This one day symposium, hosted by the Architecture, Space and Society Research Centre at Birkbeck, will provide an opportunity to discuss the contemporary architectural status of the Spitalfields area of East London. A neighbourhood poised between past and future, Spitalfields is currently the focal point for conflicting viewpoints on such topics as urban design, economic development, architectural preservation and cultural history. We believe this a particularly crucial moment to consider the architectural and cultural status of Spitalfields as so many major development plans are in the process of taking shape. Significant and controversial redevelopment initiatives involving sites such as the London Fruit & Wool Exchange, Norton Folgate and Blossom Street have generated substantial public debate around issues of architectural heritage, urban democratic processes and the nature of municipal authority. This moment of intense change encourages us to recall a legacy of preservation that protected the area from previous threats of destruction, such as the 1970s movement that brought about the formation of The Spitalfields Historic Building Trust. Attempts to vault Spitalfields into an urban future through the destruction of historical buildings, often paradoxically expose the area’s even deeper past by revealing archaeological sites dating back to the Roman period. Yet we also recognize that Spitalfields has long been an area in demographic, cultural and economic transition and rather than simply champion a conservative call for stasis we wish to take the opportunity to consider whether opportunities for appropriate and thoughtful forms of reconstruction and regeneration exist.
This symposium will attempt to bring together a diverse group of architects, archaeologists, historians and activists in order to discuss the possibilities of Spitalfields’ present and future in relation to the area’s rich and eventful past.
The symposium is organized by Dr. Lesley McFadyen and Dr. Joel McKim and funded by the Architecture Space and Society Research Centre (ASSC) and the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities.
9.30 - 9.45 Registration
9:45 - 10:00 Welcome Remarks: Dr. Lesley McFadyen and Dr. Joel McKim
10.00 - 11:45 Panel 1: Conservation and Historic Urban Environments
Prof. Miles Glendinning (Director of the Scottish Centre for Conservation Studies, Edinburgh College of Arts)
Peter Guillery (Editor of the Survey of London, The Bartlett)
Chair: Dr. Leslie Topp
11:45 - 12:45 Lunch
12:45 – 2:30 Panel 2: Gentrification and Community
Oliver Leigh Wood (The Spitalfields Trust)
Lucinda Rogers (Artist, Reclaim London)
Chair: Dr. Joel McKim
2:30 - 2:45 Break
2:45 - 4:30 Panel 3: Considering the Deep Past and Deep Future of Spitalfields
Chris Thomas (Director of Heritage Consultancy, Museum of London Archaeology)
Rab Bennetts (Founding Director, Bennetts Associates Architecture Studio)
Chair: Dr. Lesley McFadyen
4:30 - 5:30 Drinks Reception