Squaring the Corners by NIMTIM ARCHITECTS

Squaring the Corners by NIMTIM ARCHITECTSA reimagined public square on the Becontree Estate

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.

The architects were inspired by the geometries, colours and materials that already exist within the estate. One aspect of the design is a bright blue rose trellis that ascends from the ground at a jaunty angle. “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”. 

One of the most striking features of the design is a structure, taking inspiration from the local Ford Dagenham plant. The plant opened in 1931 and was a significant employer of many families on the estate. The structure features mechanical ‘crankshafts’ donated from the former Ford factories as a nod to this history. The architects used as many found materials as possible, including logs from felled trees on the estate following storm Eugene and large cement blocks, re-used from construction waste, now functioning as opportunities for imaginative and informal play.  The design was developed in consultation with residents neighbouring the site, at dedicated engagement days and workshops throughout 2021 and 2022. 

A key element of the design was to support biodiversity by reintroducing the original ecosystem of the heath, thus creating a part wild, part intimate public space. Residents also raised concerns about road safety, which nimtim addressed with the addition of soft verges as a green buffer between pedestrians and road users. The council has raised the level of the road at the intersection as a further measure to slow traffic.

The London Borough of Barking & Dagenham will use the project as a pilot for potential projects in the future. You can find the square at the corner of Lindsey Road and Fuller Road on the Becontree Estate.

Squaring the Corners was co-commissioned by Create London and RIBA, working with and supported by the London Borough and Barking and Dagenham.