to the exhibition in a manner that addressed suburbia as a theme. This represents an early move towards recognising unique local culture and giving local artists an opportunity to exhibit this.
all C c i l k Pubr Woor cal fo m L fro Artisnctesd and r ie per tue Ex Ama
SCALE 1:2000 TERN AVE
TH PARK RD
ON ST Y O
UK .L ST
N SI AL
E ROYSTON AV
H PARK RD
D ALE R
ALE R LONSD
L CH C
RTH A VE
TH PARK RD
TEMPORARILY ACCESSED LAND
St. Luke’s residents identiﬁed Espaces in their community that they believed AL AV CENT would beneﬁt from aR temporary structure, design or an installation. Typically, they believe there is no room for anything to be built except for the main park, Cluny Square that comprises of permanent play equipment and a grassy park. The grassy park is the only communal green space in the community so it is here larger proposals could occur.
H AVE NORT
OVE THE GR
KEY BEHIND THE ALLEY WAYS
D ST. LUKE’S R
ROVE RTH G SEAFO
H AVE NORT
ON R SUTT
To the north of St. Luke’s is a dual carriageway with a private hospital, Waitrose supermarket, leisure centre, senior school and a B&Q. There is a great deal of space here to provide community facilities in under used car park spaces and sites that are waiting to be developed on. Unfortunately, the St. Luke’s residents view the dual carriageway as a boundary and would not access these sites and utilise the facilities on offer. D
AL A CENTR
However, St. Luke’s does have other smaller spaces on offer that could be of beneﬁt to the community. The extra ‘grassy verge’ areas that exist as additional front garden space are in the public domain and have the Y RD potential to be utilised. TRINIT They are currently redundant but could be areas that are used for bird nesting shelters, bat breeding boxes, recycling bins or a library book exchange. Other smaller areas exist behind people’s homes in the back alleys that are currently used as a dumping ground.
PROPOSALS FOR LARGER SPACES KSOM
ITON SURB RD
Bat breeding boxes
D NESS R STROM
St ’s e k Lu
Prayer room for increasingly diverse community
D OBAN R
PROPOSALS FOR SMALLER SPACES
Y T I N U M M CO EAS ID
The area has two schools that have surplus land used for sports and playtime. During the holidays, if an agreement could happen with the landlords of the schools, these sites could be used for larger installations of a temporary nature.
E AL AV CENTR
Library book exchange
L NESS P STROM
BELL R EVUE
Shelter space for adults / teenagers
Allotments for children / teenagers and communal tool shed and compost Bee farm
Bird nesting shelters
WHAT IS THIS ABOUT? In collaboration with the University of Sheffield and St. Luke’s Healthy Living Centre CIC, We ♥ the Suburbs have undertaken a project based in St. Luke’s in Southend-on-Sea that aims to investigate the potential of community-led development in Suburban areas. This document outlines the initial research findings of the project. Through various forms of interactive community consultation, a community profile has been created which addresses resident’s aspirations, motivations and perceptions of their choice of home. The project is an extension of the ‘Spatial Agency’ project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Spatial Agency presents a new way of looking at how buildings and space can be produced. Moving away from architecture's traditional focus on the look and making of buildings, Spatial Agency proposes a much more expansive field of opportunities in which architects and non-architects can operate. Tatjana Schneider (School of Architecture, University of Sheffield) is a principal of the Spatial Agency project and has guided and mentored this research. The unique evidence and ideas collated in this document form a basis for future action, in which new forms of suburban community development can be tested.
This project is funded by the University of Sheffield Knowledge Transfer Scheme, a key initiative that transfers pioneering research from the academic field to real environments and professional practice.
SLHLC is a community organisation that serves the community of St. Luke’s in Southend-on-Sea, improving wellbeing of local people through training, employment and social enterprise opportunities.
WE THE SUBURBS
‘We ♥ the Suburbs’ is an architectural research collaborative that addresses the much overlooked territory of UK suburbia through research techniques that include community consultation and participatory design.
Spatial Agency has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. For further information see www.spatialagency.net