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London Bridge Theatre & Masterplan

Part 1 Project 2002
James Bichard
University of Cambridge, UK
The scheme aims to reconcile the tensions between residents in this area of Southwark and tourists, who are ever increasingly being drawn into the South Bank by Tate Modern, Globe Theatre and other initiatives. The project provides a much needed Supermarket to the area, which is then used as a physical pivot point and social catalyst for generating a sense of community and permanence to an area thwarted by persistent short term daily visitors.

The theatre occupies a tight land-locked site between a triangle of railway viaducts, and its sail-like form is generated in response to environmental concerns, urban horizons and acoustic considerations. A garden running between the supermarket and theatre continues underneath the auditorium into the foyer, providing a ‘delicate’ internal garden protected from the tough urban surrounds. This is then landscaped in such a way as to provide a community debating and informal theatre space for use by the community.

The auditorium above provides a flexible theatre, with optional skylights and natural ventilation, as a forum for community theatre.

The urban strategy includes a 22metre high hydroponics tower and research lab, which draws grey water from high-density low embodied-energy designed housing and provides a landmark corner to the southern end of the site. A family hotel beside the theatre uses a fully shuttered façade to make explicit hotel occupancy levels to nearby residents, and help encourage within the supermarket-garden-theatre scenario an informal and dynamic environment for positive interaction between the otherwise disparate lives of locals and visitors.

James Bichard

This second and third year vertical studio was based near London Bridge, in the atmospheric Borough Market. Students grappled with restricted vertical space determined by deteriorating Victorian rail viaducts, and explored problems of transition, the area having recently arrived on the tourist map with the opening nearby of Tate Modern, etc. City spill-over has added both economic pressure and regeneration. Borough Market itself is rapidly expanding and has become a tough but posh insertion into the ragged terrain of Southwark. The area’s historical role as theatre and entertainment district and magnet for travellers, prostitutes, gamblers and other outsiders offered a grounding for design strategies built around alternative theatres and hotels.

On a restricted site between the market and Southwark neighbourhoods, James Bichard’s project shows an exceptionally high level of lateral thinking. In attempting to forge realistic links between community, market and tourists, his urban design proposals have broken the line of gentrification along the Thames to extend well into Southwark.

The supermarket, at a critical junction under the rail bridge, is an example of the inspired everyday and is imaginatively balanced by the high architectural profile of the theatre. The two buildings put in play high and low culture across a garden and the whole complex is bounded by rail viaducts in a series of juxtapositions that echo well the incongruities of the market area. Green space – theatre garden, hydroponic tower, hotel eco-balconies, and a smattering of residential backyards, both existing and proposed - makes important links in the urban fabric, and, typically, Bichard uses the opportunity to explore the ecological possibilities of his proposal.

• Page Hits: 4814         • Entry Date: 15 August 2002         • Last Update: 15 August 2002