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RIVER ROOM: An architecture for the Thames

Part 2 Project 2014
Michael Ramwell
University of Nottingham, UK
The proposal, an inhabited bridge, creates new land between Beckton and Thamesmead in east London – an architectural response to the need for infrastructure, housing, local amenities, places of work, and cultural presence.

The proposal acts not only as a crossing but a destination in its own right, which draws life, culture, new economy, and new ways to appreciate the river Thames. It is programmatically assembled by local amenities, housing, public squares and gardens, an art institute named the ‘Young Tate’, art studio collectives, and a mixed-use tower to the north. This play on typology works together to create a working and meaningful place. This is not self-referential architecture – it is a reading of the needs and histories of London as a growing capital.

My thesis began as a written manifesto, charting the history of logistical change affecting our inland waters, to then an observation of the life and history of the Thames, its waterfront buildings and bridges, as well as the need for infrastructure. This was an observation of how life meets the river, its use, and how it has evolved in time. The response aims to engage with the river, to excite, and explore new possibilities for city occupation.

Infrastructure is perceived as a catalyst for architecture and place making, on both land and water. The two backlands, Beckton, a disused gas works, and Thamesmead, a failed suburban masterplan from the 1960’s, provide a ready landscape for an ensemble of infrastructure and architecture. This architectural anchor provides a reference for the architecture of each bank to logically expand.

The material presence of the iron-oxide pigmented concrete is a response to the industrial east end, and to the corroded metal hulls of boats from the working river of the past. This architecture sits on the fringe between Central London and Thames Estuary and therefore finds a way to respond to both places, their histories and modern needs. A grand scale is embraced to emphasise this as a cultural destination east of our capital city – it is a monument for the people.

Michael Ramwell

Prof Michael Stacey
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