From distilleries to Steinways: the threat to London’s back-of-house industries explored in new international film

Monday 4 September 2017

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A film still from London Made depicting London’s industries

London is being represented at the inaugural Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism, which opened on 2 September, with a specially commissioned film installation exploring the challenges facing London’s spaces of production as the city grows and deals with the increasing demand for new housing and the mechanics of keeping a city working.

London Made examines the huge range of supply chain industries required to serve the Barbican, a world-famous cultural venue in the heart of the capital. The installation highlights a number of supply threads servicing this one high-profile arts institution to reveal the critical role played by a myriad of different businesses that exist within the confines of the city, from set-makers to fruit pickers, that help the city to thrive. The film features interviews with industry experts, as well as artisans, creatives, manufacturers and suppliers, celebrating the people, processes and places that make London a productive city.

The installation, which is part of the British Council’s UK/Korea 2017-18 Season, is the product of a special partnership between the Mayor of London, the British Council, New London Architecture (NLA) and SEGRO. Architects and urban designers We Made That were commissioned to curate the exhibit that represents London at the Biennale as part of the Cities Exhibition, a selection of the most innovative public projects and initiatives from 50 cities around the world with London showcased as one of two Guest Cities, alongside Vienna.

London is well-established as a productive city. Making and manufacturing can be found in many different parts of the capital, reflecting a wide range of sectors from beer to bicycles, and fashion to furniture, playing a vital role in London’s economy. Combined with logistics and other light industrial ‘urban services’, these play a vital role in London’s economy, delivering the goods and services so essential for the capital to thrive.

While there is much to celebrate, London is rapidly losing space for production and industry. The need to house a growing population within a constrained city region and the resulting loss of industrial land is reducing the city’s capacity as a place of production. Since 2001, 1,305 hectares of London’s industrial land has been lost to non-industrial uses. At the current rate, the 2031 target for release of industrial land will be reached this year.  As key businesses face uncertainty about how they fit into London’s future, it is more important than ever to defend London’s industrial places and spaces.

The installation is oriented around a series of threads that lead out of the Barbican to uncover production activities and networks of supply that support and sustain the cultural venue. This exploration spans Greater London, uncovering layers of the supply chain, from raw materials to final-stage installation and display. As the city strives to achieve good growth that benefits its citizens, how can architects, urban designers, developers, planners and policy-makers sustain and support London’s strengths as a productive city? Through a series of interviews with industry professionals and the producers themselves, London Made draws on the city’s wealth of existing intelligence and expertise to explore what is being done, propositionally and strategically, to support London as a productive city in the future.

With these challenges in mind, the Mayor of London’s office is exploring ways to protect industrial land as part of the new London Plan. Strategies include the re-provision of floorspace when sites are redeveloped, industrial intensification and co-locating light industry with other uses. By integrating industry into other forms of the built environment the government will be able to challenge preconceptions about industrial areas and create a city with a healthy mix of varying functions. Industrial co-location already exists in other countries and it’s the next logical step for London’s sustainable growth and development.

Oliver Goodhall, Co-founding Partner at We Made That, says: “We’re very pleased to have co-produced this project which will transport an important story about the capital's inventiveness, productivity and vision to South Korea to be viewed in a global context. London needs innovative ways to deliver more mixed, intensified productive spaces. Protecting workspace must, must, must be a key priority of the next London Plan. London Made is a bare-faced charm offensive to make sure these ambitions are quickly embraced and adopted widely in order to keep London a proudly productive city.”

Sarah Mann, Director of Architecture Design Fashion at the British Council, says: “We are

really excited to be working with We Made That, NLA, SEGRO and the Mayor’s office on this installation. As in Seoul, London’s city-grown industries are under increasing pressure from new developments and the British Council is interested in exploring how we can support these to thrive alongside each other. The installation forms part of a wider partnership with Seoul Biennale as part of the UK/Korea 2017-18 Season, which forges links between cities in the UK and South Korea, exploring the common challenges and opportunities of our respective urban environments.”

Peter Murray, Chair of New London Architecture, added “This specially-commissioned film installation sheds light on the myriad of industrial uses in London playing a critical role in servicing the capital and the innovative thinking required to protect London as a productive city. These are issues NLA highlighted in our recent WRK:LDN research into the future of work in the capital and we are delighted to see many of our findings being reflected in thinking from City Hall, from protecting London’s industrial land and uses to investigating new mixed use typologies and piloting new design-led industrial development.”

Alan Holland, Business Unit Director, SEGRO added “Many of our customers operate in the creative sector and require easy access to theatres and art venues right across London. Customers such as Farley, ETC, FX Group, and VMI TV are providing a range of goods and services prop hire to lighting solutions, film cameras to audio equipment.  Like many industrial occupiers the provision of the right industrial space in the right place is critical to their success as well as London’s standing as a global city. 

The Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism is co-directed by Hyungmin Pai and London-based architect Alejandro Zaera-Polo. It is organized around two major exhibitions – a ‘Thematic’ exhibition and ‘Cities’ exhibition – as well as ‘live projects’ and research conducted in partnership with Seoul Metropolitan Government.

After its run in Seoul, London Made will return to its city of origin for a screening later this year.

For more press information on this project please contact:

Rob Fiehn 
T:  +44 (0) 7814 078 946
E: rob@robertfiehn.com

 

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