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Brick Lane Development Strategy

Part 2 Project 2010
Ellen De Boer
Hogeschool Rotterdam | The Netherlands
Brick Lane – alternative development strategy

The Brick Lane area forms an indispensible link between the City, London’s central business district, and the very densely populated area to the east. The cultural historical richness, diversity in many aspects and liveliness throughout the day give this neighbourhood its intense urban character.

In prevailing planning approaches Brick Lane is considered to be an ‘opportunity area’ for expansion of the City on a few large scale development sites. The valuable but vulnerable and deprived neighbourhood seems to be forgotten and plays no role in the planning process. All this results in a towering pressure on landownership. Gentrification takes place at high speed and the liveliness of the neighbourhood threatens to reduce to office hours only.

Opposition of inhabitants and all those involved against the present planning approach and a ‘time-out’ for the expansion of the City, caused by the economical crisis, offers room for an alternative development strategy. This development strategy pleads intensification and strengthening of the valuable neighbourhood in its own way by making use of existing qualities and opportunities.

Four zones can be distinguished in the Brick Lane area, each with their own characteristics concerning building typology, programme and use. In each urban block, these zones can be recognized. Based on this spatial and programmatical logic an ideal typical Brick Lane-block was developed as a design tool for small scale mixed use intensification.

Three different urban blocks show the possibilities for development of this fine grain area. Without demolition, car parks, unused public space and empty plots offer space for programme that has its roots in the area. Close collaboration between owner, (local) government and various local stakeholders stimulate the process of regeneration and strengthening of this valuable and indispensible neighbourhood.

Ellen De Boer

The typology of Brick Lanes’ Sense of Place

We will never know whether it was foresight, intuition or sheer luck, but the first peak of the economic crisis coinciding with the finalization of this project was a form of poetic justice. The Brick Lane is dedicated to a revaluation of the small scale, the combined power of many miniature interventions and smart, individual mixed-use typologies. The magic of the project is that as a strategy it is probably more convincing than many visionary and grand urban conceptual projects.

The Brick Lane project, by Ellen de Boer, stands out because it has taken a kind of ‘’grass roots’’ attitude from the first moment. The project takes the small scale in the large city of London as a starting point and explores what exactly happens on the street. It explores an alternative to big corporate developments and fashionable design statements. The project has mapped out how the inhabitants in the Brick Lane area live; what their histories and experiences are about. The interdependence between the urban typology and the way of life in the area has been analyzed.

It was not until all these themes had been exhaustively charted that Ellen de Boer started to formulate a design hypothesis and strategy. The urban intervention strategy aims at reinforcing the mapped existing communities and their qualities. The trick of the strategy is that it is radical in its modesty. Camouflaged as acupunctural, miniature interventions, a large and powerful transformation strategy has been put forward.

Ellen’s stubborn intuition was most remarkable about her, making life for herself and her tutors both easy and complicated. In the end, the combination of analytic power and strategic vision have led to a strong polemic project that is a fresh contribution to urban (re-)development in times of crisis.


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