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September 25, 2018

Creativity and community: Highlights from our first Open House weekend

Bria Woods

This weekend, we welcomed around 300 Londoners to The Collective Old Oak as part of Open House London, the world’s largest architecture festival. For our debut on the festival lineup, we transformed the lobby and ground floor of The Collective Old Oak into a local community hub filled with exhibits, talks, workshops, and music sessions. Fair to say we had a blast. For those who missed out or want to relive it, here’s a round up of our highlights.


Upon walking through our doors, the friendly team from the local Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation were ready with a warm welcome. Anna Shamoon, Senior Engagement Officer at OPDC said: “We’re here representing the OPDC, talking to people about the local plans and the future plans for the area, and signing people up for area walks.” For Anna, the Open House weekend was “really good and really interesting,” with the high point being “the engagement, and being able to talk to people at that real community level.”

Open House 2018 at The Collective Old Oak
Open House 2018 at The Collective Old Oak
OPDC at The Collective Old Oak
OPDC at The Collective Old Oak

Their podium featured resources on the neighbourhood, with sign ups for area tours and loads of information about the future regeneration and development of the local area, including the HS2 – the vision for the use of the canal situated next to our building, and the plan to build new homes. Jan Ackenhausen, OPDC’s Principal Urban Designer, described the future of the area: “Old Oak is going to be a really new town centre in west London. We’re looking at 25,000 new homes and 65,000 new jobs over the next 30-40 years. It’s going to be one of the new places to be in London.”

People’s Bureau Exhibition

Eva Sajovic and Rebecca Davies, creators of People’s Bureau, installed an interactive exhibition in our gallery that served a visual discussion of their week-long artist residency at The Collective. From 15-23rd September, the artist duo set up camp in one of our studio flats and began documenting their co-living experience through both analogue and digital photos, in diary entries and illustrations. Rebecca said: “Putting it all together into one body of work and inviting people into the experience has been very interesting.”

Eva and Rebecca, People's Bureau
Eva and Rebecca, People’s Bureau

In their final display, Eva and Rebecca made a life-size outline of their room using coloured masking tape on the floor and marking each space within the room: the bathroom, the desk and the kitchenette. They even brought their mattress, desk chair, bin, books and film camera down to the lobby to add 3D elements to the 2D installation. “What we found,” Eva explains, “was residents being very surprised by the size of their living space. So in a way, doing this exercise – outlining the space – is very revealing and helps people to reflect.” Adjacent to the installation was a wall of photos; facsimiles of journal entries and illustrations that highlight memorable anecdotes in chronological order, from the day they moved in up to the first day of the exhibition.

They said that their installation served as a culmination of their preliminary research and conversations with the different designers, architects and members at The Collective. “This is not the finished body of work; this is just the research… It needs to be developed upon and it will be turned into a publication that will be coming out at the end of the year.”

Watch this space.

Drawing Rooms

Famous author and illustrator Salvatore Rubbino, led families in a creative workshop to design their dream room. “It’s a bit of a laboratory table, a bit of an experimental table. It’s drawing especially with cards and cutting into it to create doors and window openings. You can add props along the way. It’s taking quite a humble material and transforming it a little bit.”

There was a buffet of coloured paper, crayons, drawing pencils, scissors, glue and markers spread across the table. Children and adults alike put their illustrator and architect hats on, and created some really eye-catching pieces. New Collective member and architecture design entrepreneur Yanting Shen said of the workshop: “There was this little girl, who was two, and is an amazing artist to be. She created this fantastic room, with layers of coloured paper and openings and a hedgehog at the centre of it all.”

Drawing Rooms workshop, Open House 2018 at The Collective Old Oak

While cutting and creating at the drawing room table, she explained that she’s interested in learning more about architecture, with aspirations for building homes: “I want to build affordable and very beautiful houses. I’m obsessed with castles and palaces, so I hope one day to build my own castle.” Talk about #housegoals!

Architectural Collage Club

Steph Hartman, founder of Collage Club London, came on Saturday to lead a hands-on collage workshop, inspired by architecture and Open House London. Amongst enthusiastic and creative participants was a table covered with stickers, magazines, clippings, tape, and a heap of colourful paper. Steph explained that it’s the universality of collaging that she values the most: “There’s no wrong way to do it. For me there are no rules, and it’s just really accessible.”

Collage Club, Open House at The Collective Old Oak
Collage Club

Collage Club, Open House at The Collective Old Oak

Collage artist David Ibor joined the workshop in order to meet more like-minded people and spoke positively about his experience: “It’s really nice. The building is nice, and all the activities and the live band… it’s really nice!”

The workshop was so exciting, no one was ready to leave. “I think we went quite over time,” Steph said.“But everyone was in their zone, it was lovely. We had a great time!”

Fold Your City

Creator of A Line Art, Anna Bruder, transformed part of the ground floor into a map of the local area in Willesden where families coloured and cut out local landmarks, such as the McVities factory, former Rolls Royce factory, and the Elizabeth Arden Perfume factory. Based in East London, Anna explained that “since researching and creating this project for this event I’ve learned that there’s so much wealth in the area. I learned about the electricity light bulb factory and the stationers working houses and the railway worker houses.” As guests added to the installation throughout the weekend the map blossomed with colourful homes, bridges, trains, buildings, and landmarks.

Open House 2018 at The Collective Old Oak

Open House 2018 at The Collective Old Oak

Jacy Santangelo was colouring with her son and daughter when she shared with me that she grew up right around the corner from The Collective in Kensal Rise for over twenty years. Smiling, she said, “I remember the McVitties factory when you go past the and lower the windows and smell the biscuits.” She found out about the Open House event at The Collective on Facebook, so after paying her mom a visit at their family home in Kensal Rise, she brought her kids along to enjoy the events. “Using these things that are in the area and utilizing them for children and having events like this is a really good thing.”

Water Painting

With nature a central theme to her work, professional watercolorist, Jo Lewis, invited guests into her en plein air technique of using paint and and water from lakes or rivers to record the natural movement of the water’s flow. “We’ve been using watercolour and ink and finding lots of experimental ways of working with it, “Jo explains, “but mainly by using lots and lots of water. The whole concept was to use the water of the local environment.” Perched on the side of the canal that runs next to The Collective Jo and her cohort of watercolour enthusiasts took watercolor paper and paint and let the canal do the rest. Playing with the placement of the ink and using a mixture of black and coloured paint the participants created a unique body of work where no two watercolours were the same. “We’re not allowed to use brushes,” said participant Dan Mitchell, “because she is literally a water artist. So she dips her stuff in the water like this with colour and with inks, and then she kin of scoots the paper around and creates images. So this is what Jo is trying to make us do.” When two canal boats were passing by Jo instructed the painters to dip their paper into the canal as the subsequent waves rippled the water to see how that would affect the movement of the ink on the paper. Talk about getting inspired by your environment.


While the lobby of The Collective was teeming with activity and fun, there was a constant supply of tunes throughout the weekend. On Saturday, the vivacious four piece Roameo Live Music Band had the entire lobby dancing and singing (literally) as they belted out their classic dance covers. On Sunday afternoon our very own Hydie Humbles and the Ukulele Club serenaded the guests with saccharine ukulele stylings. And on Sunday evening the Collective Community Jam Session, led by Claudie, our Community Host, closed out the very first and very unforgettable Collective Open House Weekend.

Roameo at Open House 2018
Roameo at Open House 2018

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