Monday, 4 January 2010

24-28 Fournier Street

24-28 Fournier Street is the site I have chosen for my project this year. Fournier Street links Brick Lane to Spitalfield's Market and contains some of the best examples of Georgian townhouse architecture in London. The beginning of Fournier Street is marked by the imposing Christ Church Spitalfields, built by Hawksmoor in 1714 and completed in 1729. The church faces Commercial Street and towards the City of London. At the other end of Fournier Street is Brick Lane and the thriving Bangladeshi community.

Survey of Fournier Street from 1870. Image courtesy of British History Online.

Fournier Street was the last street to be built on the Wood and Michell Estate, a 96 year licence was granted to Samuel Worrell who began building the houses in 1728. In the early 1700's London was home to a lot of French Huguenots who had fled to England to escape persecution by the French King Louis IX, by 1710 there were around 50,000 Huguenots living in England and half of these in London. The east end had cheap rents and the large houses on Fournier Street had excellent loft spaces ideal for small industry,the Huguenots were attracted to the area and soon set up prosperous silk weaving businesses. Until the 1800's the silk trade continued to do well but with increases in travel and trade silk was soon available cheaper from India and the area quickly declined. The rich Huguenots moved out to the suburbs of London or to the surrounding country and the area fell into decline. In the late 1800's persecuted Jews fled from Eastern Europe and settled in England, again they were attracted to Spitalfields by low prices. The Huguenot Church became a Synagogue and the grand houses were subdivided to form smaller dwellings. By 1905 the Jewish immigration prompted the first 'Alien Act' to limit immigration and by the the 1930's the antifascist movement had installed fear in the Jewish population of East London. Soon the Jewish population also moved away from the area and were replaced by other immigrants from Africa, India and Bangladesh. The synagogue on Fournier Street was converted once again, this time into a Mosque. The Bangladeshi community because very strong and now 68% of the areas population is Bangladeshi, earning it the nickname Banglatown. Spitafields has got closer and closer to the wealth of the City, Spitalfield's market is now an upmarket shopping destination for City workers and tourists and the bars and pubs attract people from all over London. The shadow of the city can be felt in Fournier Street, with the high rise, modern buildings clearly visible. Fournier Street feels almost like an oasis, untouched by modern development. The only visible change is the colour of the front doors and wooden shutters, now all fashionable shades of plum and mustard yellow. The uniqueness of Fournier Street has made it very desirable, many famous faces have made it their home although this means that security is tight and the street has lost it's community atmosphere. Amongst the famous inhabitants are the artists Gilbert and George and the architectural historian Dan Cruickshank. Both rescued their houses from demolition in the 60's and 70's when post-war development destroyed large parts of London's history.

24 to 28 Fournier Street is at the end where it meets Brick Lane, opposite the Mosque. 24 to 26 is relatively modern warehouse style building which has recently been converted into offices. 28 is a gap between this modern building and 54 Brick Lane. The gap extends all the way back to Seven Stars Yard. It is currently being used as a garage and kitchen area for the restaurants on Brick Lane.

An Image of the site taken from Google Street View

The yard at the back of the site is named after the pub it backs on to, The Seven Stars. This pub is now derelict, the pub has been there since 1711 and was rebuilt in 1937, it closed down in 2002. Numbers 24-28 were demolished before the street became part of a Conservation area, all other buildings on the street are now listed, including 54 Brick Lane which forms the corner.

I do not yet know exactly what I want to put on the site but I do want to continue my work on recording memory and history in buildings which I started with my earlier castings. I intend to design a new intervention for the gap (number 28) and also to propose alterations to 24-26. I want to use this historically interesting and unique street to explore my ideas on alteration, restoration and preservation. I hope that this will link into my research ideas and help me to understand the difficulties of designing in a historical context.

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