Location: London, UK
|Woolwich has been going through rapid transformation over the last twenty years. One of the triggers for this transformation is the regeneration of the historic Royal Arsenal area, a former naval and military town which was growing steadily with thousands of workers employed till the Second World War.
After the Second World War, the demand for armaments as well as manufacturing for railways trucks and other similar projects declined leading to the overall abandonment of the area.
Since the early 2000s, a large housing development combined with a new train station has been taking place in the area led by the Berkeley Homes and in close collaboration with Historic England (the Royal Arsenal was designated a conservation area in 1981).
Several historic, listed buildings have been conserved and reused as part of the development while two heritage institutions were established including the Greenwich Heritage Centre in 2003 (currently closed and relocated under renovation) and the Firepower museum (launched in 2001, and closed and relocated to a different city in 2016).
While visiting the area with the MSc students over the last 9 years we noticed how the place was gradually being populated and becoming vibrant. At the same time, we also noted some resistance or, on occasions, anger from permanent residents in Woolwich who felt that the development would only widen the social gap among the various communities while putting local business under threat.
With the Woolwich Town Centre characterized as conservation and joining the Heritage Action Zones scheme there is an opportunity for heritage to unite rather than divide the communities of Woolwich.
Understanding the dynamics of the transformation in the wider area of Royal Arsenal and the Woolwich Town Centre as well as the socio-cultural and economic contribution of heritage to this process will enable present and future city planners and heritage professionals to co-design with local communities a sustainable future for Woolwich.
This is the vision of the project which will adopt ‘participatory system dynamics’ in order to create a model that will act as a tool for fostering collaborative dialogue and future thinking rather than a tool that predicts the future itself.