Grouped in sets of four at intersections, 12 of these corner plots are combined into three new civic squares with a strong geometrical presence: one square, one round square, and one triangular one, and themes as places for meeting, playing, and growing and resting. The three squares will be the first space of their kind on the Becontree Estate, creating a part-wild, intimate public space: much smaller in scale than the large municipal parks, and much more social and public than the adjacent front gardens and other corner plots.
Nimtim’s designs for the squares borrow from the geometries, colours and materials within the estate – both in its original and current manifestation – as well as the history of radical play on the estate. Each new square, made up of four corners brought together, suggests new activities for these augmented green spaces. Residents are invited to enter them and to take ownership of them.
Nimtim are collaborating on the proposal with artist Katie Schwab, whose work on crafted interiors and textiles on the estate will inform Nimtim’s carefully and locally-sourced material palette and the domestic, welcoming scale of these new civic spaces for the Becontree.
The three new civic squares are connecting points in a soft ‘masterplan’ proposed by nimtim of new routes through the estate; connecting existing amenities through playful and restful routes and providing a new identity for the other green spaces at the ends of rows of houses.Nimtim architects was founded in 2014 by Nimal Attanayake and Timothy O’Callaghan (Nimi and Tim). They founded the practice following Nimi’s diagnosis and recovery from cancer, which inspired their decision to create a ‘relatable, approachable and supportive’ practice, committed to ‘a healthy work/life balance’ and ‘adding social value’.
The practice lays emphasis on the process of design, community involvement in every project, testing, joyful and sustainable use of materials, asking questions through the work and co-creation.
Other projects Nimtim are currently working on:
- a scheme for a mental health charity in Brixton
- a new headquarters for a watch manufacturer in Forest Hill
- a mixed-use scheme in Peckham.
Nimtim practice bio/ practice statement here.
Katie Schwab works with installation, textiles, furniture and moving image, to explore personal and social histories of education, migration and labour. Her research focuses on domestic textiles and civic design from the inter- and postwar period and, in particular, the underrepresented work of women artists and émigré designers. Embedded in the communities and contexts in which she works, Katie’s long-term projects incorporate collaborative workshops, oral history interviews, archival research and craft- based learning.
Recent exhibitions and projects include British Art Show 9 (Hayward Gallery Touring: Wolverhampton, Aberdeen, Plymouth & Manchester, forthcoming 2021-22); Reduct: Abstraction and Geometry in Scottish Art (Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh, 2020); Unbounded (The Eden Project, Cornwall, 2019); A Portable Mural (Serpentine Galleries, London, 2017); Jerwood Solo Presentations (Jerwood Space, London, 2016); Making the Bed, Laying the Table (Glasgow Sculpture Studios, 2016); Bloomberg New Contemporaries (Backlit, Nottingham and ICA, London, 2015).
Schwab was a Serpentine Projects and Imperial Health Charity resident artist in 2019-20, shortlisted for the Max Mara Art Prize for Women in 2019, and recipient of the Nigel Greenwood Art Prize in 2016.
nimtim Architects: Squaring the Corners is co-commissioned by Create London and the Royal Institute of British Architects for the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham.