Daniel May discusses The Silvertown Partnership

Head of Design, Daniel May discusses how The Silvertown Partnership is co-tutoring UEL Architecture students and giving them valuable experience to help shape the future of East London

The Silvertown Partnership is working with the School of Architecture, Computing and Engineering at the University of East London (UEL) to enhance the future of Silvertown, a seven million square foot mixed use development located in London’s Royal Docks.

The unique collaboration aims to blur the distinction between education and practice by challenging students to develop new ideas and concepts that are grounded and tested in the real world.

Daniel May, Head of Design at The Silvertown Partnership spoke about the partnership and why it’s so important for industry to invest in the next generation of professionals.

Tell us about your collaboration with UEL?

Our collaboration with students from the School of Architecture Computing and Engineering at UEL started in September last year and will run until the end of the academic year, and hopefully beyond. The main reason for doing this was to help bridge the gap between learning and industry, by offering students real world experience on a significant project which is on their doorstep.

The teaching unit is being taught jointly by Roland Karthaus, Architect, Urbanist, Researcher and director of Karthaus Design and Dinah Bornat, Researcher and co-founder of ZCD Architects. We have worked closely together to develop the programme, which will provide the most benefit for students. This has been split into three sections – a live brief, design teaching unit and end of year showcase.

The first unit was the live design brief, which took place at the end of last year. Students were tasked to go onsite and work-up design concepts, linking water with the development – the results were really impressive. The studio design unit is running throughout the year.  Students are exploring and testing the Silvertown masterplan, working in collaboration with Silvertown partners AHMM, Fletcher Priest and Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios and are working up individual proposals in response to this. In May, students will be able to showcase their work and receive critique and feedback from leading figures working on the Silvertown project before exhibiting at the End of Year Show in June.

What makes this different from other industry/ academic collaborations?

What’s most unique about our collaboration is the fact they are working with us for a full academic year. Many businesses tend to work with students for short periods of a time, but we wanted to give them the opportunity to get fully immersed in the project and really get in to the detail.

Why do you think it’s important that developers provide live briefs to students?

Many students finish their architectural education without the key skills and understanding that are required to allow them to flourish in the professional world. With a once in a generation project like Silvertown, this is a perfect opportunity to expose the students to the real issues that we are facing and how the decisions shape the future of this part of London.

How are you working with your partners on this?

We have held learning sessions at the offices of AHMM, Fielden Clegg Bradley and Fletcher Priest to help students become comfortable in the architectural environment. During this time students have asked questions about the Silvertown development, but also expanded in to the operational side of running architectural practices.

We have also set a number of separate challenges, from how to approach a project from a number of stakeholder perspectives, to how to take a classic client call on a Friday afternoon wanting a scheme by Monday morning. They are also encouraged to practice their presentation techniques and appraise each other in a frank, honest and constructive fashion.

How will The Silvertown Partnership benefit from this?

Collaborating with young, emerging design talent will push everyone involved in the project to be more creative and inventive. We’ve been able to share our knowledge; our thoughts and our challenges and in turn we are benefiting from fresh ideas and thinking we wouldn’t otherwise get. It’s incredibly rewarding to follow the students on their creative journey and watch them develop. We hope that our collaboration will generate a positive curiosity in the students, which will help them in their future careers.

Silvertown is a £3.5billion scheme set in London’s Royal Docks, just minutes away from the University of East London campus. The 62-acre site will reinvent the atelier on a grand scale – creating a place that appeals to young Londoners with spaces to make, show and share alongside thousands of new homes and jobs.

Outline planning permission was granted in April 2015 and work began earlier this year, following a £12m government investment secured by the Mayor of London. Significant work has already been completed on the development including the removal of more than 500 tonnes of asbestos from Millennium Mills.

The site is being designed and curated by a roster of 20 world class architects, known as The Silvertown Design Panel, ranging from Richard Rogers, AHMM, BIG, OMA and Herzog de Meuron to name a few. They will collaborate with existing masterplanners Fletcher Priest and West 8.

Key statistics:

The Silvertown scheme will create:

  • 5,000 new jobs in phase one
  • 7m sqft of new commercial and residential space
  • 5m sqft of commercial space
  • 2m sq ft of residential (up to 3,000 new homes)
  • Up to 20,700 new jobs in total
  • £3.5bn gross development value