An alternative solution to local issues
In a worldwide context of overconsumption, an alternative practice that reuses waste materials to solve local issues might allow people to reflect further on their material reality. This research project has investigated two case studies in Peckham, South London, where waste materials have enabled the construction of shed houses for street cats and the development of a creative front garden for the local community.
First encounter as researcher with the two community-building projects in Peckham
Taking a participatory approach as researcher, I have first observed and interviewed these informal makers, documenting their work by means of photographs. I have then become involved as designer, as problem solver by making shed houses for street cats, and problem finder by educating people about reusing in the creative front garden. All actions entailed from May to August 2017 have sought to improve both projects, experimenting with waste materials in a collaborative decision-making process and acknowledging reuse practices as a meaningful alternative to face on-going social challenges.
What seems worthless for some people may become a treasure for others
In a hidden green area between Rye Lane Street and a car park, I found a colony of street cats under small improvised shed houses. They were the life project of Shirley Ashelford, a brave lady that I had the pleasure to meet and work with for months. After interviewing her and detecting the many problems faced on a daily basis, I started to collect materials and wasted objects on the streets of Peckham to build houses and other areas for the cats as well as a food storage for Shirley. The intentions were to reuse local waste to solve local issues and to improve the area through small-scale design actions.
At the same time, in another area of Peckham, I had the pleasure to work with Margit Peckham bird, who progressively transformed her front garden through found objects over the years. Taking her garden as example, I developed an educational exercise, speculative in essence, in which different participants had to imagine how their own front garden would look like by using re-used materials and found objects. These different visual results were attached together and given to Margit as gift to encourage her to continue this community-building project.
Waste materials could be reused to build objects and solve practical issues. They could also be decorative to create a sense of belonging
As design action is directive of our ways of life and future, it then becomes a political tool with the potential for organising a sustainable world from the local to the global, re-shaping dialogue and a new framework of action. This project was part of my Master dissertation in Visual Sociology, carried out from March to August 2017 in London.