Unit A

Unit A is a research-led BSc Architecture Design Studio at the University of East London, lead by Carsten Jungfer and Fernanda Palmieri. We work with live-project situations and connect design learning with research through knowledge exchange between students and external partner organisations. Unit A focuses on social-spatial conditions within contested urban contexts and understands architectural design both as a spatial and strategic response to specific socio-spatial contexts.


Productive City







How can London’s existing industrial spaces help us to re-imagine sustainable futures of city-making?

We live in an era led by the mantra of economic growth at any cost. While the UN Sustainable Development Goals challenges cities to make urban living more inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable, the current and predominant model of reproduction of space in London is still based on privately financed regeneration projects which, almost always, result in the complete demolition of the existing urban fabric and the replacement of it with high value real estate.

In this process, environmental and social goals are used to justify the replacement of the existing buildings, communities, and activities, while the social and environmental costs of replacement, as well as its long terms effects, are given little consideration. But what would happen if the existing city, users, and activities were to be the starting point for regeneration?

This year Unit A will explore this question by engaging with local makers, users, and activities across the Blackhorse Lane area in Waltham Forest, elected in 2021 as one of the Mayor of London’s Creative Enterprise Zones (CEZ): “Creative Enterprise Zones are a Mayoral initiative to designate areas of London where artists and creative businesses can find permanent affordable space to work; are supported to start-up and grow; and where local people are helped to learn creative sector skills and access pathways to employment.” Mayor of London (2022).

At the same time that Blackhorse Lane area was designated a CEZ in recognition of the broad and rich community of makers and creatives that have been making innovative use of the existing light industrial buildings and spaces that historically occupy the Lea Valley, Waltham Forest council has launched a masterplan, that seeks to demolish and replace the entire area with the objective of bringing different uses in, such as residential, and intensifying the industrial use that already exists.

The questions arising from this situation and ‘tabula-rasa’ approach will become the focus of our investigation the academic year 2023-24. We will set out to better understand the relationships between the existing Blackhorse Collective creative industries and the wider Waltham Forest community, to think and propose alternative models of space production and architecture, that consider, repair and re-qualify the existing city, and by doing so, can make space for different uses and intensify the activities in more socially and environmentally sustainable ways.

In collaboration with local partners, we will sample and draw existing socio-spatial conditions and activities across the study area, to better understand their operations and re-imagine how they could be connected to each other in a Circular Economy system that is designed to retain and recover as much value as possible from the existing activities and site resources. This investigation will form the basis us to develop strategic architectural interventions which enable and enhance the system and explore the question of how do the parts connect and can work together?

Blackhorse Lane: Creative Enterprise Zone

This short film by local videographer Rua Acorn was commissioned by Waltham Forest to showcase the diversity of activities that can be found across the the Blackhorse Lane Creative Enterprise Zone (CEZ). The area will become the unit's focus of investigation and design proposals for the 2023-24 academic year. Link to original source


Observer Article Sun 9 July 2023


It's encouraging to see the issue of affordable artist studios being discussed in the wider public! If artists' communities are considered the roots of London's creative industries (worth £47 billion) what impact would their displacement have on London?

As a design studio, we engaged with this topic during the past academic year, and working in collarboartion with SPACE Studios, we set out to better understand and research what social value existing local artists working in Hackney generate across the community.

LINK to Observer Article

LINK to unit A design studio 'Artists in the City' 2022-23 

LINK to SPACE Studios


Yearbook 2023



Unit A student Agata Nyckowska nominated for AJ Student Prize 2023 and wins UEL's Best Portfolio Award


Congratulations to Unit A student Agata Nyckowska for her nomination to the AJ Student Prize 2023 and for winning UEL's Best Portfolio Award (year 2).

The Art Village
The aim of the project is to create a place for knowledge exchange that serves as a base to host a diverse range of artistic activities and foster new relationships between local artists and the surrounding community. The strategic design proposal encompasses three consecutive construction phases, each offering versatile spaces for performance and creative workshops and experimental engagement. As the project evolves in stages, it seamlessly integrates and upgrades the adjacent Deborah House that is home to over 60 local artists, operated by SPACE Studios. The ground floor spaces, featuring a long street-like theatre space, is designed to create multiple opportunities for connecting with the surrounding green spaces and public realm. The permeable design intentionally encourages wider formal and informal space activation with the aim to promote skill and cultural exchange across the neighbourhood, ultimately transforming it into a thriving and creative hub.


