With news that the Ilford Spark Lab has been shortlisted in the 2022 NLA New London Awards – Community, Meanwhile, and Wellbeing categories, we reflect on our work with the London Borough of Redbridge on the regeneration of Ilford Town Centre to date.

In 2020, Kanda was appointed by the London Borough of Redbridge to engage local communities in the Western Gateway project, a key piece in Redbridge’s vision for the future of Ilford Town Centre, and the Spark Lab, a ‘meanwhile’ strategy for the Town Centre.

The Western Gateway

Working closely with Karakusevic Carson Architects (KCA), Kanda engaged local communities in early ideas for the Western Gateway. Using a blend of methods to reach and engage local people, we held discussions on themes of local history and aspirations for development including improving local biodiversity and access to nature, enhancing the Ilford townscape, and creating new social infrastructure.

This initial stage of community engagement concluded in the drafting of a ‘Spatial Framework’ for the Western Gateway, one that will inform a future planning application.

Kanda Shape – engaging local residents, workers, and visitors to the area in early ideas for the Western Gateway

The Spark Lab

Kanda have supported Jan Kattein Architects (JKA) in proposing a ‘meanwhile’ strategy and uses for Ilford Town Centre, informed by engagement with local communities.

Largely through online spaces, we focused local minds on ideas for small-scale interventions and initiatives that could make a positive social impact in the short term.

Through our engagement, we identified local needs and wants to ensure that the interventions/initiatives directly responded to these, and tested ideas with local people as they developed, with regular updates on the project and opportunities to feedback.

Informed by our community engagement, JKA fabricated ‘The Spark Lab’, taking up the ground floor of a vacant department store to provide incubation space for local cultural organisations and local businesses with a public purpose wanting to trial a high street presence. Modular furniture, lighting and adaptable displays can be deployed in multiple configurations to suit a range of uses.

Inside the Spark Lab. Photo by Jan Kattein Architects.

JKA have also fabricated ‘Wilderness Street’, a temporary living urban landscape on Oakfield Road, identified as a key ‘artery’ that connects Ilford’s existing cultural venues and the high street.

Wilderness Street. Photo by Jan Kattein Architects.

Today, local communities are enjoying the residencies and community events being held at the Spark Lab and Wilderness Street. The positive social impact of the Spark Lab and Wilderness has been recognised, having been shortlisted in the Community, Meanwhile, and Wellbeing categories in the 2022 NLA New London Awards. For more information, visit the NLA’s website here.

Vote for this project in the ‘People’s Choice Award’ here. The voting deadline is 1st November 2022.

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