Vacant Lot

What if: projects, London, 2012


Subscribe now to instantly view this image

Subscribe to the Architects’ Journal (AJ) for instant access to the AJ Buildings Library, an online database of nearly 2,000 exemplar buildings in photographs, plans, elevations and details.

Already a subscriber? Sign in

Vacant Lot no.1: Chart Street 

What if: projects Ltd (website)     Download Original

  • Vacant Lot no.1: Chart Street    
  • Vacant Lot no1:Chart Street- plot to plate    
  • Vacant Lot no.19:Sandford Court    
  • Vacant Lot no.19:Sandford Court    
  • no.20-Stamford Hill    
  • no.21-Rowstock gardens.jpg    
  • Vacant Lot map     
  • Vacant Lot footprints    
  • Vacant Lot infrastructure    
  • Vacant Lot no.16: Red Lion Estate    
  • Vacant Lot no.19: Sandford Court    
  • Vacant Lot no.20: Stamford Hill Estate    
  • Vacant Lot no.21:Rowstock Gardens    
  • Vacant Lot 1-21: overview    
  • Vacant Lot no.16:Red Lion Square(1).jpg    
  • Vacant Lot no.19-Sandford Court.jpg    
  • Vacant Lot no.20- Stamford Hill.jpg    
  • Vacant Lot no.16:Redlion Estate-details.pdf    
  • Vacant Lot no.19:Sandford Court-details.pdf    
  • Vacant Lot no.20:Stamford Hill-details.pdf    
  • Vacant Lot no.21.Rowstock Gardens-details.pdf    

The Vacant Lot programme transforms unused spaces on housing estates into environments that provide neighbourhoods with: outside space, place for growing food and space to socialise

In deprived urban areas across London where space is limited small pockets of vacant land are made accessible and are occupied by bespoke design elements that enable new communal use. Projects investigate forms of neighbourhood engagement and aim to start a process of sustainable change.

The first Vacant Lot allotment on a housing estate in Hoxton started in 2007 as a temporary intervention featuring bulk bags as growing containers. This formerly inaccessible piece of land continues to be used as an allotment and meeting place by the local community and in 2012 it was completed with tables and seating.

Based on the experience and popularity of the first VACANT LOT garden, What if: projects formed a partnership with Groundwork London to create 20 additional food growing spaces on deprived housing estates across London. This three-year project (2009-2012) received funding from the Big Lottery’s Local Food programme and match funding was secured from seven social housing landlords.

Stustainability strategy:

As part of the Vacant Lot programme What if: projects develop layouts and design bespoke planters, water towers, sheds, furniture and greenhouses in dialogue with hundreds of residents from culturally diverse neighbourhoods. Instead of introducing heavy non destructible elements, that are typical for many housing estates, the VACANT LOT approach seeks to create shared spaces with sensual qualities and introduces care, special moments and seasonal change.

Plots of 1 - 1.5m2 are allocated to individual households thus transferring ownership of small parcels of land to residents. This system has proved successful in securing the sustained maintenance of these shared spaces by a diverse range of people from different backgrounds and age groups. The VACANT LOT gardens have provided the chance for people from the same area to meet and to be active.

The future of these new communal spaces relies on the Vacant Lot gardening groups supported by the estate management and the Vacant Lot network.


  • Begun: May 2007
  • Completed: Jun 2012
  • Floor area: 7,810m2
  • Sector: Public realm
  • Total cost: £161,909
  • Funding: 161909
  • Procurement: Partnership contract (2009-2012)
  • Address: 21 sites: Hackney, Islington, Camden, Haringey & Westminster, London, United Kingdom