A former adviser to the British prime minister David Cameron plans to partner with Assemble, the Turner Prize-nominated art collective, to convert a car park in Peckham, south London, into 800 “ultra-affordable” artists’ studios.
Rohan Silva proposed the idea together with Hannah Barry, the founder of the non-profit arts organisation Bold Tendencies, which hosts exhibitions, performances and Frank’s Café on the top floors of the car park in the summer. It is one of three proposals that Southwark Council, which owns the ten-storey concrete structure, is due to decide on next week. If successful, it will be the largest cluster of studios in the UK capital. The other two entries are also for creative workspaces.
Silva and his business partner Sam Aldenton, who run Second Home in Shoreditch, a collaborative workspace for small companies, are funding the £2.5m project. Plans to convert the car park have been drawn up by the Spanish architects Selgas Cano, who designed this year’s Serpentine Pavilion. Bold Tendencies will continue to use the top floors, while the five floors of studios will be branded Bold Home.
Bringing an element of DIY to the project, Assemble will compile a “how to” guide for artists to build their own studios. Once electricity, running water, lifts and wifi have been installed, artists will be provided with colourful sheets of wood and curved acrylic to fit out the spaces.
The venture aims to help stem the flow of artists from London, who are being priced out due to rising rents and a lack of affordable studio space. Up to 30% of artists’ studios in London are at risk of disappearing in the next five years, according to a report published by the Mayor of London’s office last year. The Peckham car park is itself due to be demolished in five years, so this may only be a temporary solution.
“There’s been a sad, quiet decimation of artists’ studios over the past decade, they are virtually endangered now,” Silva says. “Studios are really important to London’s economy; if they go it undermines the whole ecosystem.” Silva says rent in the new space will be charged at around £150 a month.
Silva and Barry’s proposal has been endorsed by several cultural leaders including the UK’s culture minister, Ed Vaizey, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, the co-director of the Serpentine Gallery, who said: “This is exactly the type of farsighted and urgent initiative that London needs and we are looking forward to seeing it happen.”