5th Studio has converted a former vehicle testing facility into an open-access factory for makers as part of the £6 billion Meridian Water development in Enfield, north London.


5th Studio worked with the London Borough of Enfield and social entrepreneurs Bloqs to design the workspace as part of the meanwhile use of land earmarked for regeneration in the Meridian Water scheme. The 25-year masterplan expects to bring 10,000 new homes, community facilities and a new station to a swath of land next to the Lee Valley Regional Park.

Bloqs aims to offer rare affordable workspace and equipment to professional makers and businesses in London. At almost 3,00-square-metre, the open-access workshop claims to be the largest of its kind in Europe, and hosts a vast array of facilities – lathes, CNC routers and laser cutters for wood and metal working, and areas dedicated to sewing, engineering and spray finishing, as well for classes and meetings. Machine usage is charged from £10/hour. There is also a cafe and event space and a materials shop, which are open to both makers and the public.


“Space for making things in London is diminishing rapidly as development displaces the capital’s contingent and productive spaces. Building BloQs forms an important bulwark and demonstrates that space for physical making is actually a growing need in the city,” says 5th Studio director Tom Holbrook.

“BloQs is the latest in a series of productive spaces 5th Studio have helped create and its breadth and generosity are quite unique. The project delivers a critical part of the Meanwhile Masterplan for Meridian Water which is helping to inform change on the ground: shifting perceptions, improving connectivity, scaling up existing uses and embedding vibrant new ones.”


5th Studio reused and extended a former vehicle testing facility to create a hangar-like space spanning 8 metres in height, which is heated using offcuts from the wood workshops. This waste-powered heater and a dust extraction system are expressed on the steel-framed building, which is clad in aluminium and polycarbonate panels that suggest the building’s industrial use.

The project was realised with £4 million funding from the Greater London Authority and Enfield Council.

“From the very beginning Bloqs has been about providing professional makers and their businesses the right space and facilities to grow and make a living. We’ve done this by gathering a community that shares resources, and what really distinguishes us from other open access workspaces is that we’re designed specifically to enable commercial activity,” says Bloqs co-founder Al Parra.

“While we are classified as meanwhile use, we are already putting down tap roots. Apart from providing employment and much-needed access to space and equipment for over 350 making businesses, we’ve become embedded in the community through relationships with local schools and HE colleges and an SEN school which offers practical skills for all their pupils. We have plans for an outreach programme aimed at helping refugees and former offenders back into work,” adds Parra.

“It’s notable to see that our wonderful Bloqs Kitchen – run by Marianna Leivaditaki, former head chef at the Hackney restaurant Morito – is already being frequented by many local businesses and people from the film industry who are increasingly setting up shop in the area. Our plan is to make ourselves completely invaluable, and so integrated into the economic and cultural life of the borough that we’re no longer regarded as temporary.”


“William Morris – whose family home was less than a mile from the site – campaigned for better conditions for makers. In a pamphlet called The Factory As It Might Be (1884), he asks why a working environment shouldn’t be pleasant, safe, exhibiting ‘…on their outsides what they are for, reasonable and light work, cheered at every step by hope and pleasure’,” says the practice.

“In creating a light, clean and warm working environment based around cooperation and education, Bloqs achieves many of Morris’ aims.”

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