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Wandle River Urban Surface: Public Library

Part 1 Project 2009
Ana Margarida Areia Soares
University of East London London | UK
The project is part of a Master Plan that aims to rehabilitate the former industrial area of the river Wandle in Wandsworth, London.

The master plan proposes a diverse array of buildings, comprising housing but also public buildings that provide for spaces of culture and leisure.
The Wandle library was thought of as a place that should be diverse enough to attract people, to serve the community that inhabits the area and also to act as a means of fermenting knowledge and culture.

The first design concept of the library focused on the different light qualities that can be created in the building, enhancing the atmospheric qualities of the rooms. Light became a generating concept not only because in a library it becomes essential to provide for the right kind of lighting for reading and writing but also because the lighting of a space may change dramatically its perception and character.

Skylights are used to bring light to the main reading room. These offer a means to bring diffused northern light into the building. However, they do not allow for views towards the outside but only to the sky and so the very high ceiling looking up relates to the search for meditation and knowledge.

The second generating design concept was the external surrounding wall, which provided for enclosure, creating a boundary between inside and outside as well as between the external layer of the building, where the servicing and book storage takes place, and the inner layer, which are the main activity spaces. This wall also allowed the creation of a system through which both light and views towards the outside would be filtered.

The third design concept, materiality, was also used as a means to create a certain atmosphere. This is reflected in the conjunction of an outer concrete structure that acts as a shell, wrapping the building, the wooden bookshelves and furniture that fit into this outer concrete system.

Ana Margarida Areia Soares

The way that we relate to landscape and the city is in transition. Landscape exists in our imagination as nature however in reality our landscapes have become a composite of macro and micro engineering, agricultural practice and cultural projections like cities.
Wandsworth centre is an historic neighbourhood located on the river Wandle but set back from the river Thames. Between the historic centre and the Thames lies a zone of redundant industrial space and architecture which disconnects the historic centre from the Thames, the Wandle and surrounding areas of housing.
The projects for the year focused on the challenging and problematic reoccupying of redundant inner city industrial sites. This typology of site occurs all over our cities both here in the UK and across the globe. The aim of the project was to develop strategies and approaches that were specific to the site but could also be applied with variation to this typology of site elsewhere.
The project began with a short study to reveal qualities of the place and situation and its relation to the human figure.

Students undertook studies conceptualising the site which led to the development of a master plan called the Wandle River Urban Surface. The core of the work for the year was forming connections and linkages to bring into relationship the various parts of the Wandsworth into an urban framework. In this difficult context nature fights back to lead and inform new possibilities for innovating and speculating on architecture. Students developed strategies which aimed to regenerate this part of the city in terms of scale, density and urban connection.
The master plan set up new public space connections to Wandsworth High Street, the river Wandle and the Thames to which were interrelated to new public buildings.
Each student chose a site from the urban surface and developed a brief for an architectural project to explore their interests in this remarkable situation. Ana Margarida Areia Soares developed a project for a public Library.

Mr Carl Callaghan

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