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.

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.

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