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The New Civic Centre for London

Part 2 Project 1998
Lee Town
Kingston University, UK
The video of the southbank, filmed as an initial response to the area surrounding the site, exposes the existing buildings as isolated objects.

The new Civic Centre for London aims to integrate politics with people creating an urban landscape of democracy; ‘The debating chamber should not be isolated from the every day life of the city but should be in close confrontation with the culture of London’. The above quote from the brief located the debating chamber as the heart of the project, situating itself adjacent to Waterloo Bridge.

Sketches and models were used to explore the resolution of the project as a segment or part of the city. Existing axis of neighbouring buildings were extended onto the site to form two overlapping volumes of different geometry’s, the debating chamber and the public facilities. The area of overlap between the two volumes becomes the main route of circulation, the enclosed street which affords unexpected views into the debating chamber.

At ground level market stalls are contained within the walls and address the building’s geometry’s. This is articulated as the extended urban street, heavy and solid, using stone and concrete.

The pavement of Waterloo Bridge is diverted to run alongside the debating chamber allowing access to the public gallery. This level continues into the building as the elevated cultural level of the Southbank comprising of education facilities, information / exhibition space and informal meeting areas. In contrast with the lower level, this is the layer of sophistication and materials such as glass and steel are used.

The lecture theatre mediates between the upper and ground level and opens out to the amphitheatre.

From the upper level, the public route runs down through the site where fragmented walls separate the amphitheatre from the garden. As one passes through the walls the views shift from amphitheatre to garden. This sloped street meets the ground level where the banqueting and wedding registry spaces open out to the garden. The chapel is located by the pool at the symbolic level of the River Thames.

At the far end of the site a sports and recreation area serves the neighbouring community, concluding the project as a landscape of democracy.

Lee Town

Diploma unit 4 at Kingston is primarily concerned with the overlap of various aspects of life. The mundane and more formal, ritualistic events which make up the structure of the temporal scale of the city throughout the year are exposed to an investigation which seeks their potential reconciliation.

The project of Lee Town is for a new civic assembly building for the local government of London. The site neighbours the representational setting of the South Bank Centre, the realm of high culture, and is also oriented with the international train terminal at Waterloo. This area also has an indigenous population of social housing. The proposal seeks to integrate facilities for the local community within the complex of rooms associated with civic representation, debate, consultation, etc. The adjacent warehouse building, formerly housing laboratories for Kings College, is to accommodate flexible administrative spaces.

The library is to be used for planning consultation and is to provide access to legislative procedure, Citizens’ Advice, legal aid and other public resources. It is situated at an upper level from which one gains entry to the site from Waterloo bridge. This layer is transparent and the architecture light and highly articulated: it is the realm of clarity, representing education and information and incorporates a public gallery which is also a projection screen for the dissemination of images of debate, legislation, etc.

The lower region of the scheme is imagined as a street and the collection of rooms for the bar and restaurant are grouped around a ‘Bazaar’. The material qualities of this realm are heavy and dense, comprising concrete, stone, lead, etc. The debating chamber is entered via this ‘market square’ and the rake of its seating connects it to the upper level. Similarly, the lecture theatre, which is entered via the library, extends down into a public amphitheatre. Rooms for the formal functions of culture flow into the areas around the building and create urban space for drama, political demonstration and public meetings, etc. The back facade of the National Theatre, for example, would become a cinema screen in the summer. The street which runs through the scheme is marked by a series of fragments of walls which shift to acknowledge the geometries of the site. It is envisaged that the M.P.s would move from debate into the pub or on more formal occasions, would be entertained for drinks in the garden of the Mayor’s Parlour before moving on to dinner in the hall. This room would also be available for hire by the public to celebrate the registration of weddings, etc. Public sports facilities are also provided.

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