In Tower Hamlets the median rent for the borough is now 51.9% of the median salary whilst the average house purchase price is now 22 times the average salary. 44% of households live in income poverty and only 35% of residents feel that new housing is actually affordable. 30,390 residents or 23% of the borough’s population rely on housing benefits to pay their rent and more and more households are unable to afford market housing.
Like many other Londoners we are fed up with living in a shoe boxes paying exorbitant rent. We didn't want to be docile consumers alongside the billions of other docile consumers, with the combined outcome of this behaviour being a wrecked planet. We want to live a new and different story in reconnection to ourselves, each other, the wider plane and our community in Tower.
For too long people in housing need have been forced to rely on either the State or the private sector to deliver homes for us. The time has now come for residents of Tower Hamlets to transform from passive recipients to active citizens in the driving seat of developing their own cities.
For just over a year a committed group of members have been meeting to reimagine and reenchant the land.
“Enchanted City” engages local residents in topics typically taught only to to university students: architectural design and urban planning.
Our local community are natural builders and imaginers. They play by building with their hands and acting out real-world scenarios: tendencies that lend themselves to these sophisticated topics.
Recognising these connections, Folklore wanted to give local people an opportunity for meaningful work: a city design project.
Enchanted City begins by encouraging participants to actively explore and make observations about their surroundings: their neighbourhoods, and other physical environments in their daily lives. They learn about creating livable cities by thinking about the shared beliefs and values of those who lived there before and those who will live there in the future.
The participants use their observations to think visually about the kind of built environments they’d like to create. They imagine the buildings as beings that are in conversation with each other.
After creating a first draft idea as a paper bag puppet, participants use their imaginations to experiment with creating their own structures and architectural works to populate an undeveloped land, in this case, a derelict car park behind Folklore.
Working together, they think about relationships between different types of structures: the wildlife, the animals, the residential areas with homes, commercial areas with different businesses, schools, parks, and monuments.
Participants build large scale three-dimensional model of the enchanted land.
Beyond the fun of building and imagining, the act of designing a city is an act of civic engagement. City design is often a reflection of society’s values.
Participants are tasked with becoming weavers to “increase the common good,” along the way learning teamwork and collective responsibility: a direct connection to social-emotional learning which intends to help participants connect the learning content they’re learning to their own social-emotional growth.
The Enchanted Cities programme is particularly interested in involving young children as they have clear ideas about fairness and right and wrong. Allowing their brains to delve into city design empowers them to make civic decisions at a level young children are rarely encouraged to take on.