Create London announces two new projects across the Becontree Estate in Dagenham

Wednesday, 12 July 2023

Create London is delighted to launch two new projects for the Becontree Estate: a public square by nimtim architects, co-commissioned with RIBA, and a set of sculptural street furniture by artists Heather Peak and Ivan Morison, produced and curated by Create London. Both projects are supported by the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham and provide valuable spaces for the local community.

Marie Bak Mortensen, Director at Create London said, “We are thrilled to have commissioned these new public spaces for the Becontree Estate, which build on our ambitious programme of artist and architecture-led projects for the 2021 centenary celebrations. These architectural interventions make visible the council’s commitment to supporting its local community while continuing Create London’s mission to develop generous and bold infrastructure that responds to civic needs, local contexts and environmental concerns.”

A new public square by nimtim architects. Photography: Thierry Bal.

A new public square by nimtim architects

nimtim architects with artist Katie Schwab have reimagined four of Becontree’s existing corner plots, as a new public square for the community to meet, rest, play and grow. “Squaring the Corners” has been inspired by the geometries, colours and materials that already exist within the estate. The new square encourages residents to take ownership of these previously overlooked spaces and reframes them as spaces of exploration, growth and interaction. The square is the first space of its kind on the Becontree Estate, creating a part-wild, intimate public space; much smaller in scale than the large municipal parks and more social and public than the adjacent front gardens. The design includes re-wilded spaces where the intention is for the historic natural landscape to begin to emerge. The architects used as many found materials as possible, with some of the stones sourced from waste from the SuperSewer project, crankshafts donated from the former Ford factories to retain features of our industrial heritage and logs from felled trees on the estate following storm Eugene.

The designs were developed with local residents via onsite engagement days and workshops with children and young adults. These workshop  directly informed the proposals, for example, residents were keen to move away from formal play features which led to more informal, naturalistic features that children could engage with. The design also includes traffic calming measures in response to residents seeking a more restful and safer environment.

The installations on the site take inspiration from colours and forms found on the estate. “The rose trellis plays on the form of the ‘bow top’ fences found surrounding many of the corner plots on the estate” says Tim O’Callaghan, director and co-founder of nimtim architects. “The blue colour is part of a palette we developed for the project which used colours found on adapted homes throughout Becontree”.

The London Borough of Barking & Dagenham will use the project as a pilot for potential projects in the future.

 Heather Peak & Ivan Morison’s sculptural street furniture. Photography: Thierry Bal.

Sculptural street furniture by Heather Peak and Ivan Morison

Launching around the Becontree Estate in Dagenham is a series of new artworks, collectively titled “Two Cannibals Eating a Clown”, by British artists Heather Peak and Ivan Morison.

The artworks are intended to celebrate and encourage a diversity of social behaviour and to create more welcoming spaces for people to rest. The furniture is installed across six locations on the Becontree Estate selected by the council and local residents. The pieces create new areas of habitable public space in previously overlooked or transitionary zones, offering places to sit and gather.

The furniture includes tables, benches and stools; they use the same palette of materials and a shared vocabulary of basic forms – the cone, the cylinder and the slab. “We were looking to make new spaces of subtle connection out of previously overlooked sites.” says artist Ivan Morison. “We wanted to create sculptural forms that also offer rest and contemplation. The forms are as simple as children’s wooden play blocks. We stack a cylinder on a cone and call it a table. We put a flat slab on a smaller slab and call it a bench. We put little hemispheres on top of these forms and call them coconuts. The title is the first line of a Tommy Cooper joke, it continues… ‘One turns to the other and asks, “Does this taste funny to you?”’ It’s an absurd joke, dark and funny. Is there a direct connection between this title, this work, and this place? I think there is, but it is mysterious.”

Heather Peak and Ivan Morison’s sculptural street furniture has been produced and curated by Create London, working with and supported by the London Borough and Barking and Dagenham.

Councillor Saima Ashraf, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Community Leadership and Engagement, said: “It’s fantastic to see these projects come to life and it just goes to show how art can truly uplift and bring a new dynamic to some of the oldest corners of our borough.  “As the Becontree Centenary programme draws to a close, there’s still lots of exciting things to come as part of the council’s wider work around preserving and maintaining the estate for generations to come.”

These commissions form part of Create London’s ongoing programme of art, architecture and infrastructure celebrating the Becontree Estate and the diverse histories and lives of its residents. Each of the community centred infrastructure projects seek to enrich the local area and give positive value to behaviour in public spaces, supported by, and in partnership with, the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham. Other projects in this series are the playgrounds The Flamboyance of Flamingos by Yinka Ilori and Parsloes Memphis by Eva Rothschild and commemorative plaques celebrating local heroes nominated by residents, by Leonor Antunes and A Practice for Everyday Life.

‘Squaring the Corners’ was co-commissioned by Create London and RIBA, working with and supported by the London Borough and Barking and Dagenham. ‘Two Cannibals Eating a Clown’ by artists Heather Peak and Ivan Morison was produced and curated by Create London, working with and supported by the London Borough and Barking and Dagenham.