Brixton Station Road in south London is a street of contrasts. An ugly brutalist sports centre looms over the wide variety of street and food stalls that add life and colour in and around Brixton railway station. Beyond the sports centre, on a site formerly occupied by a car park and temporary ice rink, “Pop Brixton” has opened – a new community space created from old steel containers to provide a lively and supportive environment for local fledgling and entrepreneurial businesses, including food and drink outlets and community/music events. The initiative is the result of a partnership between Lambeth Council and the Brixton Market Traders’ Federation who held a competition for a team to design, build and run the initiative and create “a lively destination that can employ people whilst adding to the buzz about Brixton.”
Pop Brixton has been designed by Carl Turner Architects in partnership with The Collective. Carl Turner Architects have also been commissioned by Southwark Council to develop a new vision for Peckham Square with the local community.
The scheme includes “Pop Farm” – a community gardening programme to create a varied and productive garden in this unusual location and raise awareness with the public and schoolchildren about natural food and plant growing.
There has been some controversy. Pop Brixton has been accused of seeking to charge near-commercial rents to some businesses but Pop Brixton have advised that they need to charge commercial rents to those who can afford it to be able to subsidise lower rents for new and community start-ups and also fund the community events
“Tenants will be gaining access to a flexible unit at the heart of an innovative incubator project. The containers are fully insulated and double-glazed. The rental changes also cover a range of facilities including site security, 24-hour access and cycle storage. Demand for the units has well exceeded supply.” (Lambeth Council)
The scheme has three years to run. It looks like being a success and could be a model for community spaces on other empty sites across London.