Although normally to be found beavering away in an office adjacent to the construction site, the colleagues are of course currently confined to their respective homes — albeit with plenty of Zoom sessions keeping the team spirit alive.
In anticipation of the time when you're able to pay them a visit at their new Design District premises, here's a little primer…
Helen Arvanitakis, Design District Director
Drawing on a wealth of experience gained working as a consultant to creative businesses, as well as time spent managing the design studio at Tom Dixon, Helen is now bringing her talent for enabling creatives to the thinking behind the Design District. Like the rest of the team, Helen is ardent about the district's potential for nurturing strong, productive communities.
‘The Design District is all about community,’ she says. ‘No community, no Design District — just a collection of spaces rented to people.’ Aware that such sentiments are easy to dismiss, Helen stresses the need for this process to be honest and helpful: ‘Not just lip service,’ she vows.
Referring to a tradition of creative industries being reluctant to share — perhaps the fault of a pervasive individualism in arts education — Helen sees enormous value in a place where diverse practices come together and overlap. ‘I feel we never stop learning,’ she enthuses, ‘and who better to learn from, perhaps, than someone who's not in your industry, but rather just on the edge of it, at the periphery. That’s where new and exciting things happen, and that is everything the Design District is about.’
Polly Bradshaw, Head of Partnerships & Placemaking
With a background in branding strategies and placemaking consultancy, Polly is currently focusing all her energies on the Design District. When asked about the kind of environment she envisions it becoming, she speaks passionately of a locality ‘built by creatives for creatives… the two energies will create an incredible and unique place.’
But is it buildings or people that make a place? About this Polly is unequivocal: ‘Both! Every inch of the Design District makes it a place — the people, the architecture, the events, the food… This is going to be the best place!’
Wietske Helwig, Marketing Manager
Wiets has a longstanding connection to North Greenwich, having previously lived in the area. Back then — when much of this part of the city was industrial wasteland — it would’ve suited her fondness for exploring abandoned places. Nonetheless, now that she’s returned to the neighbourhood she's thrilled by the changes, as well as those still to come.
‘I can’t wait for the Design District to open,’ she says, ‘I think it will reshape the greater perception of the Greenwich Peninsula in London, making it a destination.’
Wiets looks forward to being reunited with her colleagues too. Speaking fondly of them during this period of lockdown, she says it’s the ‘buzzing personalities’ she’s missing. ‘There is a very positive dynamic between the team, which is of course hard to replicate remotely.’
Alex Howard, Sales Manager
Alex is the first point of contact for those looking to lease a space or become a club member. Before joining the Design District team, he was Brand Manager at Clerkenwell Design Week and Design London, where he was heavily involved in creative direction.
Alex is particularly excited about the potential the Design District has to become something greater than the sum of its parts through the fostering of collaboration across industry sectors. He's already sensing a lot of enthusiasm from creatives struggling to find affordable, fit-for-purpose workspace.
‘Without wanting to sound too evangelical,’ he says, ‘I feel a bit like a messenger whose job it is to put into words how extraordinary the project is. The only challenge is trying to get round to everyone who has expressed an interest.’