Even somewhere as inauspicious as the Beckton Alp, a toxic 19th century spoil heap, is redolent with value for the people who use it.

Despite the only way in being a hole illegally made in the fence, the alp is a vibrant social space used by a diverse range of people for the kinds of adventure we just don’t have anymore.

During three months residency in a portacabin at the base of the alp we observed and documented use and evidence of use, both human and otherwise.

In 50 days of actual presence on site, over 300 people were observed.

The paradox of this “bad” landscape as also a place of the sublime and of adventure was tested during the residency by hosting social encounters. One of these encounters was an invitation to lunch below the summit extended to the scaffolders from the yard at the base of the alp. Both tested scenarios and observed use formed a brief to return the alp as a fully accessible, social, bioremediated landscape, but one that retains the intrinsic qualities that make it so beguiling.

The concept for bioremediation is to treat the surface rainwater as both a source of pleasure and potential poison and by making visible a treatment system so reference the hidden marsh landscape now sealed away beneath the surface. 

The design will separate the surface water from the leachate, rills and pools with reed beds as green sponges will cleanse the less toxic surface run off, and will keep it as far as possible from penetrating the reinstated clay capping.  

That water which does penetrate the cap will percolate through the toxins and as leachate will be collected at the base in an enclosed chamber, the “bad” water will be pumped up using renewable energy to be let down again through an enclosed serial system to filter out the toxins.   

The proposal is for a hybrid landscape of remediation and the sublime, for adventure and for the knowledge of risk.  The form this landscape may take is evidenced through the natural and cultural history collection of the alp. This collection is based the Enlightenment tradition of knowledge through observation and comprises of artifacts and “specimens” entirely constructed from material found on site. The Collection is cultural evidence of the value of the intrinsic paradox of the alp.

The collection was made in collaboration with local individuals and organizations, the Beckon adult education art class made landscape paintings, the director of the local undertakers narrated a roll call of loss, the Over 50s book club donated memories and a botanical illustrator made drawings of constructed species.

