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Peter Murray


Inspiration | Provocation:

Essays on the Blurred Edges of the Built Environment

A natty little publication from London Society friends ING media, which you can get for free. Reviewed by Jessica Cargill Thompson



Innovation / Provocation is a collection of thoughts, essays, images, and general musings occupying the space between the built environment and everyday urban life. While the content is nothing if not eclectic –  ranging from Brian Eno’s airport music to a 1980s property brochure starring a giant tie (ING is a communications agency specialising in the built environment and the book is essentially a creative calling card) – it includes are several pieces that offer provocative inspiration for a future London that values its past.

First to catch our eye was an interview with Michael Heseltine, former Conservative minister and key protagonist of post-industrial regeneration, particularly Urban Development Corporations. For younger readers, he’s largely responsible for what happened to London Docklands. This was a chance for interviewer Akil Scafe-Smith, cofounder of design collective Resolve, to challenge Lord Heseltine on his urban development legacy (AS-S: ‘displacement of existing communities’; MH: ‘a massive regenerative opportunity’), and what he might have done differently (talk to local people). The piece was extracted from a longer interview, and it’s a pity there’s no link to the full version.

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Peter Murray


In the latest article from the new Journal of the London Society, Jessica Cargill Thompson on the need for using fine-grained understanding of neighbourhood identity and meaningful public engagement to rebuild trust.

‘I’m absolutely fuming,’ says Dave (not his real name) as he holds forth from his barstool in the Lord Nelson pub on South London’s Old Kent Road. ‘We’re never consulted on any of this… none of it’s for us… Do they ever come and talk to us?… They promise us one thing then just do what the developers want anyway… What’s the point? It just makes me really angry.’

This is a condensed version of an actual conversation I had recently, but it’s a refrain I’ve heard at every local Area Action Plan consultation session I’ve attended over the past two years while exploring the identity of the Old Kent Road for my MSc research. I’ve heard it at similar meetings around other regeneration schemes. I’ve read it in the media – national and social. I’ve seen it in reports by august organisations, and in the work of highly respected academics.

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Peter Murray


We are looking for stories and contributions for the next issue of the London Society’s Journal.

We also need someone with print production experience to volunteer as a subeditor. This would require carefully fact-checking, editing and styling the copy as it comes in (spread out over end of September and early October).

In particular we will be exploring the theme of:

‘A city for 10 million inhabitants’

We would like to interpret this theme quite broadly and look at the different aspects of London life that are affected by a booming population – not just planning or housing.

We would like to hear about any organisations, thinkers, professionals, community groups etc working on projects – small scale or large – that offer inspiration.

Types of pieces we run:

  • 500 word opinion pieces
  • short case studies of relevant interesting projects by architects, urbanists, artists, academics, community groups,
  • 1,000 word think pieces and reports
  • personal profiles/interviews
  • photography, illustration, graphic data visualisation

Deadlines: Once commissioned, we will need pieces to be written by the end of September in order to have enough time for design & layout.

Sadly we are unable to pay anyone for their contributions, but will happily plug any websites, blogs, recent publications, upcoming events, etc in exchange. And of course you will not only be helping to make the Journal even better, but contributing to informed ongoing debate amongst London Society members and beyond.

If you’d like to contribute, or want to let us know about any projects you think might be worth us covering, do get in touch at

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Peter Murray


Hackney Studios: East London creatives and their spaces

by Jenny Lewis

Hoxton Mini Press

Reviewed by Jessica Cargill Thompson

Available from the London Society Book Service in association with John Sandoe Bookshop

Hackney boasts more artists than any other part of the city, with Hackney Wick reputed to be the largest artists’ community in Europe. But street art and craft markets aside, much of the activity takes place behind closed doors.

This photo essay explores the challenges of working alone, and the need to feel connected to other human beings, but it is also a trail along the network of relationships across this creative hub, with each subject recommending the next. Photographer Jenny Lewis, who has lived in the area for more than 20 years, leads us on a highly personal tour, meeting animators, costume designers, sculptors, screenprinters, performance artists, musicians, and more. (Pictured on the cover is props and accessories designer Rosy Nichols who makes ‘things that sparkle’.)

The book has added poignancy, wondering how much longer East London’s artists and makers will be able to stay.

(This review originally appeared in edition 471 of the Journal of the London Society)

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Peter Murray

The Design Museum opens its new building in Kensington this week. Jessica Cargill Thompson had a look around.

img_1409Since Sir Terence Conran and Stephen Bayley opened the Butler’s Wharf incarnation of the Design Museum in 1989, it is fair to say that the capital’s cultural kudos has undergone a seismic shift. London is no longer the shabby relation of Paris, Milan and Barcelona, but a design force that attracts admiring glances from around the world.

‘A dream that has been a long time coming’

Having at least a decade ago grown out of its banana-ripening warehouse downstream of what could reasonably be considered London’s tourist map, it is with palpable relief to all involved, not least Sir Terrence himself, that the museum finally moves into its expanded new Kensington home this month. At last Thursday’s press launch, Conran described the moment as ‘a dream that for me has been a long time materialising; it allows all our dreams and ambitions to come true and promote a world class space that’s truly international.’

Reminding everyone of his own part in London’s embracing of contemporary design, and the need for Government to get behind it, he said: ‘It really does feel like our moment has arrived and that the importance of design to our lives and our economy is now truly appreciated.’ And to shared laughter: ‘Moving the Design Museum to Kensington is the most important moment of my career in design…so far.’

Commonwealth Institute revival

The new £83m home marries the showpiece architecture of the former Commonwealth Institute, a 1960s Grade II*-listed building by RMJM, famed for its hyperbolic paraboloid (saddle-shaped) roof, with the sleek interiors styling of John Pawson, and interventions by a number of leading architectural and engineering practices, most notably OMA, Arup and Allies and Morrison for the structure and exteriors.

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