Dezeen Magazine

"A soft side to architecture is coming to the fore" – We Made That

Holly Lewis and Oliver Goodall of Hackney studio We Made That have been exploring architecture's "soft side" by planting flowers in the Olympic Park, as they explain in this talk filmed at our Designed in Hackney Day last year.

In the movie, the We Made That founders look at why they've been working on "things you never get taught in [architecture] school," with projects like Fantasticology, a group of landscape interventions in the London 2012 Olympic Park.

We Made That at Designed in Hackney Day

Movie image: wildflower meadows in the Olympic Park
Above: Fantasticology facts on benches in the Olympic Park

Working with architect Tomas Klassnik and artist Riitta Ikonen, they planted wildflower meadows in the footprints of the buildings that previously occupied the site.

"Essentially it becomes a floral memorial to some of those things that were there before, and are no longer," says Lewis. "We just love the idea that there’s some recognition of that past. The majority of the flowers are annuals, so next year they’ll fade and self-seed, disperse and become less distinct."

We Made That at Designed in Hackney Day

Above: site of wildflower meadows in the Olympic Park

Plaques engraved with unusual facts were also inserted into benches around the Olympic Park as part of the same project.

They collected the facts through workshops with local people, finding out that sharks, for example, go into a trance if they're flipped over. "There was a kid in the park debating with his dad how you turn a shark upside down," says Lewis. "I love that people can have that kind of interaction with their surroundings, and see something different in their surroundings than this spick and span park."

We Made That at Designed in Hackney Day

Above: copies of The Unlimited Edition newspaper

The duo also worked on a neighbourhood newspaper, The Unlimited Edition, which reported on local news from the High Street 2012 route stretching from Aldgate to Stratford.

"We're interested in engaging people with tactics for making change," says Goodall. "If you say to someone, 'we're interested in talking about urbanism and policy', they glaze over. But if you hand out a newspaper on the high street for free and talk about someone's neighbourhood, they're interested in having that conversation."

We Made That at Designed in Hackney Day

Above: proposal for The Wild Kingdom play area in Newham

Finally, they discuss a project to build an outdoor play area in Newham, east London. "With this, there's a number of engagement activities and planned workshops and what we call 'slow build'," says Goodall. "That's an important aspect – not just delivering something, finishing it and walking away. It's a longer term involvement with these projects."

Goodall and Lewis founded We Made That in 2006 as an architecture and design studio working within the public realm.

Dezeen's Designed in Hackney initiative was launched to highlight the best architecture and design made in the borough, which was one of the five host boroughs for the London 2012 Olympic Games as well as being home to Dezeen’s offices.

Watch more movies from our Designed in Hackney Day or see more stories about design and architecture from Hackney.