Purpose Built Creative Communities – Design District, Greenwhich Peninsula

October 10, 2022

‘David’s colourful, classically inspired buildings, make and break rules, which will inspire our tenants to expand creatively.’

The creative industries are at the heart of what makes London great. London is also one of the most expensive cities in the world. – Two statements that cannot coexist for much longer.

‘According to the Livelihoods of Visual Artists data report, artists earn an average of £16,150 each year, of which £6,020 (36%) comes from their art practice.’ This combined with rising rents and the cost of living crisis is putting creative communities under great threat.

The Design District, Greenwhich Peninsula has been developed to counteract this and keep London creative, its purpose built neighbourhood is an accessible workplace, made to support creative work of all kinds. Urban regenerator and property developer Knight Dragon envisioned a vibrant and engaged community of designers, makers, and creators – from architects and artists to graphic, fashion, and digital designers, gaming professionals, musicians, and many more.

Recently, we were lucky enough to meet the architects building the vision, as David Kohn delivered a private tour of the development. We were greeted outside the A4 building, a landmark in an emerging neighbourhood, signposted with ‘Design District’ in bold lettering across the top. 

The Design District started as a canvas for architects to experiment, and create a statement, or invitation for the same creativity to grow inside The site comprises 16 free-standing buildings, by eight architects, composed around five courtyards. The project provides 14,000 sqm of studio space for makers in the creative industries.

David’s explained the unique influences and considerations around the building’s design. The colourful, classically inspired buildings, make and break rules, which will inspire our tenants to expand creatively.

Historically, David Kohn’s practice has focused on refurbishing institutional buildings for the arts. The two buildings designed for the Design District were their first workspace buildings, first building projects for commercial clients, first non-residential new build, and first design-and-build projects. Despite this, the practice has been shortlisted for the AJ Architecture Awards 2022 and longlisted for the Dezeen Awards 2022.

A4 and B4 were broken up into smaller units to create space, meaning creating a large number of small businesses, ideal for a mixed community across the district. The buildings include three arts charities: Migrate Art representing migrant artists, Queercircle representing LGBTQ+ artists, and ACAVA a studio provider that lets space to over 500 studios for artists. Tenants across the two buildings include artists, a florist, a ceramics studio, a 3D printing studio, a soap maker, a photographer, fashion, digital marketing, and broadcasting studios and an architecture practice.

In the past creative workspace has developed organically, from warehouses and meanwhile space, spilling out onto the streets and local communities. However as affordable spaces become few and far between, purpose built hubs could be the answer to sustaining London’s creative industries.