Help us map London’s “forgotten spaces”

Is there an empty building you walk past every day that you wish something would happen to? A patch of ground that you’d like to turn into an urban orchard? Or a streetcorner that, with a bit of imagination, could get your neighbours talking to each other?

If so, we’re inviting you to add it to the new website we’ve created in partnership with RIBA London — Mapping Forgotten Spaces.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been bringing together groups of architects, designers and artists to explore overlooked and underused spaces around London. It’s all part of RIBA London’s Forgotten Spaces competition — and now we’re inviting everyone to join in discussing the spaces they’ve found and to suggest other spaces you’d like to see reimagined.

The idea of the site is to create an ongoing conversation about spaces which people feel have been neglected, the different uses, experiences and memories which others may have of those spaces, and the possibilities for what happens to them next.

We don’t take the idea of “forgotten” spaces for granted. It immediately leads to questions: who has a space been forgotten by? Who might see it differently? Might it be best left the way it is? How do new projects take account of the relationships people already have to a space?

That’s why we want the site to start conversations. You can add a space and ask questions or suggest ideas for it — then see what other people have to say. Or start by looking at which locations in your area have already been added, and join in the conversation about them.

Mapping Forgotten Spaces is open to everyone, not just entrants to the competition — so explore the site, start adding spaces and tell us what you think.

Comments are closed, but you can leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. Rebecca Caroe
    Posted March 2, 2010 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

    Dougald this is a brilliant programe have you contacted the geurilla gardeners for their input?

  2. admin
    Posted March 2, 2010 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Rebecca! We haven’t contacted them yet, but that’s a great idea. One of the themes that came through in the workshops we ran for architects entering the RIBA competition was how often what these spaces need isn’t an expensive, professional intervention, but something lighter and more playful. Guerrilla Gardening is a great example of that. I wonder what other examples we could encourage people to consider?

  3. Posted April 23, 2010 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    There’s a couple of OpenStreetMap people coming along to your Brixton Village event tomorrow. Sadly I can’t be there myself, but I hope you’ll take the opportunity to chat them about how you can use this not-​for-​profit mapping project in and around this kind of work.

    As a minimum you should use OpenStreetMap as a base map (e.g. look at these instructions http://​wiki​.openstreetmap​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​G​o​o​g​l​e​_​M​a​p​s​_​E​x​a​m​ple ) It’s better than google. More detail and more community ownership. For that matter it sounds you’d be interested in getting involved in editing the map too.

    We put some event details on the OpenStreetMap site: http://​wiki​.openstreetmap​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​S​p​a​c​e​m​a​k​e​r​s​_​B​r​i​x​t​o​n​_​m​i​n​i​_​m​a​p​p​i​n​g​_​p​a​rty

  4. Posted May 6, 2010 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    There are so many empty shops on Trinity Road, upper Tooting Road or Wands-​worth. It would so great if you approached them as the shops which are empty would get a major advantage namely that the deserted shops may be putting potential business men to shy away from the space.

  5. jonathan trustram
    Posted December 3, 2010 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Trouble is, some of the best forgotten places get suddenly remembered. Or, the prince in his JCB comes along and smashes through the brambles and the long dream is broken. One of my favourites was the space behind the Tate Modern, the most quiet patch of grass in central London where sometimes students from the big ugly LSE hall of residence played football and millions of people passed by on the south bank just a few yards away. Now it’s an enormous hole in the ground as the development of the Tate Modern extension gets going, and next to it a group of blocks of luxury flats has shot up, high enough now to cut fussily across the long, calm horizontal of the Tate as seen from the millennium bridge.

  6. Dougald
    Posted December 4, 2010 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jonathan -

    Yes — it’s always a question of who’s doing the forgetting or the remembering. I don’t think I knew that space behind the Tate Modern, but it doesn’t sound like it was forgotten by the students who played football there, or others like yourself who valued its quietness.

    The Mapping Forgotten Spaces project came out of a conversation with the RIBA’s London team about their Forgotten Spaces competition. We wanted to work with the organisers of the competition, while introducing some broader space for reflection and participation, opening up these questions of who is involved in the forgetting or remembering of spaces like this.

    We did this through a series of workshops with people who were considering entering the competition. These focused on the possibilities of small interventions rather than bulldoze-​and-​build, and on starting from the histories, memories and current uses of spaces which might (at first glance) appear “forgotten”.

    It felt like this was reflected in quite a few of the shortlisted entries. I wouldn’t claim that was all down to our influence — I think it reflects a mood among quite a few younger architects and architecture students, itself driven by the economic realities of the last two years. When economic growth slows, it leaves more room for smaller, quieter, more specific kinds of growing.

    Almost a year after that competition, with The Shard rising on the London skyline, it could feel like that pause is over — yet there’s a precariousness to this recovery, a sense that people are not convinced. The conversations we’re having suggest that there’s long-​term interest in ways of remembering and regenerating space which are not based on big, capital-​intensive building projects, but on reuse and rediscovery of the overlooked and undervalued potential of a place and the people already connected to it.

    The Mapping Forgotten Spaces site has been an experiment — a first step, maybe, towards a tool which might help with this kind of reuse and rediscovery. But it also raises the question of whether mapping things is always a good idea. Is it always appropriate for information to be open and public, or are there times and places where a certain obscurity is a good thing? I think that’s a real question that we’re starting to hit in all kinds of areas in the age of networked technologies.