Royal Docks Custom House

For three months in the summer of 2015, we engaged with an enthusiastic group of local residents, pressure groups, traders and local creative industries to envision the future of public space at Peckham Rye station in south London.

Southwark Council and Network Rail were proposing to demolish the buildings obscuring the station to create a new public square which would front the listed station building. However, the problem was that the buildings slated for demolition housed much-appreciated local shops and amenities such as greengrocers, nail-bars and hairdressers.

Local people were concerned that these businesses would be driven out and replaced by a more generic offer.

Ash Sakula was appointed by Southwark to undertake a community engagement exercise with all the stakeholders. By discovering and documenting their requirements we could draw up a brief for the future development which would be acceptable to all.

We opened and manned a co-design shop in the station, held many events and workshops and engaged with enthusiastic groups of local residents, campaigners, traders and local creative industries in order to devise more user-friendly plans. Our slogan was 'everyone is a co-designer'.

The findings were summarised in what we called The Atlas of Aspirations covering everything from a desire for trees and WCs to strategic thoughts on spaces for innovation and local transport issues. Its recommendations included:

·       Allow time out from busy Rye Lane with seating.

·       Enable people watching to encourage life in the public realm and cut down on social isolation.

·       Encourage a delicate“urban ecology” where new uses grow incrementally out of what is already         going on.

·       Include and encourage nature with trees and plants.

·       Design the square so as to celebrate the Art Deco quality of surrounding buildings

The Atlas formed part of the brief to the team taking the design of the square forward and has helped guide its subsequent development.