What makes a great space

Creative engagement at Cody Dock...

East London heritage, ecology and creative site Cody Dock’s June 2024 event has been part of London Festival of Architecture and Newham Heritage Month, their themes Reimagine, and Places and Spaces.

So Cody Dock wanted to reuse the feedback wall created for its Lighting up the Lea sound installation to ask the question, “What makes a great space?”, with some bricks to write in and some hints of built environment.

I took that and brought to it elements of the site itself: dock wall, new development, the growing space, a hint of the bridge at Bow Locks and the oasts of Three Mills. Before the event, I made iPad visuals of approaches for us to discuss.

Arriving early to get the giant sketch done in time for early birds to see it, there was time for the odd flourish: the swooping flight pattern of a sand martin, a bee visiting the growing space, a snail just leaving…There was time, too, to say yes to the request to draw the instructions to a workshop in the space.

But sketching is only part of the work – the other part is chat, encouraging visitors, volunteers and staff to add their thoughts.

People’s answers, from all ages and all walks of life, were insightful, touching, witty, direct and thought-provoking. Amongst the notes were safety, nature, community, visual interest, places to talk, places to get some peace – and, from a little girl, books.

This has been my third large-scale sketching for engagement piece for Cody Dock. And it’s testament to its can-do spirit that I’ve been coaxed from my tiny sketchbooks into these huge scale collaborations of drawing, ideas and people.