Date: Tuesday 27th May 2008
The Alp away Day
The Alp is an extraordinary feature.  It stands as a monument to Newham's past and marks the transition from an industrial landscape to one of leisure.
The once busy ski slope is abandoned, as if a particularly localised and virulent episode of global warming has ravaged the snows and revealed the underlying landscape.
At the foot of the Alp stands a retail park with the most cavernous of Woolworths.  The amenities of retail and leisure are situated in a landscape almost entirely constructed from ruins and waste.  No trees are older than a decade and there is a pervading sense of a shallow, equalising surface that has obliterated and residual natural landforms.
There is an exaggerated sense of shared space, but not with whom this space is to be shared.
The urban theorist  Katherine Schonfield talked of public space as the lived experience of democracy where one encounters the unexpected pleasure of what it is to be a citizen.  But here is there not also a desire for another kind of experience, an experience where the pleasure is possessively singular and is the antithesis of inclusive citizenship?
It is perhaps less of a pleasure and more of a thrill, characterized by the creeping invasion of buddleia and odd shoes, of rosebay willow herb and burst suitcases, of spaces resonant with what was here and who has gone and what shall be here.  
The history of the time immediately prior to our own is the most tantalizing, it seems so close it appears only carelessness that we didn't experience it ourselves, we are incredulous that we weren't there. A temporary reprieve is found in silent libraries where journeys through landscapes of microfiche and archive boxes retrieve memories we never had .  But even here things run to seed, the feral interlopers of obsolescence creeping over the facts as much as buddleia and willow herb.  Paper as delicate as dusk inked out by a hand impenetrable to anyone of my generation, an index with promise of a reference to the subject reveals its source as deleted.
Obsolescence and the loss of original intentions render this a lost land, only those territories reclaimed by transport infrastructure or shopping have the ignorable quality of the familiar but the rest, the prohibited territory of the the Alp, remains a fabulous ruin, a feral wilderness where a path, made by no more than the feet that have trod it, is more than a means to the end, it is the thrill of a journey- real and psychological.
muf will explore the Alp as a typology, as a feral place that is unmediated,a place that is outside predetermined boundaries and is therefore by definition, marginal, a place that is at the edge of how we live.  The investigation will identify other explorers and inhabitants and with them will devise instruments and calibrations to measure the value of this landscape for both human and non-human activity and occupation.  This barometer of value will inform proposals for permanent interventions that meaningfully magnify those qualities specific to this place.
There will be three phases of muf's residency at the Alp.
The first will be for three weeks in a "laboratory" situated in the Beckton Retail Park car park off Alpine Way. The laboratory will methodically map the characteristics, the flora, fauna and activity of the Alp and its northern lowland of the Greenway, a semi wild corridor that runs from the River Thames to the east and to the Olympic park in the west, two landscapes with an underlying heart of waste.  The mapping will generate a new taxonomy of imagined and real species.  Exhibition specimens will be created from the detritus, natural and man made, collected from the Alp and surrounding landscapes.  The specific character of these landscapes and their value will be overlaid on the existing Design for London Green Grid, to bring an accuracy to definition to this aspirational but dispassionate mapping of potential and existing parks.
The second phase will be a "museum" similarly situated in the retail park.  The museum will be open to the public and will exhibit the laboratory findings.  There will be a participative program of workshops to enable further explorations with local people and in turn these findings will become part of the museum collection and will be exhibited.
The third stage will be a series of temporary installations and events to test the accuracy of proposals as snap shots of the future.  The invited and incidental audience will be both viewer and participant and their critical feedback will further refine the proposal for the permanent restoration of the Alp as a destination on the Greenway and as an inhabitable icon.
Date: Monday 12.05.08
Time: 08.30-17.00
Weather: brilliant sunshine, blue skies with a scattering of cloud
Methodology: 
host a lunchtime barbecue on the alp for 15 invited scaffolders from the neighbouring yard.
Tools used:
barbecue griddle
rocks
charcoal
fire starters 
15 plastic chairs
potatoe salad
vegetable kebabs
lamb chops
sausages
pickled onions
strawberries
assorted fizzy drinks
orange juice
table cloth
glasses
plastic cutlery
napkins
table cloths
6 x trestles
2 x sheets of timber
Samples to laboratory: 
none taken
Human occupation off alp site:
none recorded
Human occupation on alp site:
10.15 two schoolboys in white t-shirts and school uniform ascend from amphitheatre to viewing platform
10.45 two schoolboys descend from summit, looking at us on the concrete plateau, play around by the plateau for about ten minutes walking forwards and backwards and then descend to den area
10.50 male working out on summit, lunges, stretching and sprinting
13.00 13 scaffolders ascend the alp from the south gap in the fence to join us for lunch, leave at 14.00
14.10 solitary school girl sat on wooden beam looking out towards the A13 clutching schoolbag
14.35 four older teenage girls at summit with shopping bags, chatting and giggling
15.00 solitary teenage boy (15) at viewing platform, hanging out
16.00 two women at summit, early twenties looking at view to the north
Non human occupation on site: 
crows at summit
Non human occupation off site:
none recorded
Ambient sounds: 
comedy hgv horn (13.00)
reversing beeping
birdsong
police sirens
Ambient smells: 
sewage
barbecue
Remarks:
