Above: The main entrance to the site which is made entirely from reused containers.
Brixton is is a very diverse place. In the 19th century it was one of the prestigious localities in London, lived in the by the very rich. One of the most up-market departmental stores was Bon Marche. Only the rich shopped there and only very well behaved shop assistants, ‘of the right sort’, were employed to serve in that large store. Since those times there has been a general perception that the area is, in the main, run down and not of much interest. Nothing could be further from the truth with many of the streets behind the shops near the underground and rail stations being lived in by well-heeled professionals to this day.
Above: The large open space, surrounded by containers, used for having a meal, a drink and meeting friends.
The shopping centre can be rather quirky and Electric Avenue even more so. Towards the NE end of all the stalls and shops in Electric Avenue is an area that almost defies definition. About a decade ago a partnership between Lambeth Council, which is providing the land at no cost, and local architect Carl Turner Architect, who has partnered with developers to form a Collective, to help deliver the scheme. It is temporarily using the site in Brixton until at least October 2017, at which point the Council intends to redevelop it as part of the Brixton Central Masterplan.
The team of architects was given the brief to lay out a large quantity of disused containers and to turn the whole area into a mini-village. The containers were to be refurbished for use as offices, small business units and shops. Other containers were to be used for cafes and small restaurants. Those who worked there were to be encouraged from the local community but, at the same time, they had to pass a selection process. Quite a few of those occupying the novel premises were professionals seeking to start their own business in modest accommodation and then move on as their business flourished. To oversee all this activity was a team of highly qualified people, giving their support and also aiding the start-ups as necessary.
Above: Some of the office and small business space which is stacked on three levels reached by spiral staircases.
Everything is crammed into a relatively small space. By day there are the small businesses and advice centres at work. Over lunchtimes and especially in the evening the location is buzzing with those seeking a meal, a drink or a place to meet friends and socialise. There is even a small stage for any performances that might be planned. Its rather like a cross between a cafe, a pub and a delicatessen but its more than that and certainly more diverse.
Because the rents are controlled and affordable, those starting out with their business have the equivalent of a ‘nursery’ in which to find their feet and get started on their chosen commercial enterprise. It is a really special place and, unless it is pointed out, you could easily walk past and not give it another look. With a name like ‘Pop Brixton’ you would be forgiven for thinking that it was some sort of disco venue or even a club. That really is not what this little piece of Brixton is all about. It was a bold move to start such a venture and it has to be said that it is now a grand success.