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Market Street Studios, Walworth

The Badu family departed Ghana for London in 1985 where they would set up home on the Aylesbury Estate. The intervening period brought them five children, small local businesses, and a place amongst the area’s Afro-Caribbean community. In 2014 they were served a compulsory purchase order, with their home handed to the council for demolition in 2020.

In a reaction determined to resist the dispersive forces of gentrification, the family have launched a series of empowerment initiatives for the local black community of which Market Street Studios is one. Previously run as a second-hand clothing store, the shop has been converted to become an event space where local groups and businesses might arrange classes, shoots, and pop-ups alongside community meetings and talks. Brisco Loran were engaged as both designer and contractor, learning to build and plumb whilst subcontracting demolition and electrical works.

Our design discussions reached beyond the white-washed template of the type to imagine a space of warmth and character, enriched by its hosts and the rhythms of the market outside. Present in some form since the 16th Century, the bustling collage of East Street is conjured each morning by stallholders flogging food, cosmetics, and clothing. Barrows are wheeled into position, tarpaulins pegged up, and displays unfolded before the evening brings the vanishing tide of street sweepers.

The new space is designed to accommodate a similar pattern of use with beech-built chairs, tables, and folding screens hung ready for selection, assembly, and arrangement by each newcomer. Central to the character of the space is the cork floor; cut, dyed, and laid by Pandora and Thom using an inexpensive twelve-inch square tile, two templates, and two colours. The design of the pattern melds the striped tarpaulin of the market with a traditional Kente cloth of the family’s own Ewe tribe.