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Cultural Space Programme

Reports and Findings

The Cultural Space Programme has unfolded over three interventions so far. Notes from the discussions are included below:

Event 1: Introductory Event – 27 October 2014

1. What makes a cultural building permeable and legible?
  • It is important to unpick the language used. Who is asking for legibility and permeability?
  • Should there be a matching code of permeability for all institutions (eg Wi-Fi access, cafe etc)?
  • How do you evaluate permeability and its success? Is it about numbers, diversity etc?
  • Buildings give permission to be permeable at certain points, eg Museum Lates – the museum becomes more permeable, but perhaps less legible?
  • How do we preserve the intrinsic cultural value and artistic quality? Is a cultural building porous if people are coming only to visit the café?
  • How do we preserve heritage and make older and more historical buildings permeable?
  • How do we ensure cultural spaces will adapt and maintain their porosity in the future?
  • In appealing to the ‘community’ is there a risk of homogenising the experience? 
2. Buildings in relation to their environments. How to encourage interaction with local communities and environments?
  • Is dialogue with communities enough? Developers tick boxes about affordable housing, engaging communities etc, but cultural questions are not part of the planning processes.
  • How do you create effective cultural hubs without causing gentrification? In many cases, this prices out the local residents.
  • Does community engagement always have to be local? Are organisations in the same space competing for the same local communities?
  • Are we engaging with communities that are self-defined or that we define?
  • Extreme pop up – is guerrilla activity for independent artists only? Can building-based cultural organisations take on guerrilla tactics to engage with communities? Or must they be confined to their physical space?
3. Virtual cultural spaces: How could cultural virtual spaces complement, or integrate with, the physical cultural space?
  • "Virtual" is being transported – this is not simply limited to digital. The heart of virtual is about stimulating imagination.
  • Importance of the live experience. Is it OK to replace the physical trip with the virtual visit?
  • Some audiences might feel more comfortable interacting with an organisation in the virtual rather than the physical space.
  • Is there a difference between digital as a distribution mechanism and as an artistic medium or art form?
  • Digital can be useful in building momentum – the pre/during/after ‘live’ event experience. It is also useful for creating parallel digital experiences with the physical experience.
  • How does social media affect gallery experiences? What’s the role of digital in extending the life of a building?
  • Digital – encourages playfulness and participation – this is interesting as often the gallery and museum experience is about viewing – not necessarily participating and interacting with work.

Specific ideas for experimentation/research & development included: 

  • Means of way finding, other than signage
  • The playfulness of a building and its exterior/façade
  • The audio environment in/around a building
  • ‘Decompression spaces’ i.e. areas designed to smooth the flow from one environment to another.
  • Open conversations with the local community members
  • Business models where one part of the community subsidizes the other to ensure participation
  • Taking culture to the community
  • Creating new kinds of community partnerships
  • The use of digital to encourage playfulness and participation with a space, to build momentum around a live experience and to supplement/enhance the live experience


Event 2: ‘Walking Conversations’ in the Olympic Park – 12 November 2014

Themes & Issues from the Ideas Wall

Community Empowerment
  • How do communities self-establish spaces (spontaneous but lasting cultural activity eg undercrofts)?
  • Permissions – who is culturally activating spaces? And for whom?
  • Design for the community, by the community.
  • Work with local communities to develop/inform the new cultural spaces.
  • Co-creation – ask what people want.
  • ‘No’ to Red Crate. ‘Yes’ to a small market.
  • How does programming/curation impact/shape the public perception of the building? 
Economics & Control
  • Can a mixed economy model be developed – culture with light industry, retail, health, education etc?
  • Opt for a planned economy – not the ‘free market’ approach
  • Regeneration can create a hiatus, gap, vacuum or exodus. How can artists/culture be retained to continually inhabit the space?
  • How can self-seeding cultural spaces and communities be better facilitated/ accommodated?
  • Is London becoming hollow through the impact of regeneration/gentrification on target areas?
  • The Yard: “A little bastion of everything theatre’s supposed to be, in the exact spot that a theatre shouldn’t be.” Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out
  • There is a resilience and agility evident in the adaptive models such as The Yard. 
Whose Culture?
  • There is a notable absence of ‘organic’ art in evidence eg graffiti/spontaneous culture.
  • Food can often be a good stimulus for engagement and organic developments. 
  • What is the demographic of existing cultural infrastructure?
  • There is less ethnic diversity evident than would be expected in one of London’s most diverse Boroughs. 
  • Creating a better sense of permanence. Should there be a balance between the permanent and the temporary?
  • From pop-ups to the ‘10-year’ temporary theatre. How to make shorter-term interventions to engage new audiences?
  • Social isolation eg older people/the changing landscape – can this be saved by regeneration?
Geography & Boundaries
  • Use what is already there.
  • It is valuable to map what is already present by way of formal and informal culture.
  • Are there barriers between the old (existing) and new infrastructure? 
  • Engage the audience through the periphery of the organisation
  • How can we better connect the conventional with the ‘fringe’ activity?
  • It is easy to get lost – navigation support is an important part of orientation.
  • The construction of the idea of the Fringe: is the Park the centre or is it on an edge?



Event 3: Ideas Lab – 19 November 2014

Those who attended the Ideas Lab were party to a terrific idea-generation and cultivation process that mooted discussions on: 

  • Mapping a cultural ‘Treasure Hunt’
  • Cultural Enterprise
  • Inside – Outside: Curating the Interface
  • Permanence & Transience
  • Facilitating ‘Take-Over’ models
  • Democratizing Culture in Diverse Communities
And those were just a few of the subjects put forward!  Dynamic partnerships were instigated using the collective creativity across the room to explore, rationalise and re-vision early thoughts and ideas. 


The Next Stage

Four projects have been supported under the Cultural Space Programme and the outcomes and findings will be shared here. You can read more about the projects here.

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