West London Needs Cultural Investment, Says Second Home Co-founder Rohan Silva


The thriving creative scene in east London is leaving the west of the city starved of culture, according to Rohan Silva, who is preparing to launch a new Holland Park branch of his workspace community Second Home.

West London may be wealthy, claims Silva, but it is suffering from a huge decline in affordable workspaces and cultural venues.

“Years ago, the part of the city that needed more cultural investment was east, but today, interestingly, west London needs attention,” he told Dezeen.

“People think of west London as pretty well off, and of course mostly it is,” he said. “But there’;s actually a huge shortage of places for creative people to work or creative businesses to be born. And a lot of cultural venues and institutions have closed or been forced out of that part of the city. That needs to be addressed.”

Rohan Silva post-brexit visasSecond Home co-founder Rohan Silva claims that the thriving creative scene in east London is leaving the west of the city starved of culture

Silva will in October launch the third branch of Second Home – the pioneering workspace community business he set up with Sam Aldenton – in Holland Park, a neighbourhood that is home to some of the most expensive houses in the capital.

It was while setting up this project that he discovered how overlooked the creative community in this area feels.

“They felt slightly neglected, as lots of stuff opens in east London. It was like, what about us?” he said. “It’;s never healthy when the pendulum swings too far in one direction or another, cities need to be balanced.”

Silva will in October launch the third branch of Second Home in Holland Park, west London

One problem that west London faces, claims Silva, is that young people in the capital are less willing to commute than the generation before them.

So while in the past people would happily spend up to 2 hours travelling every day, in exchange for a big house with a garden, today many opt for a small home that gives them the option to walk or cycle to work.

“That definition of quality of life has changed, and it does pose a challenge for west London,” he added. “Lots of people live there, but if there aren’;t places for creative people to work then, over time, people will choose not to live there, because they don’;t want to have to commute.”

Silva hopes the venue will revive the cultural scene in the area. His vision is for it to become a hub for spoken word and poetry

Second Home Holland Park takes over the old photography studio where Italian film director Michelangelo Antonioni filmed Blowup and where architect Richard Rogers first established his own architecture practice.

Billed as “the most beautiful place to work in west London”, it will include a plant-filled courtyard cafe, a bookshop, tree-lined workspaces and – in a nod to the building’;s heritage – a photography studio.

Silva hopes the venue will revive the cultural scene in the area. His vision is for it to become a hub for spoken word and poetry, which he believes is particularly suited to west London, given the literary heritage of the area.

Like the first 2 venues for Second Home, the space is designed by Spanish architecture studio Selgascano

“For us the spoken word scene in London is really one of the most exciting and insurgent in the city, and yet there isn’;t really a venue for it,” he explained.

“Right now spoken-word events are happening in basements, in Dalston and New Cross, and we think it’;s really exciting to bring it out into the light and connect it up with the more established literary community in west London.”

Second Home by SelgasCano

SelgasCano completes Second Home workspace featuring an orange tunnel and a “flying table”

Silva was previously special adviser to the UK’;s former prime minister David Cameron, before establishing Second Home in 2014. He and Aldenton describe the business as a social enterprise rather than a co-working space.

Like the first 2 venues for Second Home, the Holland Park outpost is designed by Spanish architecture studio Selgascano, and will bring together citrus colours, mid-century furniture, and an abundance of plants and flowers.