Squatters City



The fundamental principles of proposing and designing appropriate and amazing design are based on the knowledge of the user, design precedents and thorough research supporting the design ideas. This project will explore the different methods used to clearly understand the needs and expectations of the users and will propose the design solutions which can have positive influence on their lives. The used methods are the research, the brainstorming, the interview and the development of the design idea. The essay will summarise all these steps used in the design process and will describe the outcomes of it in relation with the project.

Firstly the essay will describe all important information about the chosen building: the location, the historical background ant the description of the building. Secondly, there will be examined outcomes of the mapping and research. In this section will be mentioned the research about the squatters, their culture and the relationship with the project. Third chapter of the essay will discuss the design precedent research and the connection with the design proposal. Fourthly, there will be described the concept of the design proposal and ideas how to approach it.

The building is located at 195 Mare Street, Hackney, London.

The historical background and the current use

The building served as a Elizabeth Fry Refuge in 1849 - 1913. The intention of Elizabeth was to help woman prisoners and improve the condition how they were treated in prisons. She accentuated the need of the education and teaching the women skills they will need for individual survival after they leave the prison. (hackney.gov.uk)

Later the building was used as a Lansdowne club for working men. It is a listed building by English Heritage. The future plans is to renovate the front part of the building and build a Vietnamese Cultural Centre with apartments at the back part of it.


Nowadays the building is inhabited by squatters.

The description of the building

The front part of the building has 3stories and a basement, behind the building was later built the adjacent part.

The outcomes of the mapping and the research

The mapping was the technique used for obtaining information about the area and the people who live there. Later the particular research was done to get information about the findings from the mapping and to get information about another issues related to the topic. The mapping was conducted in the Mare Street in Hackney. The research was focusing on the Hackney and neighbouring areas. One of the findings was that in the Hackney and in the chosen building live many squatters. Therefore the particular research was held on this users group.

The Activities at 195 Mare Street, Hackney

The current inhabitants of the 195 Mare Street are taking part in many events. One of them is "Do Before They Destroy It Festival", which is an open project to everyone, who wants to get involved in workshops, art and performance of any nature.

Second activity they are involved in is called " Food Not Bombs". The idea behind this event is to use waste of capitalism to feed people. They are cooking the vegan food from the vegetable from the bins or donated and are distributing it to the people on the street in the Hackney. This event had occurred on the Christmas Eve in front of Hackney town hall.

The another activity is "Bike Kitchen". It is a bike workshop, open to anyone, you just come with your bike and you can repair it there, or they help you with it, it is accompanied by the cooking sessions. It happens every Tuesday 2-8pm

There are organised "Free Stage Fridays. There is an invitation for anyone to come to perform on the stage on Friday 7-11pm. They already had pantomime of three little squatter pigs.

Library of Radical Books, Computer room, Gardening

The interview with squatters in the building

The interview was held in the researched building with the people, who are currently inhabiting the space. The aim of the interview was to get insight into the life of squatters, their culture, customs hobbies and view about the society. It was found out that in the house live people from England, European Union countries and few are from other countries. There are mostly age 20 - 30 and there is on family living in house with two small children. Their occupations are: artists, gigs, students, volunteers, carpenters and some of them are looking for job. The activities, that are currently happening in the building are: bike kitchen, gardening, stage events, such as pantomime and others.

They would like to organise more events there, as a concerts and community activities and some future plans are to create dark room or sound recording studio.

The Activities of Squatters in Hackney

One of the places where the squatters and anarchists are meeting is "Pogo Cafe". It is located on 79 Clarence Road, Hackney. The main idea of the café is to cook and serve the vegan food and to raise

an awarness of veganism. The café is based on the volunteering and cooperation of people, sharing the similar views about society, such as equality, solidarity, helping others. They organise different types of music, art events and they are selling some books. ( pogocafe.co.uk )

In short, it is place open for everyone who want to eat healthy food and participate in activities supporting the ideas of veganism and better society.

