A new craft garden and expanded public space enhances visibility and access for makers and the wider community, writes Mary Richardson

01 Cooke Fawcett Cockpit Deptford credit Peter Landers Photography

Source: Peter Landers Photography

Cockpit Deptford

The redevelopment of craft-business incubator Cockpit’s Deptford site delivers an innovative craft-themed garden and welcoming new public space for the provider of low-cost workshops for makers.

The Cooke Fawcett scheme looks set to make a huge difference to the way the contemporary craft centre works. And it speaks to a new-found self-confidence and maturity in an organisation that has become the country’s leading provider of workspaces for craft makers.

Increased visibility

The Deptford redevelopment has added a new walled garden in front of the Cockpit building, plus an education room, 25% more workshop space, and room for a pop-up café. The wide, new entrance punched into the site’s external wall now lets the passing public see what’s going on inside the creative hub, in a way that just wasn’t possible when the high boundary wall cut it off from the public realm.

This increased visibility is important in what is still a very mixed part of south-east London. This is a creative part of town, full of Goldsmiths graduates who never left. On the same street as Cockpit can be found artists’ studios, galleries, and the Trinity Laban Conservatoire. But the area is also home to very deprived communities too.

And part of the Cockpit vision is to offer a glimpse of new horizons to young people of the area in particular, as they catch sight of what’s happening inside the building full of creatives at work. This chimes with the organisation’s aim of opening up access to successful careers in craft to everyone with talent by addressing structural and socio-economic barriers.

National Saturday Club


This aim is put into concrete action through Cockpit’s free Saturday crafts and making programme, which gives 13–16-year-olds the chance to try their hand at various craft skills under the tutelage of its own makers. These teenagers will be primary users of the new education space.

The National Saturday Club scheme is a programme offering teenagers the chance to gain skills in areas from art and design to science and engineering. It was developed to replicate a mid-20th century tradition that saw art schools open their doors to teenagers on Saturdays to give them a taste of creative study.

Art installation

03 Cooke Fawcett Cockpit Deptford credit Peter Landers Photography

Source: Peter Landers Photography

Amber Khokhar’s new ‘Head, Heart, Hand’ mural

Part of the old boundary wall has been retained in the redevelopment and covered with 1,300 triangular ceramic tiles to form Amber Khokhar’s new ‘Head, Heart, Hand’ mural. Khokhar, an artist and designer based at Cockpit, has tessellated the wall with hand-glazed tiles featuring images reflecting the rich history of the area and the local community today. Featured famous folk with local connections include everyone from William Morris to Dave Godin – a music-business legend, who coined the term ‘Northen Soul’ – alongside designs by local school children. Some tiles read ‘Head, Heart, Hand’ in the more than 40 languages spoken in the local area. Khokhar loves it when people passing by spot their first language on the wall. She recalls how thrilled she was when some of the Romanian tilers installing the work came across the tile inscribed in their own language.

Woodworking workshop

To service the new public space, a MVHR system has been installed along with oversized radiators in anticipation of the day the building will move over to use a heat-pump. Deeper inside the site, a new woodworking workshop has been erected on an unused area of car park. The aim is to give makers the opportunity to work on larger pieces, perhaps enabling them to stay at Cockpit longer as the scale of their work increases.

It will help keep noisy and dusty work out of the main building too. Designed with sustainability in mind, the new workshop rests on the existing concrete pad rather than having foundations. Highly insulated and heated by an air-source heat-pump, it is ventilated by opening windows at clerestory level. The overhanging roof makes space for storing materials against the wall.

There is something of the art school about Cockpit, with these specialist workshops where skills such as leather-working and woodworking can be honed, and makers can access large, expensive equipment they simply couldn’t afford at the start of their careers. Support from craft guilds, such as the Worshipful Company of Turners, has helped fund and equip these workshops.


