Appropriation of New Malden High Street to better accommodate the lives of the Korean expatriate community from both Koreas to be worthy of its title as London’s Koreatown. Rather than a sweeping reinvention, this project seeks contingent solutions that work with the existing structures and networks of New Malden’s communities, not just the Koreans, but the wider British community and other minority groups such as the substantial Sri Lankan community that also exists in the area. The project seeks to create ‘Cultural Hybrids’ in the built environment of New Malden and in doing so recognize the dual cultural identity of its inhabitants and celebrate its uniqueness. The aim of the project is to advocate New Malden High Street to become a Multicultural Hub while simultaneously steering away from degenerating it becoming a Korean ghetto.
The primary group to focus on is the predominately-female North Korean community. A relatively new diaspora that only started to germinate in the 1980’s and with a current population of around 600, these refugees have remained under the radar of the public eye due to the stigma that is associated with their former home country. As the community matures, and are able to drop their refugee status to become full British Citizens, they have been empowered to be more open about their origins and be bolder in participating in the wider British community.
The project seeks to address the shifting needs of this community as the original defectors are aging and have established families with children in primary and secondary education.
The second group is the South Korean majority that live and work in New Malden. This community has traditionally supported the North Korean Community via charity and job opportunities. They own many businesses within New Malden High Street and this project will seek to empower the North Korean community without hindering the South Korean stakeholders.
The Third group is the original British natives that still live in New Malden and have witnessed the change in their environment as the Korean Diaspora has asserted their dominance within the area. Through the exploration of Cultural Hybrid architecture, this project seeks to be sympathetic to existing built fabric of New Malden.
The Final group of users is the other minority groups that resides in New Malden. With a particular focus on the Sri Lankan Community. There is an unexpected synergy between the Korean and Sri Lankan communities especially in their food cultures. It is common knowledge that the Koreans prefer to shop in Sri Lankan grocery shops for their fresh ingredients over their Korean counterparts, while Sri Lankan’s prefer the more Asian centric supermarkets with imported goods that the Koreans have established in big Warehouses like ‘KOREAFOOD’ and ‘H-MART’. This project seeks to offer these minority groups a platform to express their cultures, not overpower them with the Korean Experience.
The initial support for the North Korean community has relied heavily on the charity of South Korean Church groups of New Malden and later dedicated charities with a focus on North Korean refugees. However, with the maturing of the North Korean community, the project will look toward solutions where the North Koreans can generate money for themselves without the need for extensive paperwork, such as B&Bs, Beauty Salons, restaurants and shops.
The extent of the project will be book ended by the New Malden High Street and the two Korean Warehouses to the west and east of the street.
With increasingly frequent and intense cross-cultural encounters of all kinds, London has become a fertile site for cross-pollination of cultures. You only need to see examples such as Curry and chips being voted the favourite dish in Britain to see this trend in cultural mixing or hybridisation. Despite this, Cultural Hybridisation in the built environment has remained largely out of the spotlight. That is to say that how expatriates appropriate their environment and the manner in which they have done so has largely remained outside of public interest and perhaps out of architectural discourse.
To clarify, this is not a critic of London’s stringent preservation of its built heritage. However, there seems to be a prejudice against foreign architectural tropes when applied to London’s existing infrastructure. An example of this could be the appropriation of shop fronts to appeal to a more ethnic audience. More often than not, proliferation of such appropriation is seem as a premonition to a formation of ethnic ghettoes and its negative stereotypes. This paper acknowledges the fear of immigration exhibited by the native public and argues that Female Gender roles have been implicated to immigrants to relegate them to a lower class than natives. This paper argues that the female role applied to immigrants have manifest in the communities they form.
Historically, immigrant communities have formed in Britain when there is a high demand for cheap labourers and once these industries become over saturated, the immigrant population are perceived to be a threat to the job of the Western male. After a period of anti-immigrant backlash, the immigrant population shifts to working in laundries and restaurants- cooking and cleaning: industries traditionally associated with ‘women’s work’ and therefore becomes less of a threat to the Western male.