Village Underground

You would be forgiven for thinking ‘Village Underground’ an extension to the street art that smothers every curb and brick of its Shoreditch surroundings, but the four brightly graffitied tube trains that peep over the viaduct walls on Great Eastern Street are in fact an ingenious carbon neutral workspace for a growing community of creative types. It is a combination of both inspired thinking and considerate planning that makes Village Underground such an inspired enterprise. For this masterly venture is the brainchild of furniture designer, Auro Foxcroft who, tired with trying to find affordable studio space, decided to take the matter into his own hands.
The spark ignited whilst sitting on a train in the Swiss mountains, observing that without the seating it would make an expansive, airy and yet contained space. Back in London Auro was then able to negotiate four disused train carriages from London Underground for the equitable sum of £100 on the understanding that he was responsible for their removal. Easier said than done. After three arduous years of urban prospecting, planning applications and pulling in a few favours was he finally able to realize his dream. Every detail had been meticulously thought out to incorporate and harmonize design and architecture with an ecological ethos. For this reason the building materials are all reclaimed (the flooring on which the trains stand are old railway sleepers). The roof of the warehouse has been soundproofed with turf and plants and the 24 solar panels provide enough energy to run the office space and what is needed beyond this is provided by ‘Ecotricity’ from wind turbines, making Village Underground totally sustainable and carbon neutral. Auro has clearly had to do a lot of learning based on trial and error. He relates the nightmare of ripping out the train seats and having to rewire the electric cables, though methodical enough to keep certain features working like the punch button that opens and closes the train doors. With the exteriors of the train carriages, at first Auro tried to jet-wash them clean, but local graffiti artists would always creep back in the middle of the night and delight over a clean canvas, so he embraced the idea of a perpetually changing façade. His good friend, the artist Ronzo even gifted him the ‘Credit Crunch Monster’ that now resolutely confronts the Gherkin and other financial institutes of the city whilst it chomps greedily on a shiny gold coin.
A most unassuming face of the cutthroat entrepreneurial world, I find Auro busying himself watering the plants and tidying up the rubbish in a frantic manner that only a mother would have with messy children. His hair is unmanaged, his attire most casual and his hands are adorned with scribbled reminders. A very hands-on approach for someone who is extraordinarily busy, for I soon learn that the adventure will not stop here. There are plans to develop sites in both Berlin and Lisbon. Tentative in revealing his prospects he claims that he would hate to jinx anything by getting too excited about them. Although he does quickly intimate that extraordinary locations and disused double decker buses will be a definite. What is clear is that Auro’s life has taken a most up-lifting shift in direction, for what started off as a personal mission has now spawned a working community and creative focal point in the neighborhood. Now architects, film makers photographers, jewelers, artists and designers are all fighting their way on board, whilst the warehouse regularly opens for unusual and though-provoking events. The vibe is both thrilling and unintimidating, something that few galleries can veritably achieve.

I climb to the top level of carriages and purvey the astonishing view. On one side you’ve got Canary Wharf and on the other you’ve got the Gherkin, – a vantage point that not many can claim to equal. It must also prove as a welcome creative catalyst to the lucky few that work here. For one that tries to use the tube as little as humanly possible, this is one ride that I wouldn’t mind extending.


About londoninsight

A compassionate photographer working to better her understanding of her town, her village, London.
This entry was posted in Art, Buildings, Clubbing, Events, Graffiti, Street Art, Trains and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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