The long-anticipated car park revival is finally opening its doors
Car parks are underrated. They aren’t just blocks of concrete where you drop your motor: they are places for creating memories. That first graffiti tag, that secret gig with the great acoustics, that first time you heard your mum use the C-word as a Land Rover swung into her parking space. But no car hole has seen quite as much action as the multi-storey brutalist car park on Rye Lane. It’s the home of gallery Bold Tendencies, the Multi-Story Orchestra and, on the rooftop, Frank’s Café. And now, Peckham Levels: ‘seven levels of culture’ designed by Carl Turner Architects and launched by Make Shift (the folks behind Pop Brixton).
Since Southwark Council gave the plan the green light in 2015, they’ve been reconstructing the empty concrete floors into art studios, yoga studios, photographers’ dark rooms and a flamingo pink cocktail bar by Near & Far. There’s a new nightlife and music venue in the mix too: Ghost Notes, created by the team behind Peckham pub The Montpelier.
The first five levels have been rented out to artists, start-ups and designers, 75 percent of whom are local to the area. Shacking up there is community arts collective Intoart, new video magazine Guap, design company Playdate, 3rd Rail (who are trying to build London’s largest open-access screen printing studio on site) and the independent magazine for women of colour, gal-dem. But the two top tiers will be open to the public, with a floor of food traders like Hao Hao Chi, who make Chinese street food, chicken wing brothers Drums & Flats and vegan café Wildflower (opening December 14).
For those who don’t want to sink their savings into a bowl of purple sprouting broccoli, there will be a free hangout space which can be used for community events. And every floor has one thing in common: those panoramic views across the city.
Parts are still under construction but this weekend marks its official launch. For three event-filled days, Londoners will be able to wander around its cement fortress and meet the new arrivals.
Vogue declared Peckham to be ‘London’s cultural epicentre’ in 2015 and, last year, Chanel put a mirror maze installation in a warehouse by the Bussey Building, so the south east is no stranger to the G-word (gentrification). But, hopefully, the Levels will offer something more engaging than a new spending den for East End blow-ins. It’s not everyone’s idea of paradise, but they’ve put up a hell of a lot more than a parking lot.
The launch weekender
Have a mosey around the seven levels of the multi-storey car park for the first time. Near & Far will be doing promos in the cocktail bar and the new Level Six yoga studio will be doing taster sessions by candlelight. Interactive sound and light displays will guide you through its labyrinthine space. And there’ll be a photo booth. Because there’s always a photo booth.
6pm til late
Want another canvas carrier to add to your tote bag full of totes? Get a personalised one screen-printed in front of you by PL residents 3rd Rail Print Space (£5). If you’re feeling lively, join a dance workshop with The Movement Factory. See some live sci-fi in action with Champion 3D’s drop in 3D-printing demos, or just get to know some new people at the Open Studios. It’s an all-dayer, so bring a packed lunch.
This is one for the families. Turn your sprogs into mini coders with Kids Coding with Turinglab, or get them some new threads at the Kids T-shirt Printing Workshops with 3rd Rail Print Space. If you need some grown-up escape time, try the Morning Mindfulness session with Level Six Studios.
All launch weekend events are free, but some will require pre-booking. Check www.peckhamlevels.org for details.
Can't make it? Here's what's happening in London this weekend.