The south London community space – which includes offices, studios, cafes and food kiosks – has been freshly decked out using recycled and re-used materials. Local studio Upcircle worked to a Viking longhouse theme to create a space that would invite people in.
“We analysed the Vikings’ architecture to understand what were the main activities that happened in the space, the layout and how we could translate it into Pop Brixton,” the studio told CR. “This type of construction aims to unite the community to shelter, eat, drink and tell stories. And it was the main functions that we had to implement in our design.”
Upcircle created large communal tables, to encourage people to gather round, and designed a longhouse timber frame that’s hung with hand-stitched felt flags crafted by Bread Collective. The flags feature abstract symbols and images of rainy clouds and lightning bolts that were created through a series of paper-cut workshops with the local community. These motifs will be echoed elsewhere, including in Pop Brixton’s visual identity.
In place of the traditional longhouse firepit (sadly banned by regulations) Upcircle re-used wooden frames from a previous installation made for London Design Festival. Instead of flames, the studio used triangular sections of wood, uplighting, and bright yellow webbing to create a cosy focal point. Recycled materials have been used elsewhere in Pop Brixton, with empty coffee sacks covering soft seating, and more webbing used to create stool seats.
“We take inspiration from the circular economy, and we take into consideration that materials should be re-used and not discarded at the end of the project,” says the studio, which ensured all new furniture it made for Pop Brixton generated as little wood waste as possible. Upcircle often finds new homes for its work, donating part of a 2017 London Design Festival installation to a community cafe in south London, where it was re-used for shelves.
Many of its projects have focused on sustainability, with the studio choosing to renovate existing interiors, and work with manufacturers using recycled materials such as scaffolding planks or wheel cables. While they say working in this way requires a different mindset – one that can make the creative side more challenging – they hope to persuade larger companies to follow suit, and ultimately make an impact on the construction industry on a larger scale.
“Designers usually start their projects by having an idea and then selecting materials,” says the studio. “Upcycling requires beginning the project considering the elements already existing and adapting the design to include them. Reusing existing materials or upcycling furniture requires more organisation, time and management. And not all studios are willing to work in this way. It’s necessary to collect the items, treat or renovate them, and then store before reusing. The process is much longer, but it is more worthy.”