Gillett Square


London Summer School 2017: Gillett Suite

A day in the abundant life of Gillett Square is likely to include hula hoopers, skateboarders, boxers, old men playing dominoes, live jazz music, loud arguments between old friends, commuters passing through, and locals stopping to enjoy their lunch or simply pass the time.

For the third consecutive year, the STORE London Summer School immersed students in this uniquely rich urban environment during a two-week collaborative design and construction project. The Square is at once our site, classroom and workshop.

Students were challenged to identify patterns in the Square’s perpetually shifting social and spatial dynamics. Their observations informed the design, construction and orchestration of a one-day celebration of Gillett Square in three acts, each animated by a creative collaborator, in a programme that is at once playful, inclusive and provocative.

Through considered response to Square’s shifting daily patterns, and in dialogue with our collaborators, students aimed to create distinct spatial qualities to match each act of the Gillett Suite:

Act I: Play with the Pop Up Playground

Act II: Storytelling with the Hackney Pirates

Act III: Music with the Guido Spannocchi Trio

After two weeks of intensive design, prototyping and construction, the event architecture of the Gillett Suite was at last complete: a set of 12 polyhedra in three sizes, three stripwood seating cocoons and a storyteller’s chair. Polyhedra were clad in places with panels of draped Jesmonite and fabric, allowing them to form enclosure, seating and a backdrop respectively in each successive arrangement.

Students were on hand to set out and manoeuver their creations through sequences planned and rehearsed through models.

First a landscape of scattered climbing frames, tunnels and caves augmented the Square’s own set of play furniture. Children hid within, ran through and climbed on our polyhedra.

For the next act, the polyhedra were brought together in the centre of the Square, distanced from the predominant sources of noise around the perimeter. Jesmonite shells faced outwards, with fabric sides on the floor to create a comfortable seating area, framing our stripwood cocoons. An intimate, comfortable but stimulating environment allowed imagination to run free as stories written by young students of the Hackney Pirates were performed.

In the final act, the three largest polyhedra shifted to the edge of the Square to form a bandshell. Their parabolic Jesmonite shells aimed to help our acoustic jazz trio to project their sound into the Square, where the remaining smaller polyhedra punctuated the audience.

Finally, as the Suite came to a close, we cleared the Square. Each item of the Gillett Suite was adopted by a local resident and taken home, leaving the Square clear for the next cycle to begin.