There are currently over 160 Cockpit makers spread between the Deptford site and its original home in Bloomsbury. The Deptford building was an example of repurposing before it was fashionable. It is a mid-century former council office block that has been occupied by Cockpit for the last 20 years. Floors have been subdivided into small workshops for individual makers. In the latest development, large toilet areas have been converted to make additional workshops. Demand for the units is high in a gentrifying city that is pricing early-career creatives out of town.

There is something particularly delicious at Cockpit in the contrast between the workaday 1960s office block and the colourful creativity within. The exterior: pure ‘The Office’ title sequence. The interior: pure delight. Corridors crammed with beautiful things: crocheted evening gloves, graphic printed lampshades, dried flowers in resin, tiny mosaics. The makers’ workshop units fill space once occupied by council civil servants, likely in the traffic department, probably processing parking tickets. This is repurposing at its best.

Craft garden

Outside, the new, walled ‘craft garden’ is a small but successful space welcoming the public into the site. Immy McAndrew, who worked on it with designer Sebastian Cox, explains they took their inspiration from nearby Deptford Creek, envisaging what the area might have looked like if there had been no human intervention, and exploring ideas around rewilding. The planting is wildlife-friendly, and the garden is filled with plants that have utility in the world of craft, such as flax, used to make linen; willow, used for basketry; and cornflowers, used to make blue dye. A paved ‘river’ through the space echoes the River Ravensbourne nearby.

Perhaps the most interesting element is the two piles of rubble salvaged from the demolished wall. McAndrew, who cites green-roof specialist John Little as an inspiration, selected plants that have historically been used to make dye to grow amongst the piled fragments. And these flowers have grown up through the rubble to create a new kind of sculptural, recycled flower bed.

Although she was only given two small areas to try out the idea, the results are striking: almost post-apocalyptic, certainly post-industrial, and testament to the regenerative power of nature. This is cultivated wasteland of the most interesting kind, and it’s a sustainable technique that is crying out to be utilised on a larger scale.

McAndrew admits: “Some of the builders really hated my rubble piles.” It’s easy to see why builders used to tidying and clearing sites might be annoyed by the awkward piles of what looks like hardcore. But the contrast between the natural beauty of the flowers and the raw waste material is poignant, and surely offers a glimpse of gardening’s possible future.

The new garden also features a handsome set of Cox’s nouveau traditional, sustainable furniture: his first designed for use outdoors, made from sweet chestnut, an abundant but overlooked timber sourced close to his Kent workshop.

14 Cooke Fawcett Cockpit Deptford credit Peter Landers Photography

Source: Peter Landers Photography

Cockpit Deptford


The new garden was partially paid for by a successful crowd-funding campaign that offered funders rewards made by Cockpit makers. The whole £3.4 million redevelopment was part-funded by the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund.

Sustainable businesses

The workshops here are nourishing sustainability of a different kind too: small businesses that are being supported on their journey towards financial sustainability by the low-cost studios and business coaching offered by the charity. And these creative micro businesses and the newly public-facing building that sustains them are absolutely worth a visit at Cockpit Deptford’s Open Studios events.

Project details

Location: 18-22 Creekside, Deptford, London, SE8 3DZ

Site area: 1,800m2

GIA: 1,000m2 (the building is a total of 2,500m2))

Client: Cockpit Arts

Total value: £3.24 million

Construction value: £1.95 million

Schedule: Appointment: Sept 2019; Construction: Dec 2022-Dec 2023;

Garden: June 2024

Architects: Cooke Fawcett

Project architects: Francis Fawcett, Andrew Gibbs

Structural engineer: Momentum

Services engineer: Max Fordham

Contractor: Quinn London Ltd (QLL)

Project manager: New Stages

Planning consultant: The Planning Lab

QS: Gardiner and Theobald

Access consultant: Jane Simpson Access

Garden designer: Sebastian Cox

Gate manufacturer: Cake Industries

Mural artist: Amber Khokhar