The White House

A new public space for art and social activity on the Becontree Estate in Dagenham.

“Tenants shall be as free as possible to order their lives in their own way, so that they may pursue their originality…” LCC Becontree Estate Tenants’ Handbook, 1921

In August 2016, Create worked with architects Apparata to transform The White House, a derelict 18th century farmhouse on Dagenham’s Becontree Estate, into a new public space for art and social activity. The White House invites artists to live at the house, to make new art and join people living locally to create the vision for this new public building.

Since opening, The White House has been home to six artists and hosted a range of workshops, talks, dinners and events – with artist residencies resulting in activity including a socialist pantomime, a mockumentary film, a site-specific theatre production, and an anti-social social club.

Alongside the artist residencies, the House hosts a Front Room Programme, which includes coffee mornings, arts and craft groups facilitated by local people, poetry classes and film screenings. The Front Room Programme has been designed with the people that come to the house, and is often a legacy of the artists’ projects and their own interests. Chad McCail formed All Hands On Deck for the prop- and set-builders for his pantomime and they continue to meet weekly, and Gingerbread Group Dagenham (for lone parents) has been set up by local artist Christina Ford.

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The White House is supported by London Borough of Barking & Dagenham, Arts Council England, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Heritage Lottery Fund, City Bridge Trust, Genesis Foundation, The Foyle Foundation, and Investec. APPARATA is the architectural practice of Nicholas Lobo Brennan Astrid Smitham. Nicholas Lobo Brennan was born in London. He began collaborating with Astrid Smitham in 2011 forming a studio in 2014. Nicholas also founded the collective GRUPPE in Zurich in 2011. He edits the publication Models Ruins Power, founded in Zurich in 2014. He previously worked for Peter Zumthor in Switzerland, Architecture Research Unit in London, and UNA in Sao Paulo. He studied at Chelsea Collage of Arts, Cass Faculty of Architecture and The Royal College of Art. He taught with Tom Emerson at ETH helping establish the Studio Tom Emerson live build projects. He won the Swiss Art Award for Architecture in 2012 and with his collective he was 2013 finalist for the Debut Award at the Lisbon Triennale, and nominated for this years Iakov Chernikov prize. Astrid Smitham was born in Manchester. She studied Fine Art in the UK and Architecture at TU Berlin and ETH Zurich. She practised as a painter and screenwriter in Berlin. In 2015 she completed the construction of a house for an actor in Valais, Switzerland.