Recently, I was delighted to meet Hassan, who was introduced to me as a 'recycling powerhouse'. Hassan and his son run H&H motors on Old Bethnal Green Road. He was (and still is) a plot holder at the old Manor Garden Allotments, which had to make way for the Olympic redevelopment. The Allotments are to be relocated back to a new plot in the Olympic park next year.
The allotment society ran a very strong campaign to save the allotments from demolition, though ultimately unsuccessful. You can see the history of the campaign at the fantastic Life Island (www.lifeisland.org) website. You might also have come across Hassan in the videos and interviews produced as part of the campaign, some of which are in the Curiosity Shop collection. Or you might have seen him in Sam Clark's MORO EAST cook book, which documented the last growing season and community life of the allotments before they were bulldozed.
I visited Hassan at his garage with Tak Hoshino - a japanese architect - who was heavily involved in the campaign and who helped to draw up an alternative master plan arguing for the retention of the allotments as part of the new park. Tak has a keen interest in recycling - not from a sustainability point of view, but as a frame of mind which makes do and is able to adapt.
The desire to work with the allotments and the 'shed culture' came from looking at Thomas Pausz's book 'Revisiting the Community Shed' - a survey of the many sheds on the old Manor Garden Allotments, many of which were self-built using found and recycled materials. The sheds were much more then just tool storage; they were private spaces which housed the social life of the allotments. The sheds provided on the new site are small and can not easily be inhabited in the same way. Additionally they are temporary and many people don't want to invest too much into them. Nevertheless some of them have been customised using the same resourceful techniques. Hassan has extended his and even added a covered porch from re-used materials using the skills at his disposal.
When the weather clears up a bit and the spring make itself felt, Tak and I will visit Hassan at his allotment and get to meet the famous barbecue made from a disused MOT machine, his birdhouse and - of course - his shed.
Tak is a keen shed builder himself and as I dropped him off at his house he showed me the shed he build for his kids made from old windows (pictured above). All across his estate the steel frame windows were replaced with plastic UPVC double glazed one. He rescued some of the old windows from the skip.