The Pogo Cafe in cooperation with 56a Infoshop organise Practical Squatting Evenings. It is an event, where squatters share their knowledge and advices about squatting. (squatter.org.uk) (nelsn.wordpress.com)

The interesting activity, in which squatters were involved was a "Non Commercial Shop" on the 165 Commercial Street. It was run by people, who live at 195 Mare street. It was established on 8.5.2009. Since that time this space was already few times evicted and opened again, but on 3.2.2010 it was evicted definitely. (london.indymedia.org)

The idea behind was based on the recycling and reusing all the different items: clothes, books or any others. People can bring the things, which they do not use and take something which might be useful for them. Furthermore they were organising workshops and skill sharing events. The shop was non profit and people who worked there were volunteers. Their view was to run shop not based on the rules of money and capitalism. As it is written on their web site , their perceive it as "...a space based on the cooperation, respect and sustainable living. It is not about object but about sharing!". Even though the place was evicted, the people, who were running it, like it a lot and they are planning to create some other new free shop later. ( squatter.org.uk )

Another exciting event is the "Hackney Wick Flea Market". The market is taking place on the street

in the Hackney Wick, East London. People who live in the area are the active participants. In Hackney Wick are living lots of young people in the warehouses, some of them are squatted. This people come to the market and sell different goods, for example jewellery, clothes, books, massage, sushi. There is a DJ playing dubstep on the market. ( sonicrampage.org )


Squatters Networks in North-East London

There is a big network of the the Squatters organisations in the Hackney and North-East London. They organise together different events, workshops and festivals, such as DIY festival, free school, skill sharing workshops, sewing workshops, practical squatting evenings, radical theory reading groups and many others. (nelsn.wordpress.com) Some organisations and web page portals are: Inforsurpa London Social Centre News, North-East Squatters Network, Advisory Centre for Squatters, Whitechapel Anarchists Group, Hackney Social Centre, Non Commercial House, 56a Infoshop, Indymedia London, Rampart Social Centre, London Free School, Pogo Café. (56a.org.uk)

History of Squatters in Hackney and London

There was underground counter culture in Hackney, squatters were residing the Brougham Road and Broadway Hill Market from 1980`s. There was a graffiti on the wall for 10 years, which says:

"Broadway Market is not a sinking ship, its a submarine". (www.killyourpetpuppy.co.uk)

Hackney Housing Problems

There is a big problem with social housing in Hackney. There are no emergency houses available at the Hackney Council Housing Needs Office. Furthermore the time the people have to wait is longer than the Council told them. The temporary houses in which they are staying while waiting are in very bad conditions. (youtube.com)

Summary of the mapping and the research

To sum up the outcomes of the mapping and research it was found out that:

1. The building is inhabited by squatters.

2. There are many squats Hackney and in North-East London.

3. There is big network of organizations of squatters and anarchists groups.

4. The squatters are active organizers and participants in workshops, events and different community activities.

5. The squats in London started to appear in 1968.

6. There is an evidence that the squatters were living in Hackney from 1970`s - 80`s.

7. There is an emergency housing problem in Hackney.

8. Squatters have anarchistic views about society, they do not want to adhere the rules of capitalism.

9. Their life is based on the recycling and reusing.


This chapter will show and explain the design precedents, which are the source of the inspiration for the project. According to the findings of the research it was found out, that the squatters are recycling and reusing, the shipping containers would be good possibilities for them to use. Another finding was that there is a problem with housing in hackney, therefore it might be interesting to introduce some new way of accommodating people in small space, such as small capsules.

The capsule hotel

The shipping containers

The shipping containers have became favourite building elements in the architectural field, which is now recognized worldwide. The cargo containers are recycled and eco friendly alternative of building units, which can by customize and used for inspirational design. The big number of project have been design turning containers into movable cafes, schools, student accommodation, skyscrapers, emergency shelters, dwellings, shops. (truthistreason.net)

Many famous architects are designing amazing structures with these modules.

