An international contest has been announced to design and deliver a £67,000 interactive pop-up installation on the north bank of the River Thames in central London
The competition, organised by the London Festival of Architecture (LFA) in partnership with the City of London Corporation and Illuminated River Foundation, seeks ‘attractive and welcoming’ proposals to boost pedestrian activity along the underused Thames Riverside Walkway.
Proposals may focus on one or all of the contest’s four sites – Fishmongers’ Hall, Angel Lane, Vintners Hall and City of London School – but must address the north bank’s lack of seating and interactive public spaces. The winner will receive £7,000 to deliver their scheme in time for next year’s festival in June and the partial completion of Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands’ and Leo Villareal’s £20 million Illuminated River project (pictured).
Illuminated River Foundation director Sarah Gaventa said: ‘We hope that this competition will result in some creative solutions to the lack of public seating and access on the Thames Riverside Walkway. The commission will provide more opportunities for the public to linger and enjoy spending time by the river, as well as refocusing attention on the river and the bridges across it.’
LFA director Tamsie Thomson said: ‘The River Thames defines London, yet over the centuries has gone from being the artery of the capital to one of its biggest boundaries. In 2019, as the London Festival of Architecture explores “boundaries” and Illuminated River transforms how Londoners and visitors see the Thames, we’re thrilled to offer an unmissable opportunity for architects, artists and designers to create something that reconnects people with the river.
‘This is a competition that demands an ambitious and imaginative response. I’m looking forward to seeing the entries but even more excited to see River View in place in 2019.’
Graham Packham, chair of the City of London Corporation’s Culture, Heritage and Libraries Committee, said: ‘This unique competition throws down the gauntlet to design something special on the Thames Riverside Walkway, essentially, an opportunity that many of the capital’s fines creatives should find too hard to resist.
‘I am looking forward to seeing how architects, designers and artists rise to the challenge of building a structure that is accessible, engaging and pleasing to the eye, and as the brief suggests, connects people to the capital’s iconic river.’
The Thames Riverside Walkway follows the north bank of the river within the City of London but is much less popular than the neighbouring south bank because of its lack of seating, poor accessibility and absence of spaces where visitors can linger and enjoy the area.
The competition aims to address these challenges by delivering a landmark installation at one or all of the four key sites selected by the organisers. Proposals for the new installation must be site-specific, robust, weatherproof and require no foundations or fixing to the ground.
Up to six shortlisted teams will receive £500 each to draw up concepts following an open call for applications. Judges include Thomson, Gaventa, Financial Times architecture critic Edwin Heathcote and Hawkins\Brown partner David Bickle. The overall winner, to be announced in early December.
The deadline for applications is midday on 1 November.
How to apply
Visit the competition website for more information
Tamsie Thomson, director of the London Festival of Architecture
Why are your holding an international contest for site-specific, interactive installations along the Thames riverbank?
We have teamed up with the City of London Corporation and Illuminated River Foundation to highlight how we can break down the boundaries presented by the darkness of the River Thames at night. The River Thames is a crucial form of connectivity for the city, linking north to the south, and east to west. Illuminated River aims to illuminate the bridges at night for Londoners and visitors alike to enjoy, and it seemed like a logical next step to then bring life to the banks of the Thames. We’re calling for design ideas for site specific installations that can facilitate this, while ensuring that perhaps overlooked or key areas of connectivity are enhanced through enlivened public realm.
At present the north bank of the Thames is very different from the south bank: much less activity with few places to sit down and enjoy the city. So this competition seeks to not only to enhance the Illuminated River project but also to provide a platform for cultural programming and cultural activity along the riverfront during the day.
What is your vision for the new installations?
We are hoping to see truly ambitious and imaginative responses to the brief – although this must be delivered as a site-specific intervention for one or several of the sites, these could be imagined as modular interventions that could fit several sites. There are four proposed sites along the north bank of the Thames: all very different and demanding imaginative and compelling responses. The most important thing is public interaction: breaking down the boundaries between the rather static walkway and the river, and re-connecting people with the river. How that interactivity is achieved and how those connections are made are up to entrants – we’re expecting a very varied and interesting response.
What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?
The London Festival of Architecture has a strong track record of running successful design competitions that harness architectural and design talent, and produce installations that connect a huge public audience with the city around them. We’ve opened this call to architects, landscape architects, artists and designers – and we’re happy for entrants to come forward individually or in teams. The competition is an opportunity for established practitioners to do something a little different – or for emerging practitioners to make their name. Wherever entrants are in their career, the London Festival of Architecture is a platform to catapult architects, landscape architects, designers and artists into the public eye.
Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?
The LFA has recently announced the launch of a Royal Docks Charette which, organised with The Royal Docks Team (RDT), in partnership with Newham Regeneration, will co-create and share ideas that improve the connections between Custom House and Royal Victoria.
Last month the LFA also announced the winner of the Thessaly Road Railway Bridge Competition alongside Wansdworth Council. ‘Happy Street’ by visual artist Yinka ilori is an interactive and multi-sensory installation that floods the gloomy underpass beneath the Thessaly Road Railway Bridge with colour, light and scent, and is the artist’s first public realm commission. As a work that connects people with design while making a hugely positive to the public realm, it shares many elements with River View. Both are inspirational projects for designers and the public alike.
As ever, we are discussion other competition opportunities with a range of different partners, so watch this space for more!
Are there any other recent interactive public realm installation projects you have been impressed by?
David Kohn Architects’ A Room For London (2012) is maybe not too recent, but remains memorable. The boat perched on the Queen Elizabeth Hall roof made people look at a landmark in new ways, and like River View got them thinking about the relationship between London and its river. More recently, the G-tainer installation was a collaboration between the LFA, G-SMATT and the Royal Exchange for LFA2018, and combined a simple structure and media content that allowed local partners such as The City Centre and Royal Exchange to showcase some of their content outdoors. Like River View, it enlivened a corner of the City of London and made people stop for a while and enjoy the city around them.