Surveying the Creative Use of Vacant Space in London, c.1945-1995

Kamvasinou, K. and Milne, S. 2019. Surveying the Creative Use of Vacant Space in London, c.1945-1995. in: Campbell, C.J., Giovine, A. and Keating, J. (ed.) Empty Spaces: Confronting emptiness in national, cultural and urban history London Institute of Historical Research, University of London.

Chapter titleSurveying the Creative Use of Vacant Space in London, c.1945-1995
AuthorsKamvasinou, K. and Milne, S.
EditorsCampbell, C.J., Giovine, A. and Keating, J.
Abstract

This paper draws on a Leverhulme-funded research project entitled ‘Interim spaces and creative use’ (2012-2014). The project investigated five present-day temporary projects sited on vacant land in London. Conscious of the long history of creative temporary occupations, the project pushes against the ephemeral nature of interim projects of the past, strategically documenting the five case studies through interviews, film, site surveys and photographs.
The specific purpose of this paper is to contextualise this recent fieldwork against the wider historical background of the creative temporary uses of vacant urban space, therefore negotiating between definitions of ‘vacant’ and ‘empty’. Vacant spaces have been historically associated with dereliction or abandonment, ‘lost space’ (Trancik 1986), ‘urban voids’ and ‘cracks in the city’ (Loukaitou-Sideris 1996). Against the perception of vacancy as waste and emptiness, a more positive reading has been promoted through the notion of the ‘terrain vague’ (de Sola-Morales 1995).
Although the present-day case studies emerged out of a very particular political, economic and cultural context, that of the late-2000s recession, this is not the first time that temporary uses have emerged in the history of London. Some of the case studies of the research project are located on sites with legacies of use that stretch back far beyond the 20th century and such histories complicate our readings of these short-term projects. The paper is however primarily concerned with the post-war context of London, up to the present day. Using the case studies as a spur for reflection, it provides an overview of the key moments in the evolution of creative temporary projects developed in vacant spaces. The discussion
also highlights links between past and present projects. Setting out from the post-war reconstruction years, the paper explores the 1960s countercultural projects as well as the 1970s post-countercultural community garden movement and the urban ecology turn. It then considers the impact of an increasingly global environmental awareness in the 1980s, leading up to the 1990s regeneration boom. This broad survey is supported by specific historical examples of creative use - some of which have proved to be truly temporary whilst
others have managed to endure - explored through published material, interviews with initiators and archival photographic records.
Through this historical review the paper links London projects to wider movements worldwide, with particular references to US and Europe where a direct influence can be established. Key themes emerging that provide insights into practices and ideologies relating to ‘emptiness’ are discussed and their legacies for contemporary urban projects identified. The paper observes that there has been a historical evolution in how ‘empty space’ has been discovered, made visible and reimagined in 20th century London, and highlights its relevance for today’s vacant urban spaces.

Book titleEmpty Spaces: Confronting emptiness in national, cultural and urban history
Year2019
PublisherInstitute of Historical Research, University of London
Publication dates
Published31 Jul 2019
Place of publicationLondon
ISBN9781909646490

Related outputs

Surveying the Creative Use of Vacant Space in London, c. 1945-1985
Kamvasinou, K. and Milne, S. 2019. Surveying the Creative Use of Vacant Space in London, c. 1945-1985. in: Campbell, C.J., Giovine, A. and Keating, J. (ed.) Empty Spaces: Confronting emptiness in national, cultural and urban history London Institute of Historical Research, University of London. pp. 151-178

Documenting interim spaces as 21st century heritage
Kamvasinou, K. 2019. Documenting interim spaces as 21st century heritage. AMPS Tangible-Intangible Heritage(s): Design, social and cultural critiques on the past, the present and the future. University of East London 13 - 15 Jun 2018 AMPS CIO.

Interim Spaces and Creative Use
Kamvasinou, K. 2017. Interim Spaces and Creative Use.

Short Term Projects, Long Term Ambitions: Facets of Transience in Two London Development Sites
Kamvasinou, K. 2017. Short Term Projects, Long Term Ambitions: Facets of Transience in Two London Development Sites. in: Henneberry, J. (ed.) Transience and Permanence in Urban Development Hoboken, NJ Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 65-84

Temporary Intervention and Long Term Legacy: Lessons from London Case Studies
Kamvasinou, K. 2017. Temporary Intervention and Long Term Legacy: Lessons from London Case Studies. Journal of Urban Design. 22 (2), pp. 187-207. doi:10.1080/13574809.2015.1071654

Reimagining Interim Landscapes
Kamvasinou, K. 2014. Reimagining Interim Landscapes. in: Deriu, D., Kamvasinou, K. and Shinkle, E. (ed.) Emerging Landscapes: Between Production and Representation Farnham Routledge. pp. 147-159

Interim spaces: vacant land, creativity and innovation in the context of uncertainty
Kamvasinou, K. and Roberts, M. 2014. Interim spaces: vacant land, creativity and innovation in the context of uncertainty. in: Mariani, M. and Barron, P. (ed.) Terrain vague: interstices at the edge of the pale London Routledge. pp. 187-200

Critical perspectives on landscape: introduction
Deriu, D. and Kamvasinou, K. 2012. Critical perspectives on landscape: introduction. The Journal of Architecture. 17 (1), pp. 1-9. doi:10.1080/13602365.2012.659896

The public value of vacant urban land
Kamvasinou, K. 2011. The public value of vacant urban land. Municipal Engineer. 164 (3), pp. 157-166. doi:10.1680/muen.9.00020

Editing the field: video tales from globalised cityscapes
Kamvasinou, K. 2011. Editing the field: video tales from globalised cityscapes. in: Ewing, S., McGowan, J.M., Speed, C. and Bernie, V.C. (ed.) Architecture and field/work London Routledge. pp. 151-159

Notation timelines and the aesthetics of disappearance
Kamvasinou, K. 2010. Notation timelines and the aesthetics of disappearance. The Journal of Architecture. 15 (4), pp. 397-423. doi:10.1080/13602365.2010.507517

Vague parks: the politics of late twentieth-century urban landscapes
Kamvasinou, K. 2006. Vague parks: the politics of late twentieth-century urban landscapes. Architectural Research Quarterly. 10 (3-4), pp. 255-262. doi:10.1017/S1359135506000364

Reclaiming the obsolete in transitional landscapes: perception, motion, engagement
Kamvasinou, K. 2006. Reclaiming the obsolete in transitional landscapes: perception, motion, engagement. Journal of Landscape Architecture. 2006/2, pp. 16-27.

Contemporary urban gateways
Kamvasinou, K. 2005. Contemporary urban gateways. Annals for Aesthetics. 43, pp. 193-204.

The poetics of the ordinary: ambience in the moving transitional landscape
Kamvasinou, K. 2004. The poetics of the ordinary: ambience in the moving transitional landscape. in: Dorrian, M. and Rose, G. (ed.) Deterritorialisations: revisioning landscapes and politics London, UK Black Dog Publishing. pp. 182-185

Permalink - https://westminsterresearch.westminster.ac.uk/item/q2w18/surveying-the-creative-use-of-vacant-space-in-london-c-1945-1995


Restricted files

All other files
Under embargo indefinitely

Share this
Tweet
Email