Some of them are: LOT-EK Adam Kalkin, Jones Partners Architecture, Addis Containers, HyBrid, MMW Architects, Urban Space Management,Group 41, Graft Architects, Sculpt(IT) and many others. (fabprefab.com)

The connection of the shipping containers and my design proposal

As it was found out,that the important and almost everyday feature of the squatters life is recycling and reusing the waste of today`s society of consuming. Therefore I decided to use the shipping containers as a part of my proposal. The cargo containers are build to keep our consuming society in flow, by shipping goods overseas. They are usually used just once, because it might be cheaper to purchase new container than to sent the used one in the county, where it came from. The containers are recycled modules, which have a big number of advantages. (weburbanist.com)

The advantages of the shipping containers

1. The containers are ecologically friendly, because they are recycled.

2. They are manufactured from corten steel, which is resistant to corrosion. (truthistreason.net)



The general idea behind the design

The idea of the project is to create a Squatters City within the interior and exterior of the building. As the research show, there are many squatters in the area and there is a problem with housing.

The brief of the project is to develop a concept of a place, where squatters could live together in a community and allow wider community to join them for events and workshops. Therefore I would like to design a space, which will offer accommodation to people which will be free of pay, but they will need to participate in communal activities. This city within a house will be not affected by capitalistic world and money, but will be based on the respect, community, cooperation, sustainable living and sharing. It will be self-sufficient and the house will have all main functions of a city. Furthermore the building should accommodate all needs of squatters, it will be the place, where they will live, work, sleep, socialize, eat, learn and play together. The aim is to design an eco - friendly modern environment by using recycled and sustainable materials.

The specification of the space division

There will be two types of the space in the house: the private space and the public space. The private space will include mini container capsules and the dwelling made from the freight containers. The public space will offer all the same as a normal city, but in a slightly changed way.

There will be free shop, because the actual non-commercial shop was closed and the people are still interested in doing it. People who will come to live there, will have some clothes or other items, which they can exchange with others. Next the building will have stage and party area, where the squatters can socialise and enjoy their time together. In building will be the communal kitchen and the dinning area. They will prepare all their own food from the vegetable they grow in the garden and bake their own bred. Furthermore in the building will be the space used for workshops, where they can create own furniture for the shipping containers. There will be a room for meetings, lectures and group discussions. The play area in the house will contain the swimming pool on the end of the parcel and there will be outdoor and indoor playground.

There will be two types of accommodation one will be for the temporary squatters or for applicants and another will be for the stable community who is living there. In other words, there will be two communities of squatters: short term and long term stay squatters. When the person come to the Squatters city will get his own mini version of the container, inspired by capsule hotel room. Later when the person is participating in community activities will get own container, which will adjust, renovate a furnish itself. The containers will accommodate mainly families, couples and groups.

The shipping containers will be part of the space at the rear part of the building. The container will penetrate into the house, which will create visible link with the back part.

The aim is to use the space of the parcel to the maximum to create plenty of room for all the activities and housing units, made from the containers. Therefore the back part of the building,which was built later, will be demolished, because there is the space on both sides of that adjacent building which are not used. The bricks will be recycled and used to build other part of the building.


Research about Squatters

Internet pages:









http://www.56a.org.uk/56a ACTION.html




Books and journals:

Research about Design Precedents

Internet pages:

Containerbay http://www.fabprefab.com/fabfiles/containerbayhome.htm 16.2.2010

10 Clever Architectural Creations Using Cargo Containers: Shipping Container Homes and Offices http://weburbanist.com/2008/05/26/cargo-container-homes-and-offices/ 16.2.2010

Benefits of Building with Shipping Containers http://www.containerarchitecture.co.nz/benefits.html 2.3.2010

Hayden K.,Nov 2009, Shipping Container Homes or “Why Would I Want to Live in a Metal Box?!” http://www.truthistreason.net/shipping-container-homes-or-why-would-i-want-to-live-in-a-metal-box 25.2.2010

Books and journals:

Karr, J.M., Web Exclusive: Stacked for Success, ED+C, Environmental Design + Construction, April 1, 2009, http://group41inc.com/images/G41_EDC.pdf 10.2.2010

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