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Artist and upcycler Yinka Ilori completes ‘Happy Street’ for Nine Elms underpass

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Artist and designer Yinka Ilori has overhauled Thessaly Road railway bridge in south-west London as part of the London Festival of Architecture

‘Happy Street’ is the outcome of a design competition organised by the LFA and Wandsworth Council, part of an initiative to improve the public realm around Nine Elms and Thessaly Road as a key transport route.

As Ilori’s first public realm commission, the submission was chosen ahead of five rivals. The appointment came just two months after Ilori and Pricegore won the LFA’s competition for a second landmark pavilion outside Dulwich Picture Gallery, which opened in last month.

Happy street pic luke o'donovan (6 of 25)

The brief set by Wandsworth Council called for the gloomy underpass to be transformed into a bright and welcoming environment. Thessaly Road connects the major thoroughfares of Nine Elms Lane and Wandsworth Road. The 1km-long road is closed to through-traffic but is a popular route for pedestrians and cyclists. 

Happy Street is an interactive installation that fills the underpass with colour. The underpass walls and bridge have been clad in 56 patterned vitreous enamel panels forming a low-cost, durable and cheerful surface. Sixteen different colours have been chosen for happiness and wellbeing, inspired by colour theory.

At night, the underpass is well lit, enhancing the structure as a new local landmark while giving passersby a better sense of safety.

Ilori worked closely with local residents and the nearby St George’s Primary School alongside Wandsworth Council during the development of the scheme.

Happy street pic luke o'donovan (13 of 25)

Designer’s view

I am really honoured and blessed to have my first public realm project installed in Nine Elms, Battersea! The most important part of the project was talking to the community, especially the young children, and seeing the smiles on their faces when they walk under the bridge has been magical. I just hope this bridge continues to bring happiness to everyone who walks under Happy Street and inspires the next generation of young artists.

Yinka Ilori

Winner: Yinka Ilori

Client’s view

I am delighted that this Nine Elms rail bridge has been so successfully transformed into a colourful gateway. Together with Yinka Ilori we listened to community concerns and worked closely with local residents and St George’s school to ensure we delivered a design that they would be happy living next to.

This was a unique project to bring art and transport infrastructure together and has been a huge achievement to get finished just one year after the design competition, thanks to close working with our local partners and the London Festival of Architecture.

I hope that what we see here gives fresh inspiration to reimagine London’s built environment and consider incorporating art into other structures around us.

Ravi Govindia, leader, Wandsworth Council

We’re so proud to have been part of the Happy Street project: we set out to champion London’s amazing design talent, create something that would make a difference to people’s lives and improve the public realm. So thanks to an amazing partnership with Yinka Ilori and Wandsworth Council it’s mission accomplished, and a fantastic legacy for the London Festival of Architecture 2019 season.

Tamsie Thomson, director, London Festival of Architecture

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