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Aqua | Terra- Looking at London as a Water City

Part 2 Project 2013
Sophie Bellows
University of Portsmouth, UK
"When you set out upon the river, you become in some way detached from the mundane world…as if in passing from land to water you had crossed some other boundary." (1)

Historically water has acted as a source of life for development, my Thesis examines the complex relationship of London and its river through time.

I began by considering the Thames from a scientific standpoint, seeking to tackle the complacency of Londoners to increasing tidal flood risk from the North sea, with the design of a mechanical tidal flood gauge to raise awareness of river hydrology, and the creation of a Ballardian-inspired post-apocalyptic flood narrative.

My Written Thesis expanded the study, considering London’s physical, literary and lyrical connections to its river and estuary in the past. The Thames is an integral part of the culture and nature of London, yet the city has become detached from its physical presence following the demise of its importance as an artery of transport and trade. The study considered a future reconciliation of London and water, not just for reasons of pragmatism and flood mitigation, but to enrich the city’s heritage and cultural life. I proposed and examined two river contexts, the ‘Estuarine Hinterlands’ (to the east of the Barrier) and the ‘Water City’ (to the west).

My Design Thesis developed the proposition of London as a ‘Water City’, which has longevity in the face of rising sea levels and surges and preserves the Thames estuarine landscapes of the hinterlands. I proposed the re-opening of London’s lost waterways and a consideration of London’s Royal Docks as a space for development. The developed brief informed designs for a Flood Research Centre and Floating Dwelling Prefabrication Workshop on the re-opened western entrance to the Royal Victoria Dock together with a prototype floating development on the Dock, following Dutch precedents. The Prefabrication workshop is based on the programme at the ABC Arkenbouw factory in Urk, Netherlands, with the research centre designed to contain offices and laboratories, as well as public exhibition to celebrate the ‘Water City’ vision for London.

(1)Peter Ackroyd – Thames: Sacred River

Sophie Bellows

Dr Elizabeth-Marie Tuson

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