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 radical, bottom-up regeneration projects, which aim to get inside the machinery of urban regeneration, and use it for good instead of evil.
We specialise in reactivating dead buildings and dead spaces, harnessing unused potential in a community, and creating projects that address the economic and social issues that are causing the problem in the first place.
We work with local authorities, private developers, architects and community groups. Our work has produced new cultural infrastructure and interventions across the country, and been featured across the national press.
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.