The Brighton School is a new, radical, postgraduate art school, working for the benefit of Brighton itself. It aims to harness the talent and ideas of the best Brighton graduates every year and put this talent to work on the city. At the same time, the school gives these graduates paid experience of real, public projects, and a means to stay in the city.
The school’s first project took place in 2015, and was built around a public art brief for London Road, a rapidly gentrifying main road in the city. Spacemakers assembled an interdisciplinary team of five talented graduates from the University of Brighton to meet the brief: Alex Nunn, a filmmaker; Isabella Podpadec, a painter; Malcolm Bradley, a sculptor; and Martina Mina and Roz Wells, both architects.
Through six months of intensive support and programming, and with the help of external tutors/organisations including Muf, Air, Kathrin Böhm and Eastside Projects, the school produced a strange, subtle and beautiful work of public art, in the form of the first urban stone circle in England, and probably the world. We’ve published a book about the process, and the politics behind it, which you can find here.
We’re now working on turning The Brighton School into a permanent institution for the city. Long-term we don’t just want the school to do public art: we want it to do public everything. We think it can be a new way of creating public projects across Greater Brighton: new housing, new public spaces, transport, economics, whatever the city needs.
New England House is a purpose-built, publicly-owned, light-industrial skyscraper in the middle of Brighton. Built in the 60s to rehouse manufacturers caught up in the slum clearances, today it’s home to an incredibly diverse community of projects and people. Architects to art-restorers, bakers to blind-makers, woodworkers to wind-turbine testers, New England House is the kind of industrial community that regeneration departments dream about. We know this because we have an office in the building.
Yet it’s also seen as an eyesore by the wider city community, who have no idea about the activity going on inside. In the face of a forthcoming £24million regeneration of the building, we’ve begun a long-term project to bring the residents together, to help the wider city find out what’s made here, and to create new, bottom-up strategies for where the building can go next.
The first part of this project was Multi-Story Factory, an action research project that took the form of eight billboards, published on the walls of the building itself. Each one revealed a new facet of the building – the flexibility of the concrete frame, the diversity of the community, the culture of recycling and reuse within the building – with the aim of painting a new, more accurate picture of the community that exists here. You can see these billboards below, and download PDFs here.
Next, we’re pulling together an independent proposal to make sure that whatever regeneration happens to New England House builds on what makes it special (and put the ideas in billboard number 8 into practice). We’re working with the best architects, graphic designers and space providers to do this, along with the residents of the building and the council themselves.
We believe this building has the potential to become something amazing: sustainable, beautiful, public and industrious. A light-industrial community in the sky.
Kilburn High Road is a classic London high street: packed with people, lined with cheap shops and cafes, and slowly losing its identity. Responding to a joint council brief for a pop-up shop project, Spacemakers proposed that, rather than more shops, Kilburn needed new ideas, and a place to have them.
Learning from Kilburn is the result: a tiny, experimental university, of, for and about Kilburn. Drawing on the High Road as both curriculum and campus, the university offers a series of free classes, each led by a range of artists, architects and thinkers, and each studying a different aspect of the area.
With classes including 'What does Kilburn wear?', 'Where does Kilburn live?' and 'Does Kilburn even exist?', we aim to help local people study what makes Kilburn the place it is, and to create a space for the community to imagine new futures for the area.
Learning from Kilburn ran from October 2013 to May 2014. The project was directed by Tom Keeley, in collaboration with OK-RM and Pernilla Ohrstedt Studio, and funded by the London Boroughs of Brent and Camden. Photography by Theo Simpson.
Cricklewood, in North West London, is a community on the borders of three boroughs, and thus tends to be civically ignored: it has no public space, no town hall, no library, not even a single bench.
In response, Spacemakers created Cricklewood Town Square, a mobile public space, which could roam across the area, reclaiming forgotten patches of land, and transforming them with a programme of events into civic space for everyone to use.
From a disused grass space next to B&Q, to an empty pavement outside the Bingo Hall, the project was a bicycle-powered Trojan Horse, aiming to set a precedent: to demonstrate to a neglected community (in a very pop way) how useful public space can be, and how vital it is in forming a community in the first place.
Cricklewood Town Square ran in September 2013. It was designed in collaboration with Studio Kieren Jones, funded by the Mayor of London's Outer London Fund and LB Barnet, and was part of a wider series of projects led by Gort Scott Architects. Photography by Theo Simpson.
Do Well and Doubt Not is a fanzine for and about Tottenham, published in the aftermath of the riots of 2011.
The fanzine, distributed for free, was composed of interviews with local people, published verbatim. It aimed to give the community a voice on post-riots Tottenham: to let people celebrate their area, whilst also addressing the problems and opportunities that they see around them. Its name was taken from the discarded town motto, displayed on a coat of arms in the old town hall.
Do Well and Doubt Not was published by Spacemakers, edited by Tom Keeley, designed by Jon Cannon, and printed by Newspaper Club. It was commissioned by the Greater London Authority. Photography by Theo Simpson.
Spacemakers was formed in 2009, around a year long project to rethink a failing 1930s covered arcade in Brixton. The arcade had been going downhill for years, with twenty units sitting empty, and was slated for redevelopment: the owners planned to demolish half of it, and stick a ten-storey apartment block on top. After a successful community campaign to prevent this, Spacemakers were approached by London & Associated Properties and Lambeth Council, to come up with a Plan B.
We took the keys to the empty units, and designed a project to rebuild the social life of the market, by offering three months free rent to anyone with an idea for reusing one of the spaces. In response, we received 98 proposals in one week, with people using the units for band rehearsals, galleries and meeting rooms, along with shops, cafes and proto-bars.
Together, these uses brought new life to the market, complementing the existing traders, and leading to the permanent establishment of a thriving, locally-powered economy in Brixton. By the time we finished our work in 2010, the market was fully let for the first time since 1979.
Photography by Gemma Thorpe.
We create projects, publications and interventions to help make our cities, buildings and spaces work better.
We specialise in reactivating dead spaces; harnessing unused potential in a community; and getting inside the machinery of regeneration, and using its levers to come up with something more interesting.
We work with local authorities, private developers, architects and community groups. We believe regeneration should be useful, honest, simple and beautiful.
Spacemakers is led by Matt Weston and Tom James, and was founded by Dougald Hine. We're based in Brighton, London and Stockholm.
Along with our project work, we have a strong history of consultancy.
We’ve been part of the Greater London Authority’s Special Assistance Team since its inception in 2011. During this time, we’ve worked with London boroughs on projects as diverse as public space, workspaces, local economics and identities. We’ve also worked nationally, advising on market squares in Basingstoke and university campuses in the midlands. And we’re part of NESTA’s New Radicals, a network of radical organisations changing Britain for the better.
We’re often brought in early on, to work out what the right strategy for a project is long term. We use the experience we’ve gained from our own projects to advise others on how best to bring their buildings, spaces and communities back to life. We’re honest, we give critique and we have ideas.
We do feasibility, problem solving and ideas generation, from a single day to an entire year. If you have a project that could do with some new thinking, please get in touch.