In 2015, we joined forces with Architecture 00. Together, we enjoy collaborating in a shared environment where strategic, urban and social designers, architects, programmers and economists practice design beyond its traditional borders. 00 work with individuals, governments, corporations and communities to solve problems and anticipate change, and to design successful platforms and places. As a studio it aims to reach beyond the design of objects themselves to the social, economic and environmental systems behind them.

Hornchurch Public Realm

For Hornchurch High Street, east London, we have designed a number of public realm improvements and carried out a cultural and heritage interpretation study of Hornchurch as part of LB Havering’s OLF funding.

Forming part of a wider highways scheme, our work includes a family of street furniture using a palette of terrazzo, timber, and bronze-finished metal; new planting scheme; and a collection of decorative granite paving for the alleyways leading to the High St, pocket public spaces and street furniture rugs. 

The lace-like paving designs have transformed these previously undervalued areas and, like a magic colouring book, reveal their pattern fully when wet. The rugs are defended spots for stopping within the busy pavement and contain all street furniture, allowing an uninterrupted clutter-free pedestrian route.

Thus the High Street becomes the stage with set furniture that can be assembled in various combinations, the alleyways become the wings, and the back of house becomes backstage production, turning it from a negative to positive connotation.Our concept for the public realm improvements considers Hornchurch as a theatre, based on three important interpretations of its heritage and culture: its historical physical form as a linear agricultural village with a strong sense of front and back with key entry points through alleyways; 

the long tradition of vibrant public events; and the aspiration to redress the balance between pedestrian and car with a central strip of High Street reclaimed by pedestrians. 

Thus the High Street becomes the stage with set furniture that can be assembled in various combinations, the alleyways become the wings, and the back of house becomes backstage production, turning it from a negative to positive connotation.

We were asked by LB Havering to carry out a study into whether Hornchurch holds the potential to be the cultural centre of Havering (and beyond) and how more visitors might be attracted to Hornchurch with a coherent strategy for the development of its cultural assets, as well as researching the value of such initiatives. 

Through public workshops and extensive research, it was identified that Hornchurch has an enviable character. It is a village, within the countryside, within a city and to play to its strengths, it should communicate itself so. 

We made a series of recommendations for short, medium and long term based on our findings that the heritage of celebrating, making, and a close relationship with the landscape should continue to characterise the cultural offer and activity of Hornchurch. 

These would also inform how the local authority defines its ambitions for the future development of the physical fabric of Hornchurch within the context of a cultural centre.

Our study proposes that Hornchurch boasts sufficiently vibrant cultural scene to consider itself the cultural centre of Havering, if it communicates and legitimises its smaller, more participatory cultural activities as well as the larger assets, such as Queen’s Theatre . As part of the research and proposal document, we proposed a series of temporary events to raise expectations of currently underused public spaces and encourage public interaction with the existing rich mix of cultural activities.