learn from the scaffolders that the comedy hgv horn is actually the benji food van on it's rounds around the industrial park. many of the scaffolders have grown up in and around Beckton and remember visiting the alp previously, either to go to the nightclub and bar that used to be at the base, to scramble bikes on homemade dirt tracks, to sledge trays down or to visit the ski slopes.   They are all perfectly content chatting amongst themselves and with us, eating, drinking and taking in the views.
Occupation images:
Inventory images:
none taken
Samples to laboratory images:
none taken
Date: Thursday 08.05.08
Time: 10.30-17.30
Weather: brilliant sunshine, blue skies
Methodology: 
work on samples in laboratory, purchase materials from local charity shops in east ham
Tools used:
none recorded
Samples to laboratory: 
4 x top trump cards
Human occupation off alp site:
10.30 pass over 50's reading group cowboy whizzing across the car park on his mobility scooter "hello girl"
10.45 travis perkins wood delivery to portakabin
Human occupation on alp site:
12.10 two boys, 15/16 leave summit, one runs down south face, past amphitheatre to exit via south gap, other exits via hole in west fence.  they meet each other laughing on pavement outside retail park.
12.50 meet young boy (14) at south-east base, say hello, he climbs up to den area meets another boy there, they hang out removing debris from roof and side of den until 13.40 when they climb to the viewing platform.
13.25 three women at summit all white t-shirts and leggings, working out/dancing
14.25 three girls in den area (13/14) wave at me photographing them from the portakabin. Still there when I return from B & Q at 15.30
15.40 a lone male stood at concrete plateau, looks smartly dressed, ascends to summit
15.45 three girls at den wave up at some other boys at platform (altogether approx 11/12) spend the next hour exploring the site, running up the steep bank to the viewing platform to the summit.  leave via the gap in the south fence at approx 16.30
Non human occupation on site: 
crows at summit
white butterflies
black and orange butterflies
birds stuck flying against the wind above viewing platform
Non human occupation off site:
none recorded
Ambient sounds: 
HGV lunch bell 13.10
excessive industrial noise
clanging
traffic
lots of ice cream van chimes
bird song
Ambient smells: 
sewage
Remarks:
travis perkins delivery driver comments "quite a refined smell around here"
observe three nerdy looking men and women lurking in the bushes on the greenway with clipboards and cameras.  appear to be conducting some sort of biodiversity study.
pass three early twenties males wearing high vis jackets under the bridge next to the greenway and the north face of the alp, I ask if they are the refuse collectors that I am waiting for to which they laugh and say no, notice at this point they are all smoking.
Occupation images:
Inventory images:
none taken
Samples to laboratory images:
none taken
Date: Friday 02.05.08
Time: 09.45-12.00
Weather: heavy rain showers, cloudy, very cold
Methodology: 
work on samples in laboratory
filming around wider area
Tools used:
video camera
Samples to laboratory: 
none taken
Human occupation off alp site:
none recorded
Human occupation on alp site:
10.00 group of five or six teenage boys and girls congregate at viewing platform and take photographs of each other with mobile phones.  leave at 11.45 
Non human occupation on site: 
none recorded
Non human occupation off site:
none recorded
Ambient sounds: 
scaffold clanging
reversing beeping
birdsong
police sirens
Ambient smells: 
sewage
Remarks:
Occupation images:
Inventory images:
none taken
Samples to laboratory images:
none taken
Date: Tuesday 29.04.08
Time: 09.20-17.45
Weather: heavy rain showers, intermittent sunshine, cloudy
Methodology: 
present project progress to over 50's reading group and gather oral history.  
make contact with scaffolding company.
document new growth on site
document found objects in laboratory for inventory, work on samples
Tools used:
camera
Samples to laboratory: 
how our solar system works notes
Human occupation off alp site:
none recorded
Human occupation on alp site:
16.45 2 x older teenagers pose and take pictures at the summit, lots of thumbs ups and arms extended out to the side.  exit via the west gap at 17.10
Non human occupation on site: 
crows at summit
Non human occupation off site:
cat on the retail park
Ambient sounds: 
comedy hgv horn (13.00)
reversing beeping
lots of birdsong
police sirens
Ambient smells: 
sewage
burning
Remarks:
amazed at how lush the alp is looking with all of spring's new growth. very dense weed covering has formed.  some of the makeshift entrances have been repaired, and a tree has been cut down next to the wooden platform and repositioned as a canopy over the gap.
Occupation images:
Inventory images:
none taken
Samples to laboratory images:
none taken
Date: Saturday 26.04.08
Time: 12.30-16.00
Weather: very sunny
Methodology: 
cooked sausages on fire fuelled by alp waste.
general observations, supplied J____ and  T___ T___ with imitation guns for play.
Tools used:
none recorded
Samples to laboratory: 
none recorded
Human occupation off alp site:
none recorded
Human occupation on alp site:
14.20 two boys making den south of the amphitheatre, drag planks and construct.
14.25 a group of 3/4 teenage boys (12/13) gather on viewing platform, two have bicycles
14.40 two women in religious dress and two men stand at summit and observe view towards the south west
14.40 an early 30's male ascends summit, form the viewing platform pushing a bicycle, descends ten minutes after.
15.00 two women, early 30's look out from summit towards the south west
15.20 two boys, 13/14 ascend from viewing platform with bikes to summit and ride up and down the south face.
15.30 two asian women, one male, two young boys and a baby enter site through the gap in the fence to the west and ascend to the summit, where they sit and remain for about an hour.  boys explore site, down by viewing platform.
Non human occupation on site: 
magpies
birds on cross
Ambient sounds: 
ice cream van
play
A13
Ambient smells: 
sausages
sewage
Remarks:
much more activity at the weekend than recorded in the week, groups arriving together and spending extended periods of time either relaxing or exploring.
Occupation images:
Inventory images:
none taken
Samples to laboratory images:
none taken