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FIRST LOOK

Cranked Thames pier completed by Nex Architecture

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The 130m structure forms London’s longest riverboat terminal and serves the new Royal Wharf development in the Royal Docks

Replacing an existing derelict jetty, the pier was commissioned following an invited competition in 2016 which was won by Nex Architecture.

Nex joined forces with marine engineer Beckett Rankine in the design development of the pier, which is intended to function as a terminal for passengers using the Thames Clippers service and also to provide new public space along its length. 

Pier 014 web

The pier was manufactured using ship-building methods in the Netherlands, with its six individual parts delivered over 300 miles to London by barge, each piece floated down the Thames to its final position.

The Royal Wharf development by Ballymore and Oxley consists of 3,385 homes arranged around a new high street, with a primary school, community centre and healthcare facilities. It is part of the £3.5 billion redevelopment of the Royal Docks.

Architect’s view

Knitting into the riverside public realm of Royal Wharf, the pier extends the development’s newly landscaped River Walk with a public promenade, a fixed element of the structure which is publicly accessible all year round. Stretching 40m into the Thames, the generous linear open space is reminiscent of traditional British seaside piers, framing long, straight views towards the horizon. The edges of the promenade are lined with diagonal aluminium battens, concealing the external structural truss and conveying a sense of continuity and dynamism; a public space seemingly hovering on the Thames’ surface.

A 162m² viewing platform offers a generous and peaceful space that invites people to linger, relax and admire the unique views up and down the Thames. Featuring bench seating at its centre, the platform benefits from a comfortable sense of spaciousness, enhancing the pier’s striking views through the unobstructed ultra-clear glass balustrades enveloping the platform.

The viewing platform also separates the public promenade from the floating gangway and pontoon of the Thames Clippers terminal through distinct angles in the pier’s design, making this appear seemingly infinite from the river edge. The 65m-long floating walkway rises and falls with the Thames’ 7m tidal movement to enable the pier to tolerate the full tidal range of the river. In seeking to create a sense of cohesion, the patterned aluminium and timber balustrades used in the public promenade are replicated here, extending above handrail height to create a semi-enclosed space that provides commuters with shelter from the elements.

Pier 019 web

This has a cut-back roofline which slopes down towards the water, angled to take advantage of direct views towards Canary Wharf and The O2. Featuring a large glass façade to allow a good overview of incoming traffic and impressive views, the sheltered waiting area offers integrated seating enclosed within this metal shell, providing warmth and protection from the elements.

Throughout the pier, a consistent material palette speaks to both the practical needs and maritime setting of the scheme. Building upon the ship-building processes used to manufacture the pier, the primary structure is steel, painted dark grey to offer a contemporary look that weathers well. This is complemented by the use of durable marine-grade hardwood to create a sense of cohesion throughout the pier, providing warm finishes that enhance user experience in both interior and external spaces. These high-quality finishes are gently emphasised with carefully integrated lighting. Nestled within the balustrades and lining the edges of the outdoor timber seating, the pier’s softly lit details create a welcoming and safe environment, while lending keen consideration to minimising light pollution and their impact on views or residents.

Alan Dempsey, director, Nex Architecture

Pier 025 web

Client’s view

The new pier having launched for public service is an incredible achievement for all involved, and a great addition for Royal Wharf and Newham residents. We are delivering 3,385 new homes here in east London – which is in essence a new town, ultimately for 10,000 residents across 40 acres. This isn’t just a newbuild development for the people that live here; it brings a lot for the whole borough. The vision for the neighbourhood is being realised here, with the Royal Wharf Community Dock now open too, plus an NHS health centre, new nursery and primary school all on the way.

Sean Mulryan, chairman and group chief executive, Ballymore

Sectional perspective © nex-

Pier for Royal Wharf development in the Royal Docks by Nex

Sectional perspective of pontoon

Project data

Start on site January 2019
Completion Autumn 2019
Gross internal floor area 1,030m²
Form of contract or procurement route NEC Engineering & Construction Contract
Construction cost Undisclosed
Architect
Nex Architecture
Principal designer Beckett Rankine
Client Ballymore
Structural engineer Beckett Rankine
M&E consultant Tate
QS Huntley Cartwright
Planning consultant Rolfe Judd
Landscape consultant Townshend Landscape Architects
Glass engineering Eckersley O’Callaghan
Lighting consultant DHA Design
Project manager Beckett Rankine
Main contractor McLaughlin and Harvey
CAD software used Revit, Rhino

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