Our proposal offers a unique opportunity for London to build its future by recognizing its past, mobilizing a philosophical shift in how it looks at water. We respond to elements lost, such as the forests of White Pine and Sycamore at the Forks, and the river islands of Harris Park, together with fleeting elements, such as the rush of spring floods. We recognize that the Thames is a disturbed system in which 90% of natural vegetation has been cleared due a mix of urbanization, agriculture and industry, and that river flows have been tamed by dams upstream. It was not our intention to return the river to a pristine, natural state, but rather to generate a more resilient and functioning river. We have been inspired by the river’s expansion and contraction in response to changes in weather and seasons, its channel expressed as braided elastic zones of transition between wet and dry, and river and city. A new water channel in Harris Park, for example, maintains a steady flow of water to allude to the site’s history as a river island, and is buffered by an overflow dry river bed. This will cleanse water, support habitats, and create a beautiful space, offering opportunities for fishing, splashing, and skating in the winter.
Our vision reaches from the river into the city along new branches of blue and green infrastructure, while also pulling from the city to the river along an armature of new pedestrian, cyclist and transit networks. This new armature offers poetic and dramatic perspectives of the river, allowing people to be next to, and on top of the water. Our “Sand Bridge” takes this one step further by transforming the existing Kensington Bridge into an extraordinary experience at the heart of the Forks, populated by whimsical Butterfly Wing Canopies. By seizing each opportunity as it is presented, we have changed what infrastructure can be, improving the Thames and the natural environment far beyond what is achievable through any one approach. This soft infrastructure can, in fact, provide control for the entire city core, through an anticipated reduction in storm volumes by 30-100%.
In the Soho focus area as in the Forks, the vectors of city streets are projected in the river valley and into the fabric of a revitalized Soho neighborhood. Colborne Street is developed as the desired north-south axis that leads from Soho out and over the Thames. “Colborne Commons” marks this important crossroad both historically and with new architectural and landscape elements. The cantilevered “Riverlook” deck at the south end frames new views of the Thames, and introduces a much-needed access point into Wellington Valley Park as well as across the river into Watson Street Park on the south bank. Anchored by this transformation into ‘Soho Artplace’, the adjacent plaza will become a vibrant urban market where art, culture and agriculture come together in a spectacular fashion.
Janet Rosenberg & Studio | design landscape architects
Superkül Architects | design architects
Aquafor Beech Ltd | water resources engineering
ERA Architects Inc | heritage architects
Mobycon | social sustainability
Dougan & Associates | ecological consultant
Éclairage Public | lighting