UEL Construction Week: Hackney City Farm

Sarah spent the last fortnight providing structural and technical guidance for University of East London architecture students participating in the Hackney City Farm project during UEL Construction Week.

Hackney City Farm was established in 1984 as a community venture and now garners over 100,000 visitors each year from across London and beyond. The farm were recent recipients of a Heritage Lottery Fund Sharing Heritage grant; these funds are currently being put towards archiving the farm’s diverse history.

The brief for the students was to design and build an intervention that would signpost visitors to the farm’s site specific heritage and/or create a practical addition to the farm, using only reclaimed materials and limited historical remnants, e.g. Victorian bricks and decorative inserts from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.




Site background

Hackney City Farm consists of a two and a half acre site on the southern edge of Hackney and is one of the few remaining early 1900’s industrial sites relatively undeveloped and open to the general public. The site has an interesting history with previous uses, including: lorry yard and depot, local brewery, woodwork and furniture workshop. Before that, a main road lined with terraced housing ran through it. Aspects of this history are peppered around the farm, and it was the responsibility of the students to interpret these elements and express this through an intervention to engage visitors to the farm with its history.

Over the years, work has unearthed some interesting and valuable resources regarding the previous uses of the site, which have been collected and stored in the farm basement. These include maps, photographs and various artefacts, such as tools and signs. Ephemeral evidence of the lives of former workers has also been discovered,  for example, cart grooves, an etched signature, lorry marks on the building and ground.



The structure

The resulting structure addressed both aspects of the client brief, providing shelter for people using the hand and boot washing station, as well as a transitional space within which to engage visitors wanting to learn more about the farm’s history. There is an interactive wall composed of a randomised pattern of reclaimed timber blocks; gaps between the blocks frame views out across the farm. Upon each block is a photo or story revealing different aspects of the farm’s cultural heritage.  The top of the structure forms an arched trellis designed to support climbing plants; over time, the plants will grow and flower, providing a green canopy that doubles up as an entrance leading into the farm’s adjacent ‘secret garden’.

Congratulations to all the students involved; we’re already looking forward to next year’s UEL Construction Week!

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