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Global Currents: Welcome to Walthamstow

An aqueduct is one of a series of imagined interventions that create a new journey through the borough.

How can design improve the way we live in cities? Design Think Tanks (DTTs) at the LSA put forward proposals to help meet the targets set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Global Currents proposes ‘Welcome to Walthamstow’ — an integrated tourism strategy for Walthamstow that reflects the local culture, character and scale and enriches the urban environment for visitors and residents alike

UN Sustainable Development Goals

  • 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

Challenge

The GLA’s Tourism Vision for London anticipates the number of tourists visiting the city to grow to 40 million by 2025.Tourism can enrich the life of the city, facilitating cross-cultural exchange and economic growth. But it can also create infrastructural, social and ecological destruction, fundamentally altering local identity and character, and commodifying cultures and traditions. Increasing use of social media and digital sharing technologies such as Airbnb, TripAdvisor and Instagram are making the impact of tourism felt in places beyond the traditional tourist traps.Walthamstow – London Borough of Culture 2019 – is forecast to receive 500,000 visitors this year.

 

Schematic map of Walthamstow showing the comparative journeys taken by tourists and residents and the points where the two overlap.

Proposal

A tourism strategy forWalthamstow that enriches – rather than obscures – local character and is rooted in the history, culture and scale of the local neighbourhood, and which stands as a riposte to tourism’s tendency to reduce complex neighbourhoods to a few key headline sights.

A series of large and small-scale interventions synthesise Walthamstow’s heritage and culture into a multi-layered sensory narrative, which intrigues and delights. Rather than seeking to simplify and explain, the experience is deliberately evocative, provocative, incoherent and surprising – an urban dreamscape where long-forgotten stories gain a voice and emerge in entangled in improbable ways.

 

Poster promoting the project to tourists.

Impact

Highlighting and amplifying Walthamstow’s idiosyncrasies and extraordinariness will alter perceptions of the London Borough locally, nationally and across the globe with a knock-on impact on tourism, investment and economic growth. Perhaps most importantly, the symbiotic relationship between the lived experience of residents and the area’s public face will help to counteract any ‘disconnect’ between locals and tourists and to establish Walthamstow’s tourist industry as a source of civic pride.

It is hoped that this strategy will provide an impetus for other outer boroughs to adopt an approach to tourism that treats the neighbourhood not as a satellite dormitory but as a destination in its own right.

 

Design Think Tanks are collaborative projects between students and leading architectural practices at the London School of Architecture. The UN Sustainable Development Goals address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice. They are a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.

Leaders: Javier Quintana de Uña (IDOM), Rafael Marks and Anna- Lisa Pollock (Penoyre & Prasad). Students: Hugh Gatenby, Katja Hasenauer, Nefeli Kouroushi, Phoebe Mo, Daniel Paigge, Steve Alton.