The Thames Gateway has the potential to become a major European incubator, part urban territory, part rural, part mixed industrial and agricultural zone, it is a vast threshold space linking the natural environments of the North Sea and the skies above it to one of the largest metropolitan areas in Europe. It has a strong emotional aspect: it embodies the fear of flooding, an increasing consequence of the changing climate, and it is a window on the effects of this changing climate. The Thames Gateway is a natural incubator. It is also, historically, an incubator of industrial innovation and production. Why not continue that legacy by addressing the current problem of climate change?
The current practice-led research has focused on the area of the Beckton Loop, in order to try to research the potential of it becoming a pilot for the Thames Gateway Incubator. This area forms the northern half of the former Cross River Park proposal, a proposal linked to the planned but now postponed Thames Gateway Bridge. Even if it has lost its southern half, the Beckton Loop still links a critical mass of urban programmes, facilities, constructions and stakeholders needed for a pilot incubator. The Lifecycle Park is a microcosm of the Thames Gateway and it can play the role of energy incubator encompassing:
- energy pilot projects on a larger scale
- cooperation between stakeholders
- invigorate local economies
- creating new jobs
- a major agenda for the whole Thames Gateway
- a role in public debate on energy and Climate Change
- the necessary policies and actions
One of the complexities of climate change management is due to the diversity of stakeholders needed and the necessity to create co-operations. We have worked together with Design for London and other parties to try to identify the potential of the Beckton Loop as an attractor for prototype projects involving energy efficiency and renewable energy generation, or other climate change related projects, and to select three prototypes that could be realized in the Beckton Loop area as a catalyst for the more ambitious incubator project. Urban Prototypes have the potential of linking different stakeholders and expertise (ecologists, environmental engineers, health workers, economists) to show new possibilities in tackling climate change and reforming urban planning methods. Prototypes are tested with stakeholders, local residents, politicians and business leaders through scenario workshops. On February 20th a scenario game session was conducted where a range of stakeholders where invited to simulate conditions for prototype projects in the Beckton Loop area, and to test some of these prototypes in the narrative process of the scenario games. The games functioned mainly as a probing session to test the link between the design of a new park, the Beckton Loop, and the organisation of an incubator for energy-based urban prototypes. It marks the start, rather than the end, of a longer term process of the research and planning of an incubator planning proposal.