Unit A student Samuel Littlewood nominated for RIBA Bronze Medal 2023 and wins UEL's Best Portfolio Award


Congratulations to Unit A student Samuel Littlewood for his nomination for the RIBA Bronze Medal 2023 and for winning UEL's Portfolio Award (year 3).

Sara Lane Community Centre
A new creative and social hub for Hoxton: the ambition of my project was to rekindle some of what has been lost in recent years within Hackney’s creative community. The centre sits above SPACE’s existing Sara Lane studios, respecting the artists by maintaining their privacy whilst providing new interaction spaces such as teaching rooms and exhibition areas, along with an open-access workshop available to the artists and the community. An elevated public walkway extends the public realm, providing views to the unique private artist garden and the creation of a new ‘vertical garden’ under an ETFE canopy extended from the building.


Unit A student Mohamed Ameen Dif nominated for RIBA ELAG Student Award 2023


Congratulations to Unit A student Mohamed Ameen Dif for his nomination for the RIBA ELAG Student Award 2023.

Craft Hub
To nurture creativity and to provide a valuable resource for the community, the project establishes a wood and metal workshop. This dedicated workspace aims to cater to individuals with a passion for craftsmanship and hands-on creations. The workshop will be equipped with a wide range of tools and machinery, allowing both beginners and experienced artisans to explore and develop their skills. Additionally, a well-stocked material shop will be incorporated within the facility. The site will undergo enhancements that involve demolishing inactive garages and revitalising an old playground. This integration will provide opportunities for young people to participate in creative activities, fostering a sense of inclusivity within the community.

Unit A: Showcase 2023 open now - come and see!


Artists in the City.
What is the significance of artists in cities and how can Spaces for Knowledge Exchange help to build connections between different communities?

This year we investigated the wider significance of existing artist communities in East London which are increasingly under threat of displacement by urban replacement and the high value of land in London. Contrary to the current urban policies that favour the ‘new’ over the ‘existing’, we engaged with the idea that artist communities are the roots of the creative industries in London, and we set out to re-imagine alternative models for spatial production that support their existence and permanence as an important part of the civic and productive fabric of inner-city neighbourhoods. 

We collaborated with art studio-provider SPACE [Space Provision Artistic Cultural and Educational] and engaged with their artist community to explore how their diverse and creative practices impact the city beyond the studio space itself. We surveyed and analysed five SPACE studio buildings in Hackney and discovered formal and informal activities, exchanges, interactions, networks and relationships that characterise the practice of artists in the city. In response to this, students then devised strategies and designed Spaces for Knowledge and Skill Exchange that expand on the potential of existing creative and cultural practices through the construction of a spatial civic network.

The body of knowledge produced collectively through engagement in multi-disciplinary discourse including with students from Central Saint Martins Design Studio 2 working on the same topic, is currently further explored through a collaborative research project lead by the tutors and supported by SPACE Studios that also provide seven Unit A alumni with work experience as co-researchers.


Unit A research on Social Value presented at CEZ Knowledge Exchange Forum

Together with Eline van der Vlist (SPACE Studios CEO), Fernanda and Carsten presented preliminary findings of the 'Artists in the City' collaborative research project at the Creative Enterprise Zone (CEZ) Knowledge Exchange Forum organised by the Greater London Authority (GLA) / Mayor of London on March 23 in Waltham Forest. This one-day event brought together several London Boroughs to exchange their strategies integrating Social Value into local planning policy.


Artists in the city drawing & research workshop


We ran a three-day drawing and research workshop with a group of eight architecture alumni and current BSc students from the University of East London (UEL), supporting us as co-researchers, at SPACE Studios at the Triangle in Hackney this week.

We are currently consolidating the ‘Artists in the city’ case studies, that were carried out by the 2022-23 UEL cohort of unit A students in collaboration with 17 artists, based in different buildings across Hackney ran by SPACE Studios.

The collaborative research project aims to develop innovative methods of socio-spatial analysis and assessment to better understand and communicate the wider impact that Artist Communities have on Londons' neighbourhoods.