Home at last: Design District opening gives London creative industries their first permanent hub

With affordable spaces, comprehensive facilities and flexible leases, everything is designed to help creative Londoners thrive. View from the top of Design District’s C1 building to the O2 and Canary Wharf.

Comprising a deliberately eclectic medley of 16 buildings by eight world-leading architects, Design District was initially conceived by Knight Dragon to provide a permanent, purpose-designed home for London’s creative industries. As the economic impact of coronavirus hit the creative sector especially hard, the district’s role has expanded – not only is it intended to be a hub for the sector, it also aims to facilitate its economic recovery, providing affordable, flexible workspace to individuals and enterprises and giving them the breathing space to build back and grow. For example, this year, for the first 12 months of their tenancy, every business taking up residence in one of the district’s 16 buildings is paying just £5 per square foot for its workspace.

Design District’s founding vision is of a symbiotic ecosystem of creative-industry businesses and individuals – an artistic, technological and cultural hub, where creative professionals from all disciplines can share ideas, make new connections and be inspired. Central to this is the district’s capacity to support creative businesses through all stages of growth and nurture creative professionals throughout every point in their careers.

Ravensbourne University’s new Institute of Creativity & Technology is there to provide practical vocational education in the creative industries. Members’ club Bureau offers affordable and flexible workspaces and business support to freelancers and small studios; then, as enterprises grow, there are offices, large studios, or even entire buildings available to accommodate them. Companies will find everything – and everyone – they need on their doorstep: small businesses can turn to the print shop downstairs; new product brands will only be a building or two away from a stylist for their shoots or a developer for their website.

Whether they are making artwork, designing UX, developing radical new products, or contributing in some other way to the UK’s rich creative landscape, Design District businesses will find themselves at the heart of a diverse, supportive and forward-thinking community that will encompass 1,800 people when the district is fully occupied.

Now, as the countdown to launch begins and the first wave of tenants is confirmed, Design District’s vision of an interdependent and mutually supportive community in which all can thrive is becoming reality.

The first tenants
The new tenants will all be taking up permanent spaces in Design District’s 16 buildings – each designed by one of eight world-leading architects. This first wave of residents lay the foundations for the rich creative ecosystem the development was conceived to nurture.

The LGBTQ+ led non-profit works at the intersection of arts and social action, aiming to strengthen links between culture, health and wellbeing. In September, the organisation will open its first ever dedicated space for LGBTQ+ artists in [BUILDING NUMBER], designed by David Kohn Architects.

Queercircle will be moving into David Kohn Architects’ building following Design District’s launch this September.
Comprising a central gallery, library and project studios, the ground-floor space will provide the venue for QUEERCIRCLE’s annual programme of physical and digital exhibitions, residencies, and learning and participation events.

At a time when artists’ studios are being lost at an alarming rate and with 50% of LGBTQ+ venues having closed in the last 10 years, there was a clear and urgent need for a permanent space even before the impact of Covid-19. Between exhibitions, QUEERCIRCLE plans to share their space – free of charge – to other LGBTQ+ organisations, supporting diverse programming and facilitating initiatives that strengthen the community.

Queercircle founder Ashley Joiner photographed at Design District by Taran Wilkhu.
“We recognise the value in having secured an affordable space in a city which is becoming increasingly and devastatingly expensive. We hope to foster an ecology of artists, curators, writers, thinkers, community organisers, grassroots organisations and charities who collectively work together to build a stronger, more creative and collaborative

– Ashley Joiner, founder QUEERCIRCLE
2. ConceptKicks
Created by former athlete Daniel Bailey, ConceptKicks is a footwear-design research project and publication that drives and monitors innovation in the sneaker industry. As well as a platform to celebrate the designers and ideas driving advances in footwear, ConceptKicks consults and collaborates with leading brands and designers to develop narrative-changing products and concepts.

Daniel Bailey, founder of ConceptKicks, will move into Architecture 00’s C1 building at Design District this September.
ConceptKicks will be using its studio in the Design District as its principal creative space to develop new footwear design concepts, as well as welcoming other creatives in the sector to network and share their stories. The public rooftop basketball court (on building C1 by Architecture 00) will offer the studio the perfect space for product testing.

3. Clod Ensemble
Performance company Clod Ensemble has spent the last 25 years creating provocative and original dance and participation projects rooted in music and movement. As well as its own highly original international productions, collaboratively developed with dancers, actors, musicians, medics, architects and others, the company sustains a programme of educational initiatives and participation projects in schools, higher education institutions and NHS Trusts.

Now, as it moves into a new studio space in [BUILDING] Design District, the company is entering a new chapter, and is set to benefit from being immersed in the district’s creative community, and the possibility for bold new ideas and innovative collaborations that come with it.

4. Ravensbourne University
Known for its impressive 96.4% graduate employability rate, Ravensbourne is one of the UK’s most important and influential institutions providing vocational professional education in the creative industries. Based on Greenwich Peninsula since 2010, the University has seized the opportunity afforded by Design District to open a new, dedicated Institute for Creativity and Technology to serve as its hub for postgraduate education and a launchpad for creative careers.

Occupying the entirety of a four-storey building by Barozzi Veiga, with interiors by Brinkworth, the new Institute will house GradSchool, Ravensbourne University’s rapidly expanding postgraduate department, initially offering four new Masters courses: MA Design Communication and Technology; MA Fashion Design, Management and Innovation; MA Illustration for Communication; and MDes Service Design, Social Innovation and Design Leadership. The building will also contain ResearchRave, a dedicated space for sector-leading researchers working at the forefront of creative technology; an in-house creative agency, CreativeLab; and the start-up hothouse Incubation+.

The opening of the Institute puts Ravensbourne’s students and staff at the heart of the Design District ecosystem. Students will have a brand new centre for exploration, experimentation and innovation in the heart of a professional creative community, and the businesses surrounding the Institute will have access to a never-ending stream of rising talents.
“The iconic architecture of the district creates a real landmark home for the Institute, one that by its nature will attract other creatives and ambitious, like-minded enterprises. The pedestrianised setting, thoughtfully created and interconnected public space and close proximity to a wider lifestyle and attractions also gives it a town-like feel and real sense of place where our students and partners will enjoy spending time.”
– Paul Sternberg, director of postgraduate studies, Ravensbourne University London
5. Love Welcomes
Launched in 2017 in response to the refugee crisis in Greece, Love Welcomes is a creative social enterprise that sets out to help refugee women build a better future. Now working in Greece and beyond, supporting both women in refugee camps and those that have been resettled, Love Welcomes provides training and employment in the creation of products such as welcome mats and cushions using life jackets found washed up on local beaches. These products are available to buy from Love Welcomes’ website, with proceeds going towards liveable wages of the artisans that made them, as well as funding refugee support with health and legal issues, maternal supplies, and nutrition.

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