Project by
Olivia Forty
Master Track
Roberto Cavallo, Engbert van der Zaag, Leo van den Burg

Waiting for Heathrow

The Design as Politics theme for this year is migration, which was the starting point for this project. I took this to mean, in general, ‘movement’ – rather than migration across countries for economic reasons or from danger zones as refugees. Instead, I decided to focus more on how the daily migration of people affects the spaces in which we live, and how this may negatively impact those places where people migrate in and out on a regular basis. This led me to choosing my site, Slough, based on a daily migration of people in and out of the town for work, resulting in a daily turnover of inhabitants. This will soon be reinforced with the building of Crossrail – a high speed railway line crossing London, bringing central London much closer.

In addition, access to Heathrow Airport will be improved, encouraging migration to further afield. The project, as it stands, combines these two aspects of migration as it links the Slough Trading Estate (where much of the daily migration happens), to Heathrow Airport and thus the world. My case study is about Slough and Heathrow, and in particular what will happen to Slough if Heathrow is to expand, as planned, with a third runway. As something very unpredictable, the project became about how to create a shock absorber in Slough that could take any changes that might happen at Heathrow, which would greatly affect the town of Slough. The daily migration of people in Slough relies on the presence of Heathrow. The approach of Design as Politics is generally to focus on research about both the project itself, but also a much wider social context. The parameters set by the studio are incredibly wide, which meant that it took a long time for this project to reach a point from which it could be developed.

I undertook research into policy surrounding the Heathrow expansion and what this meant in real terms and political terms, as well as looking at plans for Slough and the area I am focusing on – the Trading Estate. This was an interesting approach as it really began from a much bigger picture, from which I had to distill the project down to something specific to the site, but still with the larger intentions. In a wider social context, the project is not only a hub for Heathrow and the Trading Estate, but acts as a shock absorber for Slough. In uncertain times, where it is unknown whether the airport will decline or expand, the project aims to use architecture to take the shock of any eventuality, ultimately fortifying Slough in terms of economy and liveability through strengthening a partnership with Heathrow. In terms of migration, the scheme aims to balance the difference between those who commute into Slough and those who commute out – a difference which is based